How Long Does a Football Match Last?

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How long does a football match last? The return of football season is a joy for many. However, it can leave others asking, “how long is a football game?”. A standard football match will last for 90 minutes. This incorporates more than enough time for the best players on the pitch to get on the ball and make something special happen.

While the general consensus is that a game will last for 90 minutes, is that always the case? In this guide, we will take a look at football games that do not last 90 minutes, when games may exceed 90 minutes and more.

How Long Do Football Games Usually Last?

Technically, nearly every single game will exceed 90 minutes. A game is split into two 45 minutes halves, with minutes 0-45 known as the first half and minutes 46-90 known as the second half. Every single game must adhere to the strict schedule that sees 90 minutes played.

Whilst there is a time limit set of 90 minutes, matches rarely stick to this duration. In fact, a football game usually lasts at least a few minutes longer than the allotted time of 90 minutes. As we will explore, when it comes to football matches, the timings are not always the same.

There are many more factors that play into the duration of football matches. It is including (but is not limited to) whether or not there are injuries, referee decisions, penalty kicks, and the age of the players on each team.

You’ve ever wondered about the answer to the question: “How long is a football game in the UK?”. We’re here to explain how long a match is and what factors would cause the length of the game to differ.

According to the official Laws of the Game, a football match should last 90 minutes (two equal halves of 45 minutes) with an additional half-time interval of 15 minutes.

And, according to these laws, an additional 30 minutes could be played in special circumstances. And, a game can be shorter than 90 minutes if agreed upon beforehand between each team and the referees.

Why is a Football Game 90 Minutes?

We can thank the UK for determining that the length of a football match should be 90 minutes. During one of the first matches between London and Sheffield, there was a clash between the two teams regarding the duration of the game. Eventually, each team decided to make a rule that games should be 90 minutes. Once the 90-minute rule was set, it became one of the game’s basic rules that leagues from all over the world adopted.

Despite these official laws, the average length of a football match is longer than the period of 90 minutes. In fact, it’s rare that the halves of a football match will only last 45 minutes. Certain factors such as the number of breaks that a team has, injuries, and celebrations, could cause the extra time to be added to the halves. And it makes the duration of the game longer than two hours.

It’s almost inevitable that a match will last longer than 90 minutes. Without any unforeseen breaks in the game, if each team uses their allotted three substitutions (which is 30 seconds per player), an additional 3 minutes of extra time is added to the end of either of the halves.

The amount of extra time is ultimately decided by the referee. However, during the game, an official will hold up a digital board to tell spectators the minimum amount of extra time that will be tacked on to the end of the game.

Injury Time

Delays happen frequently during a football match, whether coaches decide to make a substitution or injuries require players needs to be escorted off of the field. These are a few examples of unintentional delays that can happen during games. However, there are a few instances when teams deliberately waste time.

Surely you’ve seen instances where players purposely kill time during the final 15 minutes of games when they’re ahead by a small lead. This common tactic is referred to as “running the clock.”

Injury time is the amount of time added on by the referee to make up for stoppages in the game. If the ref deems that time has been lost and needs to be made up, they can add on injury time.

Stoppages or injury time typically will add anywhere from one minute to four minutes to the total length of the game. Ultimately, the referees are the ones who decide how many minutes will be added to the end of each half.

In the first half, injury time will be added to the match after the 45th minute. This means that three minutes are added on. Then the match will go up to 48 minutes before the whistle is blown for half-time.

When the game restarts, it will be done in the 45th minute. This means that no matter how much injury time is added on, the game will always restart in the 45th minute. At the end of the 90 minutes, injury time can once again be added.

The match itself can extend well into the 100th minute and beyond depending on how the game has gone. This, therefore, means that every single game will exceed 90 minutes.

How Long are Football Games For Youth Leagues?

Whilst your average football game should last around 90 minutes, youth football games are often shorter than 90 minutes.

The rules are different for youth teams mostly due to the difference in the physical capabilities of children’s bodies. Other factors that determine the amount of time that a child can physically play the full length of the game are the number of other players on the team and the pitch size. The larger the pitch, the more energy a child would need to exert.

So, how long does a football match last for youth leagues? Simply put, it all depends on the age group. Because children get older and their bodies mature, additional time is added to the games.

The exact duration of the contest will depend on the age group that is playing. For example, an under-six team will play two 10-minute halves, while under-16s might play two 40-minute halves.

How Long is Half Time in Football? (UK)

Half-time in football lasts 15 minutes. But let’s go into a bit more detail about why this break halfway through a match exists and how it got to its fifteen minutes duration.

Halftime isn’t just for stretching your legs and getting another pint. Yes, the half-time interval separates the two halves of the match. And it gives each team a break in play to speak with managers and come up with a strategy for the next half. However, the original reason for half-time may surprise you.

The half-time interval dates back to the beginning of football when teams from different Associations would play each other. Since these teams came from different Associations, they would follow different sets of rules.

To make up for the differences, the first half would be played by one Association’s rules. The second half would be played by the other Association’s rules.

In terms of how the 15-minute interval was decided, likely, the duration of 15 minutes came from some of the first matches between Eton and Rugby.

But, how long does halftime last in football? Originally, the half-time interval was only 10 minutes, but the time was extended in 1995.

So how long is football halftime in football now? Across the world, the duration of the half-time break is 15 minutes. Whilst the half-time interval of 15 minutes should not exceed the limit by even one minute.

This break gives players a chance to replenish fluids, have a comfort break, receive treatment, and more. It also gives the manager a chance to make changes, impart tactical tweaks or provide insight into performances. The half-time interval is another reason why a football match does not technically last for only 90 minutes.

How Long is Extra Time in Football?

One of the things players seem to hate when it comes to playing football is extra time. Because it is the ultimate test of fitness. Extra time is an amount of time added to a game that has ended in a draw but must have a result. For example, a cup final usually has to have a winner.

This means that if two teams ended at 0-0 in the final, then they will have to play 30 minutes of extra time. This extra time period is usually split into two halves. The duration of each half is 15 minutes, for a total of 30 minutes.

And any goals that are scored are added to the final score of the game. If, after both 15-minute halves the score is still equal, the game will go into a penalty shoot-out. There is usually a 5-minute break between extra time and penalties.

When Do Penalty Shoot Outs Happen?

When the score of the game is equal after the two 15-minute halves, a penalty shootout will decide the winner of the competition. During penalties, players from each team will try to kick the ball past the goalie in between the goalposts to score a goal.

Members of each team will alternate taking shots on goal with the only defender being the opposite team’s goalkeeper. Each team will have five attempts to score a goal. And each shot must be taken by different players. The goals scored during the penalties are not added to the final score of the game.

The winner of the game is decided based on whoever gets the highest number of goals out of the five attempts. If the teams are still tied after the shootout, they will go into “sudden death.” During sudden death, the first team to miss a shot loses the game.

While extra time is a definitive time period, penalties do not have a specific time restraint. It could be over after a few minutes if the players get through their penalties quickly. However, it could go on for a long time if each penalty takes a while to be taken along with the scores remaining level.

What Is Fergie Time?

In English football, “Fergie Time” is a phrase named after the former manager of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie time refers to the amount of excessive time that a team needs at the end of the match to tie or win the game.

A lot of opposing fans would question where large periods of injury time had come from. And United would usually find a way to score an equalizing goal or a winner in “Fergie Time” at Old Trafford.


This phrase came about from the perception that Manchester United would frequently win games that they were not winning in an extra minute or two that were added on to the end of the game. Whether or not Fergie Time actually exists is still up for debate.

While it is not a technical term, it is worth knowing that whenever anyone mentions “Fergie Time”. They are stating that there is a lot of injury time or that a goal has been scored late in injury time.

How Does UK Football Differ From United States Football?

There are plenty of differences between football from the United Kingdom and American football (NFL). Besides the fact that the former is played with the feet, while the latter is played with the hands, the length of each game and how the games are divided are entirely different.

While the typical UK football game lasts a minimum of 90 minutes, an NFL game can go on for hours.

Just like UK football, the rules of American football require a half-time break between the two halves of the game. According to the official rules, the halftime break can only last 12 minutes, with a few exceptions. One of the exceptions is the NFL Super Bowl, the annual championship game of the league. The duration of the break during the NFL Super Bowl football game is far over 12 minutes long. In fact, the break will typically go over 30 minutes.

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