If you haven’t spent much time around soccer, you may have a lot of questions about how the game is structured. One of those questions may be about whether a soccer game has a half-time break or not. In this article, I want to clearly explain if soccer has halftime and, if so, how it works.
Soccer does have halftime. A game of soccer is split into two halves of 45 minutes each with a halftime break at the end of the first 45 minute period. The halftime break in soccer lasts for a total of 15 minutes.
The reason halftime was initially introduced into a soccer game doesn’t actually have much relevance to the way the modern game of soccer is played. But we’ll look at that in a moment. First, let’s see how halftime works and what the benefits are to it.
Where Halftime Fits Into a Soccer Game
The majority of popular sports incorporate some sort of break throughout the games that are played. Some just allow for one break, and others allow for multiple.
Soccer is one of those sports that splits the game into two halves with a halftime break halfway through the game. If you want to know why soccer doesn’t use quarters like some other sports do, have a look at this article, I wrote explaining the reasons why.
So let’s quickly break down the structure of a soccer game and see how it looks and where halftime fits in.
Every soccer game lasts for a total of 90 minutes of playing time. After 45 minutes, or at the halfway point of the 90 minutes, the referee will stop the game for a halftime break or interval.
After the halftime break, the referee will restart the game and the second half will begin. The second half of the game lasts for the same amount of time as the first half – 45 minutes.
After the halftime break, the two teams will swap ends of the field. The team that was playing from left to right on the field will now play right to left. And the team that played the first half from right to left will play the second half from left to right.
Changing ends of the field allows for an element of fairness if the weather conditions, such as wind or low sun, favor the team playing one way rather than the other.
The only time a soccer game lasts longer than 90 minutes is if the score of the game is tied at the end, and the competition requires a winner to be determined.
At this point, the referee will add extra time to the end of the game, and extra time includes a second halftime break.
Halftime during extra time
When extra time is added on to a soccer game, it means that an additional 30 minutes of soccer will be played between the two teams.
Although this is a shorter period of play than the first two halves of soccer, a halftime break is still included during extra time.
After 15 minutes of play, the referee will stop the game for halftime. When the break is over, the referee will restart the game, and the players will play for another 15 minutes.
The Length of Halftime in Soccer
So, having established that soccer does have halftime, and now you know where it fits into the game, you probably want to know how long halftime lasts.
Halftime in soccer lasts for a maximum of 15 minutes. Only the referee is entitled to alter the amount of time. The only occasions where the length of halftime may be different is during a youth soccer game when the length of the entire game may be shorter.
When it comes to what is expected for halftime in soccer, the rules are clear. The rules of soccer state that:
Players are entitled to an interval at halftime, not exceeding 15 minutesIFAB Laws of the Game
In the above quote, I have highlighted the fact that the rules say that the halftime break shouldn’t exceed 15 minutes. This means that although the players are entitled to take a full 15-minute break, the referee may restart the game sooner than this if both team’s players are on the field and ready to go.
However, I have to say that in my experience, it is very rare for the referee to restart the game before the allocated 15 minutes has passed.
If anything, most teams try and push the time longer if they can! Most teams want to take full advantage of the 15 minutes they are permitted and enjoy the benefits of halftime that we’ll look at in the next section.
It’s also worth noting that the length of halftime during extra time is different than the length of halftime during the first 90 minutes of the game.
During extra time the halftime break must not be any longer than one minute. This break is intended only to be a short drinks break, and the referee will restart the game within a minute of the game being stopped. [source]
Length of halftime at high school level soccer
It’s also worth knowing that if you have a child playing youth soccer, then the length of halftime may be different than it is at adult level.
For instance, at high school level, the length of halftime is usually 10 minutes. This is because the length of the game is shorter than it is at senior level.
And when you get down to soccer at u6 level, then you may find that halftime is as short as a few minutes, or they may not even be a halftime break as the length of the entire game is so short.
Either way, it is always best to check with your child’s coach or referee to be sure of what to expect.
Benefits of Halftime
Halftime may be a time for the players to stop and take a break for a few minutes, but it is also so much more than that.
There are several benefits to the halftime interval during a soccer game.
Allows a team to reset
By the time a game gets to halftime there is often one team in the ascendancy. They may have control of the game and keeping the ball near their opponent’s goal.
In this situation, the halftime break gives the opposition a chance to pause the game and assess what they are doing well and what needs to change. This chance to reset offers them the opportunity to come out stronger in the second half.
Gives time for the coach to discuss tactics
Halftime also allows the coach of the team an opportunity to discuss tactics with the players.
Although a coach can try and communicate with the players throughout a game, they can have a far more effective conversation when they have the player’s full attention.
The coach may want to reinforce the tactics that had been discussed before the game, or they may wish to change their tactics in an area of the game,
Halftime allows the team to regroup and refocus on what they need to do.
Opportunity for hydration and nutrition
Soccer games don’t have timeouts. If you want to know why have a look at this article I wrote. But the consequence of this is that the players have minimal opportunity to take on any fluids or nutrition outside of the halftime break.
Playing a game of soccer can place a significant demand on the body. In fact, during a game, a player can produce 5700 kJ (1360 kcal) of energy! [source] This energy use needs to be replaced at some point if a player can keep this topped up then they will be able to perform at peak levels for longer.
During halftime, a soccer player will eat a carbohydrate snack. Sports dietitians recommend options such as chopped fruit, granola bars, or specialized sports nutrition products such as energy bars and gels at halftime. [source]
Time to assess any potential injuries
Halftime also gives time to assess any possible injuries a player may have.
This interval gives the coaching staff opportunity to talk with and evaluate each player to understand what is happening and whether they have any issues they are concerned about.
Once a potential injury or strain has been identified, the team’s coach can treat the injury and decided if the player is fit to continue or needs to be substituted.
This article I wrote about substitutions will give you all you need to know about substitutions in soccer.
History of Halftime in Soccer: Why It Exists
The last thing I wanted to share here was how soccer even came to have a halftime interval.
When soccer first began to become popular, there were a variety of different rules used by teams.
To promote an element of fairness to a game, it was decided that when a team played against a team that used different rules, the teams would play the game following one of the team’s rules for the first half only. The game would then stop at the halfway point and continue following the rules of the other team. [source]
For a full description of how soccer began, have a look at this article, I wrote on the invention of soccer.
Continuing playing games using two different sets of rules did not last for long. Eventually, an official set of rules was decided on, and every team had to follow these rules.
Hopefully, you now feel you have a better understanding of how halftime in soccer works.
If you are looking for a complete overview of how soccer works check out this easy-to-understand guide to how soccer works I recently wrote. It gives you everything you need to know about the game in 21 clear steps.
Check out my article about soccer positions and numbers.
And if you want to be inspired by the best soccer quotes you can find, check out this list of my favorite soccer quotes.