Aggregate in Soccer: What It Means and How It Works


Header image of post title and scoreboard image

One of the words you will often hear in soccer is the term “aggregate”. Knowing what the word aggregate means can be confusing but understanding the meaning and how it works is important to understanding which team is going to win a game.

In this article, I want to clearly explain what aggregate means and give some clear examples of how it’s used.

In soccer, the word “aggregate” refers to the combined scoreline between two teams after they have played against each other two times. This combined scoreline determines which team is the winner of the game.

Combining the scores over two soccer games is not something that happens in every competition and knowing what the score is “on aggregate” is only relevant at certain times. Keep reading to find out when those times are, how aggregate works, and look at some examples.

The Definition of Aggregate

The word aggregate is not a word that you hear used very often (at least I don’t!) so to clearly understand the word I figured I’d look up the dictionary definition and find out what it says.

The oxford dictionary defines aggregate as:

A whole formed by combining several (typically disparate) elements, or The total number of points scored by a player or team in a series of sporting contests.

Oxford Dictionary

As you can see this definition clearly explains the reason the word aggregate is used as it is in soccer. It is a good definition of what is happening.

But a definition alone doesn’t explain how “aggregate” works in the context of a soccer game.

How Aggregate Works in Soccer

In soccer, aggregate works by taking the scoreline from one soccer game between two teams and adding it to the scoreline of another game between those same two teams. The combined scoreline from those two games is the aggregate scoreline or the score “on aggregate”.

In various soccer tournaments around the world, teams will play each other twice to decide who the winner of the contest is and therefore which team should progress to the next round of the competition.

Some examples of tournaments where an aggregate format is used are:

  • FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds
  • UEFA Champions League
  • Copa Libertadores
  • The Copa del Rey in Spain
  • The Coppa Italia in Italy
  • and previously the MLS conference semifinals and finals

Each of these soccer tournaments relies on the use of aggregate goals to decide on which team has won a game.

This also means that when the teams meet to play against each other for a second time they are effectively beginning the game at the point they finished the previous game.

If one team lost the previous game then they are starting at a disadvantage and have to score more goals than the opposition if they are to catch up, improve their aggregate scoreline and win the game.

Alternatively, if one team won the previous game they are starting the second game with an advantage and only have to score the same amount of goals as the opposition in the second game to be considered the winners of the game.

examples of aggregate scores being used in soccer

Examples of Aggregate Being Used

To help make this clear, let’s look at some examples of an aggregate scoreline being used.

Example 1

Team A plays Team B and the first game ends with Team A winning 3 -1

Team A then plays Team B in a second game which ends with Team B winning 2 -1

In this scenario Team A would be declared the overall winners as the aggregate scoreline (the scoreline of the two games added together) would be:

Team A 4 – 3 Team B.

Example 2

Team C plays Team D and the first game ends with a scoreline of 1-1

Team C then plays Team D in a second game which ends with Team D winning by 1 – 0

In this scenario Team D would be the winners as the final, or aggregate scoreline, would be:

Team C 1 -2 Team D.

Why Aggregate Is Used in Soccer

Hopefully, what you have read so far is helping to explain and clarify what aggregate is in soccer, but the next question you may have is: is why is aggregate used at all?

Aggregate is used in soccer in an attempt to give as fair a result as possible. Not only do both teams have two opportunities to beat their opposition, but each game is played at a different location. The first game at one team’s “home” ground and the second game at the other team’s “home” ground.

Playing a soccer game at a team’s “home” field, ground or stadium is often considered to give that team a psychological and physiological advantage over their opposition. [source]

Because of this, it is unreasonable for the final scoreline of the game to be decided after only the first game. To counteract this effect and make sure neither team has an advantage, each team is given the opportunity to play a game on their “home” field.

This is why aggregate scores are used. To make sure that the result of the game is as fair as it possibly can be.

The Away Goals Rule in Soccer

At this point, you may feel you understand how and why this works, but unfortunately, there is one more factor that can make the use of aggregate in soccer a little more complicated. That is because of the away goals rule.

The away goals rule in soccer is a rule used to determine the winner of a soccer game when the scorelines are tied after two games, or on aggregate. Under the away goals rule the team who has scored the most away goals over the two games is considered to be the winner of the game.

Away goals in soccer are the goals a team scores away from their “home” ground. Any time a team score a goal at a soccer stadium or field that is not their home field they have scored an “away” goal.

In the context of a game decided on aggregate goals, this would mean that there is an advantage to scoring as many goals as possible during an “away” game. This could give a team an advantage and allow them to win the game if the scoreline ends in a tie.

The away goals rule is used and accepted because it is considered harder to score goals away from home than to score a goal at home. This is again due to the fact I mentioned before that playing a soccer game at home has many psychological as well as physiological advantages over the opposition.

The use of the away goals rule to determine the winner of a soccer game where the aggregate score is tied is considered a fair way to decide on the winner of the game.

Examples of the away goal rule being used in soccer

Examples of the Away Goals Rule in Soccer

Again, it’s helpful to look at examples so let’s look at two examples of the away goals rule being used on an aggregate score.

Example 1

Team A plays at home against Team B and the first game ends with Team A winning 4 -1

Team A then plays Team B in a second game in which Team B is playing at home. The game ends with Team B winning 3 – 0

In this scenario, although the score on aggregate is 4 -4 Team B would be declared the overall winners as they scored the only away goal of the two games and would win based on the away goals rule.

Example 2

Team C plays at home against Team D and the first game ends Team C winning 2-1.

Team C then plays Team D in a second game in which Team D is playing at home. The game ends with Team D winning 3 – 2

In this scenario, although the score on aggregate is 4 -4 Team C would be declared the overall winners as they scored more away goals than Team D over the two games and would win based on the away goals rule.

Conclusion

The use of aggregate in soccer is to even the field between two teams and achieve a result that is considered fair for both teams.

My aim with this website is to help people understand, appreciate, and enjoy the game of soccer. To find out the meaning of other terms in soccer check out one of my other posts:

Or if you want to find the meaning of any other term or meaning used in soccer, check out my Comprehensive Glossary of Soccer Terms.

Ben

Hi! My name's Ben. I've played, watched, read about, and enjoyed soccer throughout my life. I really enjoy finding out more about the game I love and sharing it with you all. Sign up to the yoursoccerhome.com newsletter here or check out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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