World Cup Rules: Can Games End in a Tie or Is There Overtime?

world cup draw

Getty There are ties in the World Cup, but only in the group stage.

Soccer is a unique sport in that ties are an acceptable outcomes to games. Are there ties in the World Cup? Yes, but it depends on the round. Matches in the group stage (opening round) can end in a tie, and there is not overtime. Each team has three matches, and the top two teams advance from each group based on a points system.

A win earns three points, a tie earns one point and a loss counts as zero. Once the World Cup moves into the Round of 16 (Knockout Stage), games must end with a win. If at the end of 90 minutes the score is tied, the match will go into extra time which consists of two 15 minute periods. After these 30 minutes are completed, the game will come down to penalty kicks if there is still a tie. Sports Illustrated detailed how the penalty kicks work.

The golden goal rule is not in effect, so if a team scores, it’s not the game winner. The game continues though all 30 minutes of extra time, whether or not goals are scored.

If it’s still a draw after the 30 minutes of extra time, both teams will take penalty kicks. The penalty kicks are a best of five shootout, alternating between the team two teams. The shootout ends when one team is no longer mathematically able to match the other’s team results.

If there’s still a tie at the end of the shootout, additional rounds of one kick each will be added until the tie is broken, which is also known as sudden death.

Some fans who are used to sports like American football and basketball can struggle with the idea of a game ending in a tie. Many sports fans like to have a clear winner. However, there are some matches where a tie is the most appropriate outcome as neither team showed an advantage in the match. Ties also add an element of strategy towards the end of the group stage as it adds to the possible outcomes for points.

World Soccer Talk’s Christopher Harris explains why draws are a part of soccer culture.

As a soccer fan, a draw seems such a natural part of the game. I enjoy draws because they often represent a fair result of what happened on the pitch during the 90 minutes. Why penalize one team over another if both teams were equally as good (or bad) for the entire game?

I’ve been reminded about draws in the past two weeks because of the World Cup. That’s because the same question comes up every four years. “Why are there draws in soccer?” For most people outside of soccer, a draw seems like a foreign concept. Most American sports (maybe all?) have a winner and a loser. Seeing a winner and a loser in US sports seems more, well, American. Those who work hardest are rewarded. There is no place for a draw. Draws are for foreigners, not Americans.

Sometimes penalty kicks can seem a bit arbitrary, but in tournament play there has to be a way to declare a winner with the point system only relevant for group stages.