How long are MLS games

How long are MLS games?

Whether or not football fans are on board, the consensus in the United States is that there are four major professional sports leagues: the NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB. These four have long dominated the American sports landscape, with other sports holding a small share of the audience. However, when FIFA awarded the United States the 1994 World Cup, it also mandated the establishment of a Division 1 football league.

Consequently, the United States Soccer Federation committed to launching a Division 1 professional league, leading to the official formation of MLS in 1995. While not the country’s first football league— that honor belonged to the North American Soccer League (NASL) from 1968 to 1984— MLS was the first FIFA-sanctioned league introduced, albeit initially struggling to gain traction in global football.

Over time, MLS expanded to its current state, boasting 29 teams with plans for further growth, including the addition of San Diego FC in 2025, bringing the total to 30. Now, tickets are in high demand, propelled by world-class talent like Lionel Messi, who continues to break records, drawing international attention.

Yet, despite MLS’s rising prominence in the US sports scene, fans may still need to familiarize themselves with its rules, which can differ from European leagues.

How long are MLS games?

Different sports leagues have distinct rules and understanding match lengths is crucial for planning game attendance. But much like every European football game, an average MLS match can last around two hours, give or take a few minutes. Each game has two halves of 45 minutes each with a 15-minute half-time break and the referees have leeway to tack on as much extra time as they see fit.

These factors make the average watch time to just over two hours but that could increase depending on the competition. If it’s the CONCACAF Champions Cup (CCC) or the MLS Cup playoffs, then if the scores are level after the normal time (ie, 90 minutes of football), then the game goes into extra time. That is two halves of 15 minutes, separated by 5 minutes of break and if the game is still level then it goes into penalties.

That can take the game to over two and a half hours long especially if the penalty shootout needs more than five shots to decide a winner. That wasn’t always the case as when the league first began, they “Americanised” the sport with new rules. But in 2005, the league adopted International Football Association Board (IFAB) rules, leading to them following the standard penalty shootout rules and removing golden goals.

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