Draw in Soccer: Laws of the Game

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Written by Daniel Pena, Bachelors in Kinesiology and footballer: Learn More

What happens if there is a draw in soccer? The beautiful game is the world’s most popular sport, but one of the parts of the game that many people are not big fans of are when soccer matches end in a tie.

New soccer fans and players of the game may ask themselves why doesn’t every match have a clear winner? Unlike American sports such as the NFL and the National Hockey League, as well as many other sports, soccer does not always have a clear winner depending on the type of match being played.

In this blog, I will explain everything you need to know about one of the most basic but important soccer rules, what happens when soccer games end in a tie.

Draw in Soccer

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What is a Draw in Soccer?

In soccer, a draw or a tie happens when the two teams have scored the same amount of goals during regulation time or also if the match ends scoreless, 0-0. Regulation time for regular season games is 90 minutes with a 15 minute halftime break.

Many leagues around the world, such as the Champions League, Premier League, and even Major League Soccer use a point system to determine the winners of each league. With this point system, each team in the league plays each other twice, home and away, and a win counts as three points, a draw counts as one point, and a loss counts as zero points.

The team with the most points at the end of the season wins the league. This means that league games can end in a draw, however soccer matches that need a clear winner, such as tournament knockout stages cannot end in a draw. Tournament group stage games can end in drawers since those are based on the point system as well.

For games that need a clear winner, which are the knockout stages, if the game is tied after regulation time, the game will go into extra time. If there is no clear winner after extra time, then the game will go to a penalty shootout to determine the winner.

Matches that need a clear winner cannot end in a draw, since they need to find out which team makes it to the next stage.

Why Ties Exist in Soccer

Most sports like to have a clear winner at the end of the match to make the game more exciting and to not reduce the spectacle value of the game. While many fans would be happy with extra time and penalty shootouts after every game, there are some good reasons why that is not always the case.

Soccer is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports in the world with players running anywhere around 7 miles per game. Forcing players to go into extra time and penalty shouts after every single draw will put too much stress on the players which is why these are only used during important games that need clear winners.

During league games, where the games do not need a clear winner, the teams that tie both settle for one point. This one point system can actually make the title races a lot more interesting than if there had to be a clear winner every time.

Soccer Tie Breaking Rules

Although I mentioned that tournament knockout stage games cannot end in ties, there are certain instances where the group stage of those tournaments, such as during the World Cup or Champions League, end in ties. When this happens, FIFA uses a series of tie breakers to determine the winners.

The first tiebreaker FIFa considers is the goal difference between the teams, which is all of the goals scored by a team across their matches minus all of their goals conceded. If there is a tie in goal difference, just the number of goals scored is considered.

If they are still tied, the next tiebreaker is the head-to-head match results of the teams. If teams are still tied after that, FIFA also uses a “fair play” tiebreaker.

These fair play points come into action when there are ties in groups of major tournaments. For example, when two or more teams finish their group stage games with equal points, goal difference, and goals scored, FIFA uses these accumulated disciplinary points as tie-breakers to determine which team moves on.

A single yellow card results in -1 point, while two yellows leading to a red card means -3 points. A direct red card carries a -4 point penalty, and more than one caution before getting sent off with another yellow-red combo will be penalized with -5 points.

The team with fewer negative fair play points would progress ahead due to better fair play. For example, in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Group H two teams, Senegal and Japan, finished with identical points, goal difference and goals scored. However, Japan advanced to the knockout stage based on their superior fair play record since they had fewer yellow and red cards.

Draw in Soccer

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if a soccer game ends in a draw?

If there is a draw, or a tie, during a soccer game, then depending on the type of match being played different things can happen. During a league game both teams will end the match with one point, but during knockout competitions, such as the semi finals or knockout stages of a tournament like the World Cup or Champions League, the game will go into extra time or overtime rules.

If both teams fail to win the match after extra time, the game goes into a penalty shootout. A penalty shootout consists of five penalty kicks per team and the team to score the most wins.

If both teams are still tied after the five penalty kicks, the penalty shootout goes into sudden death and the first team to miss loses.

What is the golden goal rule?

The golden goal rule is a rule that is no longer active but basically by playing with the golden goal rule, the team to score first during extra time, if both teams were tied after regulation time, wins the match. There was also a silver goals rule, but that is also not active today.

How many points do you need to win a league title?

The amount of points needed to win a league title varies between teams. In the Premier League Manchester City have won the league with over 100 points during the 2017-2018 season while other clubs such as Leicester City won the league with 81 points in 2015-2016 and Chelsea FC won the league the following season with 93 points in 2016-2017.


In conclusion, in soccer, the winner of the match is whichever team scores the most goals, but a draw can happen if both teams score the same amount of goals or if the match ends goalless. A draw is only allowed during league games and during games that need a clear winner, such as tournament knockout stage games, if the match is tied after regulation time, the match will go into extra time and then a penalty shootout to determine the winner.

In this blog, I covered everything you need to know about what happens when there is a draw in soccer whether you are a new soccer fan, player, or simply need a remainder of the rules.

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