Knowing whether a soccer game is split into quarters is important to know. An understanding of how a soccer game is structured can not only increase your understanding of the game but also your enjoyment of the game.
There are four quarters of 15 minutes each in both indoor and youth soccer games. This allows for short periods of play between times of rest. Professional soccer games do not have quarters. Professional games are divided into two halves of 45 minutes each.
For anyone more used to playing and watching sports such as basketball or American Football, where the game is split into quarters, soccer can take a little while to understand.
This is in part because there are significant differences between how different sports are structured. Including whether they are played in quarters, halves, or even thirds.
If you’re interested in how Football and Soccer compare click here to go to an article I wrote comparing the two sports.
This article will help explain how soccer is structured, whether quarters are ever used, and what is used instead of quarters.
How a Soccer Game Is Structured
As I mentioned above, soccer does not split the game into quarters but into two halves of 45 minutes instead.
A soccer game is played over a total of 90 minutes, with a few minutes often added on the end to compensate for any stoppages in play during the game.
But 90 minutes is a long time to play an intense and competitive game without a break.
So the rules of soccer allow for a break after the teams have been playing for 45 minutes.
Halftime in soccer lasts for 15 minutes after which the players come back to the field and play the remaining 45 minutes of the game.
This half time break allows the players to come together as a team with the coaching staff and discuss how the game is going and what, if anything, needs to change.
You can find out much more about halftime in my article – Halftime in Soccer: How it works.
The break also allows the players to have a drink and rest before resuming play.
Originally half time was not about allowing the players to have a rest.
In one of the first formalized sets of rules for soccer – the Cambridge Rules written in 1863 – half time was marked simply to allow the teams to change ends of the field rather than to stop for an extended break.
For more information on the origins of soccer read this article I wrote all about the Invention of Soccer.
Changing ends was mainly to allow each team to fairly face the weather conditions for that day. If the sun was shining brightly in the eyes of one team in the first half it would be shining brightly in the eyes of the other team in the second half.
And the same if it was a windy day. If the wind was blowing towards one team in the first half it would be blowing towards the other team in the second half.
Although the length of the half-time break has extended over time, the basic structure, or format, of a soccer game has stayed the same for the past 150 years.
Using Quarters Would Disrupt the Game
Splitting a soccer game into quarters rather than halves has never been seriously considered in any soccer game at a professional level. One of the main reasons for this is that it would break up the flow of the game too much.
Unlike sports such as American Football or Basketball where the play stops and starts, and the players reset sometimes multiple times within the space of one minute of game time, soccer stops far less often.
It’s not uncommon for a soccer game to go for 10 or 15 minutes without any significant stoppage.
The consequence of this is that the flow or momentum of a game is more important to soccer than some other sports. The time without stopping allows a team to build momentum in an attack if they can, or frustrate the opposition by keeping possession of the ball for as long as they can.
Because of this, breaking the game into quarters and stopping for an extended break every 22.5 minutes rather than every 45 minutes would be much more disruptive to a game and the spectacle in general.
2 Exceptions Where Soccer Sometimes Uses Quarters
Having said all we have so far about soccer not using quarters in a game there are actually a few situations where you may see quarters being used.
However, it’s worth remembering that these situations are outside of the context of professional or elite level soccer as quarters would never be used at professional level soccer games.
Youth Soccer Games Sometimes Use Quarters
One situation where soccer games are split into quarters is during a youth soccer game.
Youth soccer does use quarters rather than halves in a game occasionally as youth soccer players often don’t have the stamina or fitness needed to keep going for 45 minutes without a break.
Soccer organizations such as US Youth Soccer recommend soccer games for under 8-year-olds involve 4 quarters of 12 minutes each, and games of under 6-year-olds consist of 4 quarters of 6 minutes each.
The players are still young and it is important that the rules of the game reflect this and allow the needs of the players to come first rather than strictly sticking to the rules. Especially as the rules of soccer were written to apply to adults, not children!
Indoor Soccer Games Use Quarters
Another variation of soccer that does use quarters to break up a game is indoor, or arena, soccer.
One major reason why some people are confused as to whether soccer does have quarters is that they have seen indoor soccer and confused it with the more popular form of the game outdoor soccer.
A game of indoor soccer lasts for a total of 60 minutes. These 60 minutes are split into four 15 minute periods or quarters. There is a 3-minute break between the first and second and the third and fourth quarters. And there is a 15-minute break between the second and third quarters. [source]
The reason indoor soccer is split into four quarters rather than two halves is to do with it being a much faster, more intense game, played in a much smaller space than outdoor, or the mainstream version of soccer is.
There are also only 6 players on the field at one time as opposed to the 11 players used in outdoor soccer.
This means that the players need a break more often and 60 minutes is a more appropriate amount of time to play a game rather than 90 minutes.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Hopefully, this article has clarified for you that soccer does not use quarters to break up the game, except in some very specific situations. Any outdoor, professional-level soccer game will always be played in halves and never quarters.
If you are looking to gain an even better understanding of the game then I would recommend you firstly head on over to my Simple and Easy to Understand Guide to the Rules of Soccer by clicking here. This will clearly explain everything you need to know about the game.
And if you’re looking for advice or recommendations about what equipment you should buy to enjoy playing the game, then click on this link, or follow the link from the main menu, to go to my Recommended Soccer Equipment page.