Does Soccer have Overtime? – How, When, and Why it’s Used

Overtime is a rule that is utilized in many different sports around the world as a way of determining a winner if there has been a draw after regulation time, or if there has been no clear winner.

In this article we are going to be exploring whether or not soccer has overtime, and if so, how, when, and why this might be used. 

Does Soccer have Overtime – How, When, and Why it’s Used

To immediately answer the question, yes, soccer does have overtime. Soccer utilizes the rule of overtime to help determine a winner after a draw.

Overtime is often called by the name ‘extra time’ in some countries, but here in the States overtime is the common name given, following suit with other major sports. Let’s delve into soccer overtime a little further… 

How is overtime used? 

The way overtime is utilized is typically through adding on two sets of 15 minutes at the end of a regulation game, after any stoppage time (also known as injury time) has been taken.

These 15 minute sets are broken up with a 1 minute break to allow players to rest for a short period. The aim of these two 15 minute sets is to establish a clear winner.

Typically, one team will score the most goals in this allotted overtime. However, there are definitely cases where no clear winner can be found even after overtime.

In this case, penalty shootouts are utilized, in which each team takes it in turns shooting into the goal with the aim of getting the most goals. 

When is overtime used? 

Now, you know exactly how overtime works in a game of soccer, but it is important to understand that it does not always need to be utilized.

Overtime is only utilized in ‘knockout’ style games. By this, we mean that it is used in games where a clear winner must be identified. There are two ways of playing football games. 

You can either play the ‘round-robin’ style also known as the ‘league format’, in which a league of teams all takes turns playing each other at least once and sometimes twice.

The team with the most points and best record after everyone has played is the winner.

An example of this is the MLS (Major League Soccer) who play this format for the first section of their season, competing for the Supporters’ Shield. In this style of playing, overtime is not used. 

The second way of playing is the ‘knockout style’ or cup format, in which the aim is to beat the team you play in order to move on to the next round of matches.

An example of this is the second part of the MLS season, in which the top teams in the conference are put into a cup style format, playing to win the MLS Cup.  

It is in this latter style of playing - the cup format/ knockout style - that the rule of overtime is utilized. 

Why is it used? 

We are sure you can probably tell us the answer to the question ‘why is overtime used?’ at this point, but just to reiterate - the reason for the use of overtime in soccer matches is to determine a clear winner in the case of a draw or where no one has scored in the regulated time.

It is used only in ‘knockout’ style games of football in which the teams are competing for a cup.

This is because they have to be a clear winner in order to move on to the next round of matches and eventually win the cup and any title that comes with it.

An example of this is in the knock-out stages of the FIFA World Cup, in which countries are competing for the win. It is not points based like the Supporters’ Shield or the Premier League in Britain, but rather, it is awarded based on who has played the best, with the best record, and won the most matches. 

It is also used in this way nowadays because of the abolition of the previous way of playing. In previous years, overtime was played rather differently, with players aiming for the Golden Goal.

Extra time was played until the first team scored. In some cases, this could mean that a winner would be found in the first two or three minutes.

Historically, some overtime has gone on for hours! In recent history, this way of playing was used in the 1998 FIFA World Cup.

However, in the years following this, it was found that there was too much defending happening, hence why it could take much longer and often resulting in no goals happening.

This is because the focus was on defense rather than attacking, tiring players out who worked tirelessly to stop the other team from scoring first.

It was abolished in 2004 in favor of using the overtime system we know today. To this day, no major soccer leagues use the Golden Goal way of playing. 

Is it the same as stoppage time? 

It is easy to get stoppage time and overtime muddled up, especially because both of them essentially add extra minutes to the game.

To differentiate between them, we will need to understand what stoppage time is. 

Stoppage time is also known as the term ‘injury time’.

It is the time that is added on at the end of regulated play for any stop that had to happen during the game, such as time for injuries, substitutes, and any commotion that has caused the referee to momentarily stop the game.

It is all added up and then played at the end of the 90 minutes.

Typically it can be around 4 minutes, but if there has been a long delay in play during the game, for example, for a bad injury, then this could be even higher than 4 minutes. 

This stoppage time or injury time as it is also known can be played in addition to extra time, as it is a separate entity.

Unlike extra time, stoppage time is allowed to happen in any game, meaning it is not reserved solely for knockout style games.

It is determined by the referee, whether you are playing in a round robin, league style format, or a cup title game.

With this in mind, it is possible for teams to play the normal 90 minutes, then have 10 minutes of stoppage time, and then go on to play two sets of 15 minutes for extra time.

If they are really unlucky they may even have to play a penalty shootout at the end of extra time if there is still no clear winner! 

Final word

There you have it! Our guide on overtime in soccer, answering your questions of “does soccer have overtime?” and how, when, and why they use it.

We hope this article has proved useful in explaining the rule of overtime in soccer to you, and that you now know that it is used only in one specific competition or style of play - the knockout or cup style format.

As a short recap, remember, it is used in order to determine a winner when there has not been a clear winner in the regulated time frame for playing, such as in the case of a draw.

Overtime is also called extra time and is played for 30 minutes, in two sets of 15 minutes and with a 1 minute break in between. It is played in addition to any stoppage time (also known as injury time).

If a winner is still not found during extra time, then the teams play a penalty shootout. See, not as complicated as you thought, right? Just wait until we tell you about the off-side rule…. 

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