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How Long Is an MLS Game?

As one of the fastest-growing sports in North America, plenty of people are heading to their local stadium to take in their first MLS game. Major League Soccer might not have the cream of the crop as far as players are concerned, but it’s an affordable outing for a family or friends to take in high-quality soccer.

Before heading to the stadium, a lot of fans are curious to know exactly how long the game takes. Newcomers to the sport don’t always know exactly what they are getting into. Sporting events seem to be getting longer and longer, so are MLS games dragging on way too long as well?

How Long is an MLS Game? An MLS regular-season game fits nicely into a two-hour window in real-time. The two teams play two halves that are 45 minutes long each. There is a 15-minute break between the two halves, plus any injury time added to either half. This all adds up to an average time of 1:55 to 2:05 in the regular season.

How Much Extra Time is Generally Added to Each Half?

Most matches average out to about three minutes of extra time per half. If it’s a fairly clean contest, there might only be one minute of stoppage time. If there is a major injury, or something else happens that delays the game considerably, they can start to go with a five-minute add-on.

The good news is that even with a lot of added time, it doesn’t add much real-time to the contest. Most people are looking at maybe an extra 10 or 15 minutes at the most.

Why Is There a lot of Added Time at the End of Some Halves?

Injuries, random lags in the game, and a lot of goals all contribute to quite a bit of added time. If there’s a lot of stopping in the action, there’s bound to be a pretty considerable amount of time added to the end of a half.

A bunch of added time at the end of the first half doesn’t guarantee that there will be much added at the end of the second half. It’s all up to the call of the referees. In most cases, fans are going to have a pretty good idea of an estimate of how much time is added.

You can learn more about stoppage time in this post.

How Long Is an MLS Season?

The MLS season is 34 matches long, played from February to October. Each team gets 17 home games, and 17 away games. As of 2022, there are 28 total teams in the league. The league works with an Eastern and Western Conference.

Scheduling goes that every team plays their conference opponents twice a year. Additionally, there are eight cross-conference games that all feature different opponents. This is in an attempt to make scheduling as balanced as possible.

How Long Is an MLS Playoff Game?

MLS playoff games follow the same format as regular-season games. The difference is that there must be a winner that advances to the next round. That’s when extra time and a penalty shootout might be necessary.

The game starts exactly like a regular-season game. There are two halves of 45 minutes each, followed by two 15-minute halves if the score is tied.

After the full 120 minutes wraps up, there’s a chance that the score is still tied. When that happens, a penalty shootout takes place. This is when the two teams pick five penalty takers to face off against the opponent’s goalie. The team with the most goals wins the match.

A penalty shootout usually moves pretty quickly, so it doesn’t add too much extra time to the match. In fact, in some cases, teams don’t have to take all five penalty shots if it’s impossible for one side to win. As an example, if Team A makes their first three penalty kicks, while Team B misses their first three, Team B can’t make a comeback.

With a full 120 minutes and a penalty shootout, fans are still looking at roughly 2:45 for the total time at the stadium. That still puts it a little shorter than an average NFL or MLB game in the regular season.

When Is The MLS Season?

The MLS season runs a little bit differently than just about every other big soccer league in the world. The season usually starts around the end of February or the beginning of March. The regular season wraps up in October. From October to the beginning of November, the playoff teams battle it out.

The 2022 MLS Cup Final will take place on November 5. Looking at past years, that’s about the time when the league wants to have its final match. It allows the MLS to get more of the spotlight since it’s only directly competing with baseball during that time. If it followed the same format as most other leagues, it would be competing against the NBA, NFL, college football, and college basketball.

Comparing MLS Games to Other Sporting Events

The MLS does a great job of getting fans in and out of a standard sporting event. While it’s impossible to predict exactly how long every sporting event will take, this is a general guess on an average game.

Not only is soccer one of the shortest games, but it also has the most live-action out of these five major sports. The ball is generally in play and moving around 2/3rds of the match. During the full two hours (including halftime), that means fans see live-action 50% of the time.

In the NFL, fans suffer the most downtime. The ball is only in play for about 11-12 minutes a game. Baseball isn’t much better, with 18-20 minutes of live-action.

Final Thoughts

Soccer matches continue to be great for people wanting live sporting events to fit in a tight schedule. Unless there are extreme circumstances, the match will start and finish within two hours. It’s great to watch in-person or on television because of that.

The world has known about this for years, but the United States is just beginning to realize that they have the pace of play under control to deliver live action.