Why Soccer Doesn’t Have Timeouts and How It Affects the Game

When they are first introduced to soccer, many people ask whether a timeout can be called during a soccer game.

Timeouts can have a significant impact on many sports, so knowing whether soccer allows them is important.

So, are there timeouts in soccer?

Soccer does not have timeouts. Soccer uses a running clock, which means the referee is the only one with the authority to stop the time. The only point in the game that the time is stopped is for a 15-minute halftime break between the two 45-minute halves.

The fact that timeouts are not allowed during a soccer game affects how the game is played and can have both a positive and negative effect on the game.

Read on to see the positive and negative consequences of not having timeouts and find out whether timeouts are used at college, high school, or youth-level soccer games.

Does soccer have timeouts? header image for blog post

The Reasons Soccer Doesn’t Soccer Have Timeouts

Soccer doesn’t have timeouts during a game simply because that wasn’t how it was set up, and the Laws of the Game of soccer don’t permit them.

Ever since soccer was invented in the 19th Century, the only stoppage in the play where a coach could bring all the players together and communicate with them was the half-time break in the middle of the game.

Outside of the half-time break, the clock in soccer runs continuously. You can find out more about this in my article – Why the Clock in Soccer Never Stops – but essentially, the reason is to stop any time wasting by the players.

To find out how soccer’s origins go all the way back to ancient China(!), check out my article The Invention of Soccer.

Throughout its history, timeouts have never been introduced at a professional level, and if they were, then there is a real chance they could change the dynamics of a game.

Not only would there be far more stopping and starting, but coaches would set up their teams and tactics differently, knowing they could call a timeout when needed.

The way that soccer is played and the way coaches interact with players during the game are two of the reasons soccer is such a great game to play and watch.

Positives and Negatives of Not Having Timeouts in Soccer

Pro's and cons to timeouts

There are positives and negatives to not having timeouts in soccer.

Let’s look at the positives first and then at what’s negative about it.

3 Positives

1. Less stopping and starting during the game

One of the pros of not having timeouts in soccer is that it allows the game to keep moving.

Although a timeout may be relatively short in some sports, it is still a stoppage during a game and can affect the team’s momentum. Of course, stopping the opposition’s momentum may be exactly why a coach wants to call a time-out!

2. Players have to think tactically

Something I consider a benefit to not having timeouts during a game is that it forces the players to have to think tactically.

Many sports fully rely on the coach telling them what to do for every move or play. In soccer, a player on a relatively large field can go for an entire 45-minute half without hearing from the coaching staff.

This means that to play effectively, each player has to be not only aware of the tactics and game plan the coach has given them before but also be aware of everything that is happening in the game and change and adapt their gameplay as needed.

3. Players have to be fit enough to keep going

Another positive to not having timeouts is that it encourages players to be as fit as possible for a game, as there is no guarantee of a break to catch their breath.

3 Negatives

1. The coach has no opportunity to pass on information

A significant negative factor for a soccer coach with timeouts not being permitted in soccer is that they have no opportunity to gather all the players and pass on tactics or motivational speeches.

They may find that they can see a trend happening in the game that they want to change but are limited in their communication with their team.

2. The players can’t pass on information to the coach

Following on from this one, the lack of timeouts prevents the player from passing on anything to the coach as well.

A player may be feeling an injury or have noticed something with the opposition that they want to pass onto the coaching team, but without any stoppages during the half, there is no way to do this.

3. No chance for players to stop and rest

Another disadvantage of having no timeouts in soccer is that there can be no break or let up in half to allow players to catch their breath or stop for a drink.

Similar to the last pro we mentioned, this can ensure players do their best to stay at peak fitness to avoid the need for extra breaks.

Timeouts in college, high school, or youth soccer

Are There Timeouts in College Soccer?

Although timeouts are not permitted in professional soccer games, and as we’ve seen, there are pros and cons to this, you may still have a question about whether timeouts are allowed at college-level soccer.

Soccer at the college level in the United States is regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

The NCAA implements rules of the game that closely resemble the official Laws of the Game followed in professional soccer. There are only minor differences, such as always having an overtime period if the game is tied at the end of 90 minutes.

If you’re interested in discovering more about overtime in soccer, click here to go to an article I wrote all about it.

However, one thing that isn’t different is the allowance of timeouts.

Timeouts are not permitted in college soccer. The only time a coach can use a stoppage in play to talk to his team is during the 15-minute halftime break.

Are There Timeouts in High School Soccer?

So, now you may be thinking, “ok, if timeouts aren’t permitted at college level then maybe they are at high school level.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) governs the rules for soccer in high schools throughout the United States.

The rules they set mostly align with the Laws of the Game that professional soccer teams follow.

There are, however, a few changes, such as reducing each half to only 40 minutes and even allowing the games to be played in quarters instead of halves. These changes are made to accommodate the fact that high school players are not as physically developed or as fit as professional adult players.

One thing that they do not allow for is timeouts.

Timeouts are not permitted in high school soccer as the objective of soccer rules at high school level is to resemble the official laws of the game as closely as possible, and timeouts are not permitted in the official laws of the game.

Are There Timeouts in Youth Soccer?

The question about whether youth soccer has timeouts is a more difficult one to answer. This is because the answer varies depending on the organization that is running the game.

Youth soccer has no overall governing body in the same way that professional, college, and even high school soccer does. This means it is up to each youth league or organization to choose their own rules for the soccer games that are played, including whether to allow timeouts.

Many games at a youth soccer level do their best to follow the official Laws of the Game while adapting some rules to make allowances for the young age of the players, and because of this, many youth soccer games won’t allow timeouts.

However, you will still find there are some youth soccer games where timeouts are permitted.

Let me give you two examples to illustrate this point.

  1. The Organization, US Youth Soccer, coordinates many soccer games across the US. Thousands of kids play in games organized by them. Their rules for the game do not permit timeouts during soccer games.
  2. Alternatively, the Denver YMCA specifically does allow timeouts during the youth soccer games they run. However, they are also clear that these timeouts are to make substitutions rather than a time for the coach to talk to the players.

If you are involved in a youth-level soccer game, and you’re not sure whether timeouts are allowed, the best thing to do is to ask the referee or one of the team coaches. They’ll know the answer.

Hopefully, you found this article helpful. If you would like to know more about the rules of a game of soccer, check out A Simple and Easy to Understand Guide to the Rules of Soccer, which I wrote that should help you understand and enjoy the game even more.

Alternatively, another article that you may find helpful is a guide to where and when the goalkeeper can use their hands on the soccer field.

Ben Clayfield

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. Find out more about me here - Ben Clayfield

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