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What Is a Soccer Draw? Why Ties Exist in Soccer

When you tune in to watch the USMNT play, you naturally expect a clear outcome from the match. However, depending on the stage of the tournament, the national team can end up with a draw or a tie. Unlike American football games, which usually have a definitive winner and loser, draws are a common occurrence in soccer leagues and tournaments. This article delves deeper into the concept of soccer draws and how they work.

What Does a Draw Mean in Soccer?

In soccer, a draw or a tie happens when both teams score an equal number of goals by the end of the playing time. The scoreline can also be 0-0 if neither team manages to score a goal. It’s important to note that group stage matches typically last for 90 minutes and do not include any extra time. Once the teams advance beyond the group stage, draws are no longer possible. Records suggest that approximately 25% of soccer matches in tournaments like the UEFA Champions League or the FA Cup end in a draw, but the percentage can vary based on the teams and the nature of the league or tournament.

Points in a Soccer Draw

According to the rules of soccer, a team earns three points for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. These same rules apply to all group stage matches in the World Cup, and teams progress to the next stage based on the points they accumulate. In some cases, teams with more draws have been able to secure higher positions in the Premier League than teams with more wins. For example, Chelsea FC finished ahead of Leicester City in the 2020/21 Premier League despite Leicester City having more wins. However, too many draws and fewer wins can also land a team in the relegation zone, placing them at the bottom of the points table and relegating them to a lower division in the next season. In competitions like La Liga and most national leagues, soccer clubs are ranked based on their total points, with the team earning the highest number of points declared the champion. Therefore, there are no extra time or penalty shootouts to determine a winner for every match.

Why Do Ties Exist in Soccer?

The presence of draws in soccer may be seen as an undesirable result and diminish the thrill of the game. So why aren’t there extra time periods and penalty shootouts to determine the winner in every game? It’s a good question with no definitive answer. One must consider that the average soccer player (excluding goalkeepers) covers approximately 7 miles during a game. FIFA aims to make every minute count between the kickoff and the final whistle, unlike other sports governed by organizations such as the NCAA or NHL that incorporate timeouts and breaks. By avoiding the addition of extra playing time to each match, stress and injury risks are minimized. This allows players to deliver their best performances in the knockout stages and semifinals, as they don’t exhaust themselves early on in the tournament or qualifying matches. However, once teams reach the knockout stages of a tournament, a clear winner is determined. After the standard length of a soccer game, teams play an additional 30 minutes of extra time. If the scores remain tied, a penalty shootout takes place. It’s worth noting that unlike the NFL regular season, the FIFA World Cup does not utilize sudden death or a “golden goal” rule. If scores are still tied after extra time, the result is determined by a penalty shootout. In the past, before FIFA introduced penalty shootouts in the 1970s, the winner was determined by playing an additional match. However, such playoffs are exceedingly rare in modern soccer championships.

Soccer Tie-Breaking Rules

Things become more complicated in the World Cup group stage or major league soccer when two teams finish with the same number of points. In these cases, tie-breaking rules are employed to determine the team positions as per FIFA’s soccer rules. Initially, the goal difference (the total number of goals scored by a team across their matches minus all the goals conceded) is considered. If the teams are still tied, only the number of goals scored is taken into account. If a tie persists, the head-to-head match results of the teams are used to determine their positions. Additionally, FIFA introduced a “fair play” tiebreaker. This involves comparing the disciplinary points earned by each team. The teams start with zero points and lose points based on their offenses. The team with the fewest disciplinary points wins the tiebreaker. The following point system is utilized:

  • 1 point for every yellow card.
  • 3 points for receiving two yellow cards resulting in a red card.
  • 4 points for a straight red card.
  • 5 points for a yellow card followed by a red card.

In the 2018 World Cup, Senegal and Japan were tied in Group H after the initial tiebreakers. Consequently, the fair play tiebreaker was utilized, and Senegal lost more “Fair Play Conduct Points” than Japan. This was due to Senegal receiving two additional yellow cards. As a result, Senegal was eliminated by the “fair play” tiebreaker, marking the first time in World Cup history. Although Japan advanced to the Round of 16, they failed to reach the quarterfinals. If a tie persists even after these steps, the result is determined by a drawing of lots – the final tiebreaker. As of now, no team has been eliminated in this manner until the Qatar World Cup in 2022.


How is a draw settled in soccer?

In the knockout stages of a tournament, a draw is settled by an additional 30 minutes of extra time. This gives the teams a chance to score and break the tie. If the scores remain level, a penalty shootout determines the winner.

Who wins in soccer if it is a draw?

In soccer, if a match ends in a draw, there is no winner. Each team is awarded one point.

Are draws allowed in soccer?

Yes, draws are allowed in soccer, primarily in group-level matches and some national leagues.

Final Thoughts

While teams generally aim to secure a win in each game as it contributes to their overall point tally, the single point earned from a draw can make a difference in certain situations. So, even if goalless draws may not be the preferred outcome for most fans, the addition of extra time periods to group league matches is unlikely in the near future. Players who aspire to win soccer games are encouraged to focus on improving their skills through regular practice. Whether practicing on a soccer pitch or a DIY backyard soccer field, the Open Goaaal 3-in-1 Soccer Trainer and Rebounder is highly recommended as one of the best soccer training equipment available.

Alexia Young

Hello and welcome to the world of Alexia. I am a passionate and dedicated artist who loves to create beautiful, mesmerizing art for everyone's walls. I believe in the importance of encouraging people to express their creativity and be happy.

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