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Football games typically last 90 minutes, divided into two 45-minute halves. This time frame was established in 1866 amid a conflict between London and Sheffield. Both teams decided to play for 90 minutes to solve the problem.

Since then, everyone in the world abides by this time frame. There are certain exclusions to the norm, though. We delve deeper into the subject in this article.

Is the standard game duration 90 minutes?

There are some exceptions to the rule that a professional football game lasts 90 minutes. For instance, to make up for the young players’ lack of fitness, the time limit is lowered in youth games.

There is a 15-minute halftime break in the middle of each 90-minute game for men and women. Injuries and stoppages may result in an extension of either game’s time limit. The FA’s official rules state:

“Each game must last 90 minutes, except for the unusual circumstances listed in these competition rules, which call for an additional 30 minutes of play. The Referee must account for time lost in line with the Rules of the Game, due to an accident, or for any other reason, and his decision in this regard is final. For all ties in all events, the half-time break will last 15 minutes. Five minutes before the start of play, the Match Officials and both teams must enter the field of play together.”

How does it start changing?

The length of the game can vary for several reasons. We go through these in more detail below.

Youth Games

While a football game should typically last 90 minutes, youth football games frequently last less time.

The rules are different for juvenile teams mostly because of the physical limitations of young bodies. The number of other players on the squad and the size of the field is additional variables that affect how long a child can physically play the entire game (the larger the pitch, the more energy a child would need to exert).

So, in youth leagues, how long does a football game last? Simply expressed, it all depends on the age group because games last longer as kids become older and their bodies develop. For instance, younger leagues play games with 10-minute halves, while older leagues play games with two 35-minute halves and footballers over the age of 17 play games with the traditional 45-minute halves.

Stoppage Time

The time that is added to the conclusion of each half of a football game is known as stoppage time or injury time. The length of this is up to the referee’s discretion, but it generally varies in line with the match’s delays.

The delays may be brought about by accidents, general inefficiency, and time lost as a result of substitutes. Despite their seeming insignificance, these might provide the losing team with a chance to tie or perhaps win the game.

The stoppage for substitutes typically lasts 30 seconds per replacement. This could take up to three minutes because each team is permitted three substitutions.

Extra Time

With those 1897 revisions, extra time was also added to the football regulations, at least for British clubs and competitions. But it wasn’t the situation everywhere, as the German Championship final of 1922 shows succinctly when Hamburg and Nuremberg were tied 2-2 after 90 minutes but sought to find a winner.

In some competitions, if the score is tied after 90 minutes, extra time may be played. This usually consists of two additional 15-minute halves.

The goals that are scored during the extra time are counted toward the total. After extra time, if the score is still tied, the match advances to a penalty shootout. “Kicks from the penalty mark” is the term used in the Laws of the Game to refer to this.

The winner of this shootout will be decided by the results. Instead of being included in the final score of the game, penalty kicks are utilised to determine which team advances to the next round of the competition.

The rule allows for a one-minute pause in extra time between each half, but it must only be long enough for players to obtain drinks and switch ends. Footballing authorities have long sought to neatly condense the game, so one and a half hours of play plus a further half hour will likely merely have felt ‘neat.

Two-Legged Ties

In some events, every team will play every other team twice. The combined score from the two games determines the winner in what is known as two-legged ties.

If the score is a draw, the winning team is decided using the “away goals rule.” This implies a comparison of each team’s goals scored away from home.

The game will enter overtime if the results of the calculation are still equal. After extra time, if there is still a draw, the match will proceed to a penalty shootout. Replaying a tied game may occasionally be necessary, but this is incredibly uncommon.


After extra time, if the score remains tied, the match will go to a penalty shootout. Usually, each player will take a shot from a particular location in turn.

The goalie is the only defender during each team’s turn to shoot. The most goals scored after a predetermined number of attempts determine the winner. The shootout will go on a “goal-for-goal” basis if the score is still tied.

The team who scores a goal that is unmatched by its opponent wins in this situation. The teams will shoot alternately. Some players might need to take extra shots until the tie is broken if every player has already taken a shot.

“Sudden death” is the name for this phenomenon. One team is eliminated from the competition as soon as they miss a shot while the other team succeeds.

Fergie Time

In English football, the phrase “Fergie time” is used. To give a side extra time to even the score or win the game, an excessive amount of time is allotted towards the end of a game.

The expression is named for Manchester United‘s former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, and the belief that too much time would be extended to games when United was behind for them to score an equaliser or win.

Whether this exists is another matter, but detractors’ supporters unquestionably think it does!

The Cause of Injury and Extra Time

Injury time doesn’t have a specified duration under the Rules of the Game, but it’s fascinating to note that there is a more particular reason why the concept of it was even first adopted. Aston Villa and Stoke City were competing against one another in the English Football League in 1891, with Villa holding a 2-1 advantage.

With few seconds left in the game, Stoke City was awarded a penalty, but a Villa player kicked the ball out of the ground before it could be converted. The contest had already ended by the time it was found, and the referee sounded the full-time whistle. Later on, in the same campaign, it was determined that extra time may be added if a penalty was necessary.

What Distinctions Exist Between American and British Football? (Average Length of an NFL Game)

There are many distinctions between American football and football played in the United Kingdom (NFL). The length of each game and how the games are separated are completely different, save from the fact that the first is played with the feet and the second with the hands.

A regular UK football match lasts at least 90 minutes, although an NFL match can last for several hours. An official NFL rule is that games must last at least 60 minutes (1 hour). There are two 30-minute halves to this hour-long game. There are four quarters altogether throughout the hour of play, divided by two 15-minute halves for each half.

The laws of American football mandate a halftime break between the two halves of play, much like in UK football. With a few exceptions, the official regulations state that the halftime break can only last 12 minutes. The NFL Super Bowl, the league’s annual championship game, is one of the exceptions. The NFL Super Bowl football game’s intermission lasts much longer than 12 minutes. In actuality, the break will usually go more than 30 minutes.

An NFL game always lasts longer than the permitted time, much like a UK football game. Due to interruptions like media downtime and injuries, a game may last longer than 60 minutes. The length of an NFL game can reach three hours. A typical NFL game lasts three hours. The clock will continue to tick even if play is halted and the ball is not in play.

match durationSummary

Football games typically last 90 minutes, divided into two 45-minute halves. There is a 15-minute intermission amid the game known as “half-time.” Youth games, games with extra time, and/or games with penalty shootouts are a few exceptions to this rule.

To follow the FA’s official rules, a typical football game would, for the most part, always last 90 minutes.   

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