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How To Break a Tie in Soccer?

How To Break a Tie in Soccer?

Different people all over the world engage in different sporting activities for many reasons. However, the purpose of every game is to have a winner at the end.

Winners are often given awards, gifts, contracts, and many other mouth-watering offers which serve as an encouragement to them to maintain their winning streak.

The losers are also either given low-grade rewards or denied rewards completely so they can step up their game and play better next time.

Soccer also adopts this strategy, and so, be it futsal, indoor soccer, beach soccer, street soccer, or association football, a team must emerge as the overall winner at the end of a match or tournament.

In soccer, scoring a goal or multiple goals is the aim of every team as the team with the highest number of goals is often declared the winner after a match. In soccer, there is a constant tussle for the ball between the teams to score more goals.

However, unlike other similar sports, goals are hard to come by in soccer—one of the reasons Americans don’t like it.

Most times, both teams involved in a soccer match often end up scoring no or the same number of goals at the end of a match. This situation is known as a tie or draw.

Having a tie at the end of a game makes it impossible to determine the actual winners. For friendly games, this is not a problem and the results can stay that way.

On the other hand, in a competitive team where one team will have to be eliminated, a tie-breaker must be introduced to get a winner.

When breaking a tie, the approach used must be a fair one. There must be no biased judgment as whatever method used must equally favor both teams involved in the match.

In this article, we have vividly discussed how a tie can be broken in soccer and the various methods that can be adopted in different cases.

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Man tie his shoelace for soccer game

How to break a tie in soccer?

In a soccer match, each team has in mind that they have only 90 minutes to either win or lose the game so they have no other option but to work with the allotted time frame. At the end of the 90 minutes, a tie is called if both teams score no goals or the same number of goals.

Research shows that in soccer games, a tie occurs on an average of 14-20 percent in a league. Since the design of leagues allows players to accumulate points, a tie-breaker is usually not required in league games.

Most professional soccer games played today are league matches (Champions League, Europa League, etc.). A league comprises multiple teams, and each team is expected to play with all the teams in the league twice.

During a league tournament, each team is expected to play one match at their soccer pitch while the other will be played at their opponent’s pitch.

Below are different methods usually adopted in the process of breaking a tie in various match scenarios.

Kid soccer players fight for the ball

Awarding of points

In the group stage of a Champions League, teams are put in groups and each team earns points which are dependent on the result of the match. At the end of a match, the team that wins the match is awarded 3 points while the team that loses the match is awarded 0 points.

Each team’s point is accumulated at the end of the group stage to decide which team will qualify for the knockout stage.

In the group stage, if a game ends in a tie be it a goalless draw (0-0) or otherwise, each team is awarded 1 point, there is no added time for the game.

On certain occasions, more than one team might finish on the same point aggregate. To break the tie in such a situation, a goal difference approach is usually employed whereby the team with the highest goal difference moves to the next stage.

Goal difference is the number of goals the team scored minus the number of goals they conceded. If teams have the same points and are on the same level of goal difference, the goal scored is used whereby the team with more goals is favored.

Pros of awarding points

  • Easy to calculate
  • Makes the game fair and interesting

Cons of awarding of points

  • Creates confusion when two teams have the same stats in the same group

Man press his feet on the ball

Extra time to break a tie  

This method is applicable for the knockout stage where points are no longer needed to determine which team makes it to the next round.

A 30 minutes’ period which is split into two halves of 15 minutes each is given to see whether one of the teams will outscore the other. This period is known as “extra time” or “overtime”.

A standard extra time continues until the full 30 minutes elapse irrespective of the number of goals scored within the period. Also, both teams will switch sides after 15 minutes of play.

The team that scores more goals before the elapse of this time becomes the winner.

Pros of extra time

  • Offer both teams an equal opportunity to win the match

Cons of extra time

  • The energy level of the players is usually low, leading to so the slow tempo of the game
  • The match might still end in a tie and will still require the use of another method to break the tie
  • Consumes a lot of time especially when the extra time ends in a tie

Golden goal

The golden goal method is similar to the extra time method, both teams keep playing until one team scores a goal.

Unlike the extra time method where the match stops when the allotted 30 minutes elapses. In the golden goal method, the match ends immediately after a team scores a goal.

The team that scores first is declared the winner. If after 30 minutes no goal is scored, both teams will head into a penalty shootout which will be used to determine the winner.

One example of a golden goal occurred in the 2000 European Championships final where France won against Italy by a golden goal.

Today, FIFA has abolished the golden goal and it is not used in most important tournaments, but it is still applied in minor and unimportant tournaments.

Pros of the golden goal method

  • It tests players strength and endurance levels
  • Players feel more fulfilled when they win by scoring a golden goal

Cons of the golden goal method

  • Often too intense to handle
  • A little mistake can cost a great team a well-deserved victory

Silver goal

The silver goal method is also similar to the extra time method but it diverts a bit. During extra time, if a team scores a goal, both teams will continue to play until both 15 minutes halves end.

When it comes to the silver goal method, if the opposing team does not equalize before the end of the 15 minutes half, the match will end at halftime.

If the opponent manages to equalize before the end of the 15 minutes half, the game would continue until the entire 30 minutes is over.

Some confusion arose in the past which tainted the effectiveness of the silver goal method. There is a particular event where Greece scored and won against the Czech Republic after 105+1 minutes. This and other cases led to the abolition of the method.

Pros of the silver goal method

  • Discourages time-wasting in soccer

Cons of the silver goal method

  • Feels like abruptly cutting the chance of the losing team

Match replay

When a match ends in a tie, the match can be replayed after a week or so. The time the match is to be replayed is often dependent on the schedule of other matches or fixtures and is usually replayed at the opposing team’s stadium.

In modern soccer, this method is occasionally used although it was a very common method used in breaking ties in years past.

Before the introduction of penalty shootout by FIFA in the 1970s, the extra time method was used and if the game still ended in a tie, the game would be stopped and both teams would be asked to come on a later date to carry on playing. This was done to avoid indefinite play.

The replay method lets teams retreat, relax, rest, and regain their energy while improving their performance to see if they can secure a victory.

These days, if a replay method is to be used, only one replay can be allowed in competitions to avoid match congestion, if the match ends in a tie, other methods will be adopted.

Pros of match replay

  • Players are allowed to go and regain their energy to be able to play better
  • Teams can develop new and better strategies

Cons of match replay

  • Scheduling a match might be difficult as it might cause congestion
  • Teams might be stressed especially when they are to play other games within a short period
  • Matches might still end in a tie which can prompt the use of other methods, this consumes time

Penalty kick shootout

Penalty kick

The penalty kick shootout is a method usually adopted after extra time or other methods. Five players are selected from each team to represent their teams in the penalty kick shootouts. These selected players must be players that played full time.

Each of the selected players is allowed to play only once, when the 10 players are done with the penalty, the team with the highest goals automatically wins the match.

If there is still a tie after the penalties, other players in the team will be asked to step up and take the penalty. Teams usually choose their best strikers to do the job.

The sudden death shootout approach is used whereby teams will play the penalty kick one after the other until one of the teams scores and the other fails to score.

Goalkeepers sometimes play the penalty kick too and it gets tenser as it goes on. The sudden death penalty kick approach is somewhat rare in soccer.

Pros of penalty kick shootout

  • It is the most common tiebreaker as it can hardly drag on without a winner
  • All other methods most times boils down to this method
  • Goals can easily be scored since it is just a player and a goalkeeper

Cons of penalty kick shootout

  • If the penalty kick drags on, players lose their confidence and may not deliver well
  • Only players that played full-time are allowed to play and so their energy level may be low which might lead to goal misses.

How to break a tie in futsal?

Futsal doesn’t allow tie in tournament games. That means every tournament game must end with a winner.

Once there is a tie at the end of a tournament game, both teams will go into a penalty shootout. The team that scores the most goals will win the game.

In a futsal league, just like in association football, the winner of any game gets 3 points. When the game ends in a draw, both teams will share 1 point.

At the end of the league, the team with the highest score wins the league. However, if two or three teams are tied at the end of the league, the following tie-breakers are used to determine the winner.

  • The team that got the greater number of points when the two tied teams played (head-to-head result)
  • The team that scored the most goals when the tied teams played (head-to-head result)
  • Goal difference between the tied teams
  • Number of goals conceded
  • The team with the higher fair play points
  • Penalty kicks

If at the end of the tiebreaker checks three teams are still tied, a mini-tournament will be played and the operating committee will determine the venue of the tournament.

The teams playing against each other will be required to take three penalty kicks.


How to break ties in beach soccer?

Like every other soccer variation, beach soccer leagues have a scoring system where the winner gets 3 points while in a tie the teams get one point each.

One interesting feature of beach soccer is that if a player or coach gets a red card, one point will be deducted from the total tally of the team. The team with the total point at the end of the league wins.

When there is a tie, a head-to-head rule will be used to break the tie. Here, the winner and the number of goals scored by each team when the tied team encountered each other will be checked.

The team that won or scored more goals becomes the winner. The head-to-head tiebreaker is ditched where more than two teams are tied.

However, in a beach soccer tournament, draws are not allowed. Once there is a tie at the end of the game, one of the following two tiebreakers will be called by the referee.

  • Single 3-minute ‘golden goal’ overtime. The first team to score in the overtime wins
  • Penalty shootout. The first round consists of 5 players but the shootout will continue until one team scores and the other fails to score.


Games are sometimes bound to end in a tie but they have to be broken especially when a winner must emerge. When a tie occurs, the above methods can be used to break the tie no matter the scenario or stage of the tournament.

Before a game, rules are set and the referee must follow the rules and work with the pre-agreed rules and guidelines for the match to decide the winner when a tie occurs.