The main point of playing soccer is for one team to outscore the other. But, there are situations where no team scores throughout the 90 minutes or both teams score the same number of goals against each other resulting in a tie.
This article answers the question “What Happens If A Soccer Game is Tied?” by looking into the possible options used to decide the winner after a game ends in a tie. We also look into the number of points awarded to each team after drawn matches.
What Happens If A Soccer Game Is Tied?
Soccer games tied after 90 minutes end with each team awarded a point in league format competitions or during the group stages of tournaments where teams with the highest points advance. A 30-minute Extra Time broken down into two 15-minute halves followed by penalty shootouts if the game is still drawn or a replay of the entire game are the two main options available in games where one team needs to emerge as the winner.
Tied or drawn games are probably more popular in soccer than the other major sports. Fortunately, each competition has specific rules for such games meaning participating teams are aware of what happens if both teams are unable to score or end up with the same number of goals.
What Are The Main Tie Breakers In Soccer?
Here are the main tiebreakers in the game of soccer across competitions such as the major European leagues and continental club championships as well as the FIFA World Cup, Euros, and continental national team tournaments like the Copa America.
1. Each Team Earns A Point At The End Of The Game
The main soccer competition in almost every member country of FIFA is the league which typically comprises multiple teams in an all-play-all format to determine which team earns the most points at the end of the tournament.
To ensure fairness, each team plays against every other team twice, once at its home stadium and a second game at the opponent’s stadium. This eliminates the advantages one team may have over the other when playing on home soil.
The results of the game determine the number of points awarded and typically, a win earns 3 points while both teams earn 1 point when the game ends in a tie. Teams earn zero points for losses which explains why most teams trailing by a single goal or two try to ramp up performances to at least secure a tie during the dying minutes of the game.
Since league tournaments are points-based, drawn games end after 90 minutes because winners do not need to emerge from every game. The total number of points secured at the end of the league season determines the winner and confirms each team’s position on the league table.
Point-based systems are also a key feature of some of the major tournaments such as the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, and the Euros. Participating teams are split into groups comprising 4 teams that play in a league-style system where the two teams with the highest number of points advance to the next stage.
It is not uncommon for both teams to relax at a certain point in the game and play it safe to protect the draw rather than risk the guaranteed point in favor of 3. Going all out to try to win always comes with the risk of suffering counter-attacks which could lead to conceding and losing the previous point.
2. Extra Time & Penalty Shootouts
Games ending in a draw may go to an extra time of 30 minutes consisting of two halves of 15 minutes each. A 5-minute break is taken after the end of the first half before the second half of Extra Time resumes.
A winner emerges when only one team scores or when one team outscores the opponent at the end of Extra Time. In some situations, no team scores throughout the Extra Time period, or both teams score the same number of goals meaning the game remains a draw by the time the referee’s final whistle is blown at the end of the second half of Extra Time.
Penalty shootouts become the next logical step where each team selects the best 5 penalty takers for spot-kicks against the opponent’s goalkeeper. The team that scores the highest number of the 5 penalty kicks is crowned as the winner of the game.
If both teams score the same number of penalty kicks after the initial 5, the remaining members of each team step up one by one to take penalties until one team misses while the other scores. Penalty kicks can go on infinitely until one team fumbles while the opponent puts the ball into the net.
The longest penalty shootout in a soccer game currently is the total of 54 spot kicks in the game between Washington FC and Bedlington Terriers after a 3-3 draw in the Ernest Armstrong Memorial Cup in Sunderland, England.
Only 5 penalties were missed after both teams scored 5 out of 5 in the initial 5 rounds. The first opportunity to end the game occurred in the 6th round but both teams missed. The two teams missed again in the 12th round only for Washington FC to finally put the game to bed after the Terriers missed again in the 27th round.
3. Straight Penalty Shootouts At The End Of 90 Minutes
Some tournaments have rules that stipulate that drawn games at the end of 90 minutes should proceed to penalty shootouts. This is popular when the same players engage in multiple competitions and straight penalty shootouts serve as a way to reduce fatigue.
England’s Carabao Cup is probably the most popular competition where drawn games in the first 5 rounds advance to automatic penalty shootouts. The tournament previously featured Extra Time before penalties but clubs requested its removal to minimize the burden on players.
4. The Game is Replayed
Sometimes, a game is replayed after ending in a draw, according to the rules of the tournament. One popular competition where replays are mandatory is the first 4 rounds of the English FA Cup. Replays are an attempt to enable teams to regroup and come back stronger after the previous game.
Depending on the schedule, replays may happen at a later date based on television schedule availability. However, replays typically require Extra Time and penalty shootouts if the game ends in another tie. Replays are also scheduled at the Away team’s home stadium to guarantee fairness.
Replays were very popular back in the early 20th century before penalty shootouts became a mainstay in the game after their introduction in the 1970s. They were meant to stop teams from continuous play with no end in sight in drawn games.
Playing the game on another day was seen as a more viable option to safeguard the health and safety of soccer players.
How Often Do Soccer Games Tie?
Soccer games end in a tie more often than many fans realize. Over a 5-season period (2015-2016 to 2019 to 2020), 23.4 percent of English Premier League games ended in a draw. Within the same period, the English Championship (2nd tier) also experienced 27.57 percent draws out of the total number of games played.
Conclusion: What Happens If A Soccer Game is Tied?
Approximately 25 percent of all soccer games end in a draw and depending on the rules of the competition, the referee may end the game and award a point each to both teams or take the game to Extra Time comprising of 30 minutes of additional game time for one team to outscore the other.
The game typically goes to penalty kicks when there’s still no winner at the end of Extra Time. Not all games proceed to Extra Time after a draw in the 90 minutes. The first 5 rounds of the Carabao cup are an example of a competition where drawn games are taken to penalty kicks straight away to look for a winner.