When does the Clock Stop in Soccer?

Time tracking is one of the most essential requirements for a soccer game to take place. A soccer game’s minimum time is 90 minutes long, and the game can extend beyond that if an extra time is needed. If you’d like to learn more about a game’s duration, check out this article.

Soccer is known to handle time tracking in a different way than many other sports does. Unlike the time tracking rules in many American sports, the time tracking rules in soccer do not involve stopping the clock every time the ball goes out of play.

In soccer, the clock only stops at the end of each half. The clock does not stop at all under any circumstances while one of the soccer halves is running. In other words, the clock keeps counting up even if the ball goes out of play, and it never stops until the half ends.

So now you have a general idea about how the soccer clock works, but there are a few details that you might be interested in, so stick around. 

How does the clock actually work in soccer?

The way the clock works in soccer is extremely simple. Once the referee of the match blows their whistle to indicate the start of the game, the clock starts counting from zero and keeps moving upwards. It never stops until the referee blows the whistle that indicates the end of the first half.

The duration of the first half is 45 minutes and usually the referee adds a few more minutes called stoppage time that we’ll discuss later in this article.

The same thing happens during the second half of the game. The clock starts counting from 45 minutes (it doesn’t include the stoppage time), and keeps going until it hits 90 minutes plus the stoppage time of the second half.

If the game ends in a draw and an extra time is required, then 2 more 15-minute halves will be played and the clock will work the same way it worked in the first 2 halves of the game. 

ie, the clock starts counting from 90 till it hits 105 minutes plus the stoppage time of the first extra half. Then it counts from 105 to 120 plus the stoppage time of the second extra time half.

And that’s exactly how the clock works in soccer, but you might ask, if the clock does not stop when the ball goes out of play, then how is the lost time compensated?

How is the time lost compensated in soccer?

After the main time allocated for the soccer half ends, the referee can extend the game for a few more minutes to compensate for the time lost during the half.

These extra minutes are called the stoppage time, and they are added at the end of each soccer half.

The main referee is considered to be the timekeeper of the soccer game and they are the one that decides how long the stoppage time is going to be. The referee can decide to not grant stoppage time at all even if a few minutes have been wasted during the game.

However, the referees are expected not to give a lot of stoppage time after a half ends unless a lot of time has been wasted during the half.

Usually, the stoppage time is around 1 ~ 3 minutes long, but it can sometimes be longer than that. Once the clock reaches the end of the half time, it keeps counting up and only stops after the referee decides that the stoppage time has ended.

In other words, the clock keeps counting up even if the stoppage time has ended, because the referee has the full authority on the duration of the game. The referee may also decide to stop the clock even before the stoppage time ends.

Now that you know how the clock works during a soccer game, do you think that it makes sense? There has been a lot of controversy behind the way the soccer clock works.

Many people have suggested that soccer adopts the time tracking methods that many other sports use. Ie, stop the time when the ball goes out of play, and resume the time once the game resumes.

To take a side, you have to weigh the pros and cons of the way soccer handles time.

The following are some of the pros and cons of having the soccer clock only move upwards and never stop until the half is finished.


1- Not stopping the clock makes tracking time easier during the match.

The referee is the timekeeper as we have mentioned earlier, but the referee has many other tasks to do including running the whole game and making sure that the laws are enforced during a soccer match.

What this means is that having a simplistic way to track the time in the game is essential if the laws want to keep the referee as the timekeeper of the game.

The main referee will have a very difficult time pausing and resuming the game’s clock while managing the whole game too.

However under the current rules, all of what the referee has to do is start the clock that they have in their hand at the beginning of the half and never worry about it until the half ends. That’s it, super simple.

You might think that keeping track of time isn’t hard with all the current technology advancements, and you are absolutely right with that.

However, keep in mind that soccer is hundreds of years old and referees didn’t have access to cutting edge technologies back then.

The rules that decided how the clock works in soccer were limited to the poor time tracking technologies that existed years ago.

It’s true that adapting the soccer rules to the new technological advancements of today is possible, however it’s highly unlikely and we’ll discuss this later in this article.

2- Having an always running clock makes the game duration predictable

A soccer game is usually less than 2 hours long. You have 90 minutes for the main game, a few extra minutes as stoppage time, and a 15 minute break between the 2 halves.

What this means is that you absolutely know how long it will take for the game to finish, unlike games durations of other sports.

Having a fixed game duration is extremely important for many reasons. If you, as a soccer fan, have some work to do but decide to take a break and watch a soccer match, then you absolutely know how much time your break is going to be. 

If you decide to go watch a basketball match however, then you won’t be able to identify your break time beforehand because you have no idea how long the game will take to end.

Having a fixed time duration for the soccer match is also great for the media networks that stream the game. The media networks will have easier time managing their schedules since they have accurate estimates of how long a soccer game will be.

3- The running clock helps keep the soccer match fast paced.

If the clock stops every time the ball goes out of play in a soccer match, then the players will take their time when performing throw-ins, free kicks, and so on.

However, when the player knows that the clock is ticking even if the game is paused, then they’ll do their best to not waste a lot of time when the ball goes out of play.

In other words, keeping the clock moving forces the players to perform throw-ins, free kicks, goal kicks and others really fast. This keeps the momentum of the game going and it makes the game fast paced

If a player decides to waste time during a throw-in, the audience won’t stay silent and the player will be pushed to act faster by the audience themselves.

The audience might not care however if the game’s clock stops moving during a throw-in.

There are many other positive effects for the current time tracking laws in soccer, but we’ll switch to the cons now.


1- Not pausing time encourages players to act as injured under certain situations.

The biggest drawback of the current time tracking system in soccer is that it encourages players to attempt to waste time when they’re close to victory.

Many soccer players around the world have gained a reputation of being “Drama actors” because of the way they fake injuries and react to simple encounters with their opponents.

If team A is winning by a one goal difference, and there is only 5 minutes left before the game ends, then it’s very likely that you see team A’s players trying to fall down constantly and act injured just to waste time.

This kind of acting is possible due to the fact that soccer keeps the clock moving even when a player is injured. The winning team usually takes advantage of this rule and tries their best to waste the remaining time of the game.

If the clock stops when the game is paused, then acting injured will be meaningless.

However under the current soccer rules, acting injured to waste time is common and there are no strict rules that punish players who fake injury to waste time.

2- Wasted time is not fairly compensated

Usually in soccer, the stoppage time is extremely shorter than the actual time wasted during a soccer match.

There are no strict rules that calculate how much the stoppage time should be. Determining how long the stoppage time is going to be is entirely up to the referee’s estimations of how much time has been wasted.

In other words, compensating for the time lost in a soccer match sometimes isn’t fair to the losing team at all.

Will soccer ever adopt stopping the clock during the match?

The way the clock works in soccer has been around for hundreds of years and it has become part of soccer’s identity.

Changing when the clock stops in soccer will have a huge impact on the game.

Even though a change in the way the time works might bring some positive results, however, it might also disrupt the whole soccer industry.

If the rules decide to stop the clock every time the ball goes out of play, then large media corporations will have to adjust their schedules, billions of soccer fans around the world will have to adapt to the new game’s length, and so on.

So even if a change is needed, it might not happen soon because of how much it will impact the identity of the sport.

I personally prefer the way the clock currently works in soccer, and I’m hoping that one day, the soccer rules decide to punish the players that fake injuries to waste time. This, I believe, will make the beautiful game even more beautiful.

Thank you for reading this far. Enjoy the rest of your day.