Compared to other sports, soccer can be seen as relatively low-scoring, but there are still players who score multiple goals in a single game, and if any player scores three times in a game, they’ve performed a hat trick.
In soccer today, it is standard practice that if a player scores a hat trick, they’re given the game ball to memorialize the achievement. But what, exactly, do they have to do to earn that honor?
What Counts As a Hat Trick?
On its face, a hat trick is simply defined as one player scoring three goals in a single game. The goals can be scored in the regulation 90 minutes, any stoppage time, and any of the extra time portions.
However, scores made during penalty shoot-outs don’t count towards the three, so a player isn’t allowed to score two goals in a game and a third in a penalty shoot-out to qualify.
The player wearing the hat (trick) doesn’t have to be the only player to score during the game, and they don’t have to score them consecutively. So for instance, Player A can score a goal, then Player B can score, and then Player A can score twice more and still complete the hat trick.
This means that in these games, it is common for the total score for one team to be higher than three total, and even though it isn’t a guarantee, in matches where a player scores a hat trick, that player’s team usually wins the match.
A so-called perfect hat trick is an achievement wherein the player scores a right-footed goal, a left-footed goal, and a header. In German and Austrian leagues, a “lupenreiner hattrick” (translation: flawless hat trick) is when a player scores three goals in the first half or if they score all three without another player scoring in between all of their goals.
Why Is It Called A Hat Trick?
The term has been adopted in a number of other sports, most notably cricket, hockey, and rugby, none of which feature hats prominently as a playing mechanism, so where did the moniker come from?
Back in 1858, a cricket player by the name of H. H. Stephenson took three wickets on three consecutive deliveries. As was customary in those days, fans took up a collection for Stephenson to celebrate his impressive game play, and with those proceeds, they bought him a new hat.
The Chelmsford Chronicle newspaper first printed the term in 1865 when describing a similar triple-wicketing cricket player, and since then, the term has been associated with good sporting things coming in threes.
Are Hat Tricks Common?
- There’s a 3.34% chance of a hat-trick being scored in one match
Scoring in soccer isn’t an easy feat to pull off even once per game at the professional level, and many games end in draws where neither team has scored. Perhaps that is why hat tricks are such an impressive achievement for players and fans alike.
The fastest known time for a hat trick in an organized game is 70 seconds. Alex Torr, age 20, set this blistering pace in a Sunday League game in 2013 when he scored three times in the 11th and 12th minutes of his amateur game where he played for Rawson Springs in the Sheffield Sunday League.
Players With Most Hat Tricks In History:
- Pele – 90 Hat Tricks
- Cristiano Ronaldo – 59 Hat Tricks
- Lionel Messi – 54 Hat Tricks
- Luis Suarez – 29 Hat Tricks
- Robert Lewandowski – 25 Hat Tricks
Famous Hat Tricks In Recent Memory
Hat tricks have been scored at all levels of play, including the FIFA World Cup. Most recently, England’s Harry Kane scored a hat trick in 2018 against Panama.
Hat tricks are certainly something to be celebrated, especially in games where the teams are evenly matched. In large tournaments, there can be games in the earlier rounds where one team is thoroughly outmatched in skill than their opponent. In those games, hat tricks may be more common.
But in Premier League soccer, the teams are all at a similar skill level. Even so, hat tricks have been happening in the Premier League since its founding in 1992, with Eric Cantona knocking the first triplet into the net for Leeds United in their 5-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur.
This standard of excellence continues today, with Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes scoring a hat trick over Leeds United on 14 August 2021, which is, at the time of writing, the most recent Premier League hat trick, bringing the total for the 2021 season to six.
When players score hat tricks, these goals are obviously counted towards their overall goal total. In September 2021, Lionel Messi scored a hat trick in a game against Bolivia.
With the first two of his three goals, Messi matched and then surpassed the record for international goals scored by a South American footballer, which had been held previously by Pele at 77.
With his 79th goal, Messi simply cemented this notch in his record-breaking career. Pele’s record had stood since 1971, so it will be interesting to see how long Messi’s stands.
Do Players Get Paid Bonuses For Hat Tricks?
Although there is a multitude of leagues and professional players across the globe, it’s no secret that soccer is the most highly valued sport in the world.
Many professional players have scoring bonuses built into their contracts, with varying amounts decided before the papers are signed. Some players, then, may have negotiated bonuses for hat tricks specifically, but most of the pros are getting paid per goal in some capacity.
In addition to what they get paid by their teams, players who regularly score hat tricks are obviously players who are competing at a high level, and this demonstration of skill will most likely lead to additional endorsement deals from various companies looking to associate themselves with the best in the world.
In this way, scoring hat tricks can indirectly put money in players’ pockets. Cristiano Ronaldo recently became the all-time hat trick leader in men’s international soccer (10). He is also the richest soccer player in the world, so there is definitely a correlation there, if not direct causality.
Getting to experience that three times in a game, and especially when all three of those goals come from one player, is a special day for fans and players alike. We’re tipping our hats to all the hat-trickers out there!
Also Read: What Is a Brace In Soccer?