How Long Are High School Soccer Games

Your Guide

Alex Waite Alex Waite

  • High School Soccer Games Are 80 Minutes in Total.
  • Matches at Under-15 to Under-16 Level (Ages 14-16) Are Made up of Two 40-minute Halves.  
  • High School Matches Are Shorter to Help With Player Development and Stamina in Preparation for 90-Minute Soccer Games.

High school soccer games consist of two 40-minute halves, which make up an 80-minute match.

This rule comes from the United States Youth Soccer Association’s guidance in the ‘US Youth Soccer Policy on Players and Playing Rules.

Knowing THE LENGTH of a soccer game is important for players, coaches, and fans.

However, the players are at somewhat of a disadvantage as they are not completely aware of the game time on the field.

In my playing days, I would often pester the referee at regular intervals.

As a former captain of some teams, I felt it was my responsibility to keep track of the time and game situation and relay this to my teammates.

But, I also felt this was completely necessary as, in the thick of the PLAYING ACTION, you often have little idea of how long is left in a soccer match. 

Although, younger players I have coached since care less about the game time.

Mostly, youth soccer players just want to get on the pitch and play the game.

In this sense, it is strange that high school soccer matches are shorter.

It seems an ample opportunity for young soccer players to enjoy the game for the full 90 minutes and to develop their skills. 

But, there are reasons why high school soccer matches are 80 minutes and not 90, like a senior 11-a-side game.

In this article, we explore the length of high school soccer matches and explain some of the reasoning about why games are shorter at the youth level.

How Long is a High School Soccer Games?

As the US Youth Soccer rules state, games for players between under-15 and under-16 levels should be 80-minutes long. 

Although, Part Three of the rules also has information about overtime, which should last for two 15-minute halves, totaling 30 minutes.

This is more in line with a full senior match, where extra time is 30 MUNUTES TOO.

However, overtime is rare in youth soccer as it only applies to cup competitions where a knockout match ends in a draw. 

Also, the rules blend some elements of the IFAB ‘Laws of the Game’, specifically if a match goes to penalties.

In such cases, the “FIFA “Kicks from the Penalty Mark” rules apply to determine the winner.”

The rules in Part Three also have some discretions too.

For instance, US Youth Soccer or individual State Soccer Associations can make exemptions for the length of matches.

This could be made in a pre-match agreement between coaches and the referee.

When I played at the youth level, one of my matches was cut short because the players wanted to finish in time to watch the FA Cup final.

Such cases are very rare, but clubs, referees, and leagues do have the power to determine the length of youth soccer matches. 

Despite the grey area where, technically, leagues can set their time limits for matches.

But coaches I have worked with within the UK, who spent time coaching in the US, have never reported matches going beyond the length of the US Youth Soccer rules. 

In discussions on match length, colleagues have often mentioned the pointlessness of straying from the official guidance as it does not help player development.

For example, making 14-year-olds play an additional ten minutes of a competitive match is unlikely to help develop any new skills. 

When Do High Scool Players Progress to 90-Minute Matches?

Ultimately, high school soccer matches last for 80-minutes for two seasons, during under-15 and under-16 levels. 

Once a player is aged 16, or they reach the under-17 level, then they move up to the full 90-minute matches, made up of two 45-minute halves.

This rule remains for the rest of a player’s career.

The only exception is when players take part in different soccer formats, like 5-a-side or drop-down soccer, where the rules are LESS RIGID.

Why are High School Soccer Games Shorter?

A lot of young soccer players I have coached between the ages of 14 and 16 seem ready for 90-minute matches on the surface.

But, when they eventually start playing 90-minute games, it becomes clear that there are developmental reasons for shorter games at the high school level. 

For example, I have seen some players struggle to pace themselves and give everything in the first 60-70 minutes, only to blow out in the final third of a game.

In rare cases, I have seen injuries from over-exertion and tired legs, ultimately affecting players’ development.

As a result, high school soccer games are shorter as part of PLAYER DEVELOPMENT.

This eventually leads to match readiness when soccer players reach the 90-minute THRESHOLD.

Players need time to build up stamina in soccer and gradually increasing the competitive, on-field playing time is a good way to support player stamina.

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