Sudden Death Penalty Shootout Explained in Soccer

Nothing beats the intensity and the suspense of watching 2 soccer teams go through a sudden death penalty shootout during a world cup match, or during any other major soccer game.

The sudden death penalty shootout is rare to happen during a soccer game, but when it happens, it can be extremely nerve wracking to the audience and the players alike.

But what exactly is a sudden death penalty shootout?

A sudden death penalty shootout is what determines the winner of a soccer game after both teams fail to win during the regular game time and during the regular penalty shootouts end. During sudden death penalty shootouts, the team who misses the penalty shot when the other scores loses the match.

The name itself says it all. “Sudden death penalty shootout” refers to the fact that the team will lose the game instantly if they miss their chance to score the penalty when the other team manages to score.

When and why does a death penalty shootout happen though? Here are the details…

If you don’t already know, there are soccer games that can’t end up in a draw. A world cup final for example must have a winner. The game can’t just end in a tie.

That said, soccer needs a way to make sure that a winner is determined after the match time ends.

First, the 2 teams play extra time to determine the winner. Extra time is basically 30 new minutes added to the game (divided into 2 halves) to give each of the competing teams a chance to grab the victory.

You can learn a lot more about extra time by clicking on this article.

If either team doesn’t manage to win during the extra time, penalty shootouts take place. Each team gets 5 penalty shots, and the team who scores more shots wins the game.

The question becomes…

What happens after a penalty shootout draw?

After both teams score an equal amount of penalty goals during a regular penalty shootout, sudden death shootouts take place. During the sudden death shootout, each team takes one penalty shot, and the team who misses the penalty shot while the other team scores is the team that loses the game.

In other words, if both teams miss their penalty shot during sudden death penalty kicks, the game resumes. The game only ends if one of the teams misses their shot.

This brings up the next question.

How many penalties are usually taken in a penalty shootout?

The guaranteed minimum amount of penalty shots taken during a penalty shootout is 5. However, the number can increase if the shootouts end in a draw. The number keeps increasing until one of the teams manages to score while the other team misses.

The first question that might come to some people’s mind is whether or not these shootouts can go on forever if none of the teams manages to score.

Well, theoretically yes, the number can go forever, however, practically,  a player will have to slip eventually.

According to this article, one of the longest penalty shootouts has been 44 penalty kicks taken.

44 is a huge number though. You can usually expect the game to end after a few extra penalty kicks (I would say less than 6) if the teams manages to reach the sudden death penalty shootout phase.

What happens if a team runs out of players to take penalty kicks?

During penalty kicks, each player is allowed to take one penalty kick, however, if all eligible players, including the goalkeeper, have taken their penalty kick, then each one of the players will get a chance to take another kick and this keeps going until the match ends.


That concludes everything that you need to know about sudden death penalty shootouts. In summary, it is the last resort tiebreaker when every other tiebreaker method fails during a soccer game.