When a soccer game ends in a tie, everybody wants to know what happens next. It’s only natural to want to know if there will be a winner. The reality is that when a game in soccer ends in a tie, there is more than one option for what happens next. In this article, I’ll clearly explain the options for what happens and explain when each is used.
If a soccer game ends in a tie after 90 minutes, there are three options. Either the game finishes and each team is awarded 1 point, the game continues with two 15-minute periods of overtime until one team wins, or the third option is that the teams play a second game to decide the winner.
The format of the competition the game is a part of determines which of these three options is used.
Keep reading to find out when each option is used and how you can break a tie in soccer.
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An Explanation of Soccer Tie Breakers
Let’s look at each of these options and find out when and how they are used.
1. The Game Stops and Each Team Is Awarded a Point
The first option for what happens if a game ends in a tie is that the game finishes with the score as it is. The players will leave the field and begin their post-game routine.
Most soccer games can end in a tie. This outcome occurs regularly, with around 40 percent of soccer games ending in a tie. If the game is tied after the teams have completed regulation time, the referee will end the game, and both teams will receive one point.
The majority of games played around the world are played as part of a league. A league consists of a group of soccer teams that play each other in a round-robin style format. Each team will play every other team in the league two times. Once at their own soccer field and once at their opponent’s field.
In league competition, the winning team is the team that has the most points at the end of the season when all the games have been played. (To find out how many games are in a soccer season, click here to go to my article explaining the answer.)
In soccer, each team earns points depending on the result of the game. If a team wins the game, they are awarded 3 points. If the team loses a game, they are awarded 0 points, and if the game ends in a tie, then each team is awarded 1 point.
In this context, it is not important to establish a winner of an individual game. Each point earned throughout the season is added to the overall tally of points that the team has earned and will be combined to see where they end up in the league table at the end of the competition.
Although both teams would have preferred to have won the game and received 3 points for their team rather than 1, they will take the point they have and begin to look forward to their next game.
This system is also used at the beginning of many soccer tournaments, such as the FIFA World Cup or the UEFA Champions League. These tournaments start with a group stage, or mini-league, where each team will play the other teams, and the two teams with the most points will move onto the next round.
It’s worth noting here that a tie in soccer is also called a draw. This definition is most often used outside of North America, but you may hear it used occasionally. It has the same meaning as a tie.
2. The Game Continues to Determine a Winner
The second option for what happens when a soccer game ends in a tie is for the game to continue until one team has won.
In tournament soccer, such as at the FIFA World Cup, if a game ends in a tie the teams will play two extra 15-minute periods of overtime to decide the winner. If the score is still tied after overtime, the teams will begin a penalty shoot-out to determine the winner of the game.
The only way to break a tie in soccer is to keep playing until the scores are no longer tied and one team has scored more goals than the opposition at the moment the referee ends the game.
This option will only come into effect in a tournament competition where a winner needs to be established before the game ends.
In competitions such as the MLS playoffs or the later rounds of the FIFA World Cup, a team is knocked out of the competition at the end of every game.
The winner of the game progresses to the next round of games, where they will play the winning team from another game. These single-game elimination rounds continue until only one team is left.
In these games, when a game ends in a tie, the teams will begin playing overtime.
To find out much more about overtime, click here to go to my article all about it, but basically, overtime is two 15 minute periods of extra playing time added to the end of a game.
These periods of extra time give each team an extra 30 minutes to score another goal and potentially win the game.
At the end of this time, if one team has scored more goals and is ahead of the other team on goals scored, then they will be declared the winners of the game. However, if the game is still tied at this point, then the game will move onto a series of penalty kicks.
Known as a penalty shootout, players from each team will take it in turns to take a shot at goal from 12 yards (11m) away from the goal with only the opposition’s goalie in the way to stop them from scoring.
Initially, each team has 5 chances to take a shot and score. If one team has scored more goals than the other team at this point, then they are declared the winner of the game. If the score is still tied at this point, then the penalty kicks will continue until one team has scored more.
Although the winner is usually determined after the initial round of 5 penalty kicks, a penalty shootout has been known to carry on for up to 48 kicks!
In a game between KK Palace and the Civics at the 2005 Namibian Cup, it took KK Palace scoring 17 times from the penalty spot to beat the Civics.
3. A Second Game Is Played
The last option for what happens if a game ends in a draw is that the game is played again.
This option is rarely used in modern soccer, but it does still take place occasionally and was historically a popular method of deciding a game.
Having a rematch or replay of a game allows each team to come back when they have had a chance to rest and try again to see if they can win.
Replaying the game was most popular before FIFA first introduced the penalty shootout in the 1970s.[source] Before there was the option of taking penalties to decide a winner, each team would just have to keep playing until one team had scored more goals than the opposition. To prevent a game from going on indefinitely, the teams would stop and come back another day to carry on playing.
The practice of replaying a soccer game only takes place in a few competitions around the world these days. One example is the first 5 rounds of the FA Cup in England and each round up to the semi-finals in the Scottish Cup.
Does the Score Matter?
One question many people have about a game ending in a tie is: Does the score matter?
The answer to that question is no; the score doesn’t matter.
At the end of a soccer game, if the score is 0-0, 1-1, 2-2, or any other equal scoreline, the game is considered a tie, and the game will either stop, continue until a winner is decided, or be replayed.
The rules of soccer when it comes to a tie are quite clear: The referee must abide by the pre-agreed arrangements for that specific game and follow the path to determine the winner of the game.
I hope you now feel as though you understand what happens when a soccer game ends in a tie.
If you want to know more about soccer games, check out one of these other articles I’ve written to help people understand the game.
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