Soccer Stoppage Time

What football fans & beginning players should know about injury time rules.

An electronic board announces the number of injury time minutes

The duration of a football game is 90 minutes, which is divided into two 45-minute halves. Each half can be extended as the referee sees it necessary. This extension of game length is called injury period or stoppage time.

Learn about the FIFA rules regarding injury time (A), some of the most memorable stoppage period in history (B), and the availability of stoppage time for other variants of soccer (C).

A. FIFA guidelines on added time

The FIFA Laws of the Game states that the an allowance period may be added to make up for lost time due to the following reasons: substitution of players, stoppage of play because of a serious injury, transport of injured players off the field, and deliberate stalling by a team.

Additional minutes may also be added to regulation period to allow a football penalty kick to be taken. An official decides how long a half must extend.  

It is the fourth referee who typically determines how much injury time should be added to a game. Fourth referees  usually have two watches, one which he stops every time there is stoppage in play (such as injuries, substitutes, and goal celebrations) and another one which he runs to count the time spent in each stop. Most league laws require an additional of thirty seconds for each substitution made by both teams.
Stoppage time is caused most often by player injury
A minute or so before a half ends, the fourth referee raises an electronic board to inform players and officials how much time will be added. The typical length of an injury period is 3 minutes.

Although the added minutes in a game is appropriately called stoppage time, it is often referred to as “injury time” because players getting injured in football is the most common cause for delay.

Injury or stoppage time should not be confused with extra time. Stoppage period is still part of the two halves in regulation time while extra time is an additional 30-minute period after the match.

Football extra time is divided into two 15-minute halves. It is used to decide the winner of a game if the competitors are still tied at the end of regulation.

B. Notable injury times in soccer history

The stoppage time in soccer is more than just a formality. It is also an opportunity for teams to turn the game around.

  • 1989 FA Cup Final

In April 23, 1989, Arsenal won the FA Cup with an injury time goal. Although Arsenal was already ahead 1-0 against Liverpool, they still had to score another goal or they would lose the title to another team since the championship was based on goal difference.

On the 92nd minute, Michael Thomas managed to break free from the Liverpool defense, dribbled the ball all the way to the penalty area, and struck the ball over the goalkeeper.

  • Euro 2000 Final

Another injury time goal made historic impact during the Euro 2000. Italy was up 1-0 over France and with just a few minutes away from the European Championship title, things turned around.

In the third minute of the injury time, France got the ball inside the penalty area of Italy. The Italian defense intercepted it and tried to head it away. But the ball ended up with the rushing Wiltord.

Wiltord kicked the ball low and strong and it surged pass the left leg of Italian goalie Francesco Toldo. The equalizer pushed the game into extra time where France went on to win the European Cup.

  • USA-Algeria 2010 World Cup

The 2010 World Cup saw another historic stoppage time goal. It was the first minute of injury time and the United States forwards were streaking towards the Algerian football team. US player Jozy Altidore had the clearing to shoot the ball strong towards the goal.

Altidore failed to score as his shot bounced against the Algerian goalkeeper. Fortunately for the Americans, the ball went to Landon Donovan who kicked the ball towards the net before the goalkeeper could react.

The US Soccer Team would have been eliminated if they did not score that goal.

C. Injury time in other variants of football

Stoppage period is almost always utilized in outdoor soccer but variants of the sport do not have such time extension. In futsal and in indoor soccer, most football league rules do not permit overtime or stoppage time.
In beach soccer, an injury time is allowed under the discretion of the referee. Paralympic football also allows the use of injury time for minutes lost during a game due to substitution and other reasons.