Overtime (sports)

Overtime (sports)

Overtime or extra time is an additional period of play specified under the rules of a sport to bring a game to a decision and avoid declaring the match a tie or draw. In most sports, this extra period is only played if the game is required to have a clear winner, as in single-elimination tournaments where only one team or player per match can advance to the next round. In other sports, particular those prominently played in North America where draws are generally disfavored, some form of extra time is employed for all games.

The rules of overtime or extra time vary between sports and even different competitions. Some may employ "sudden death", where the first player or team who scores immediately wins the game. In others, play continues until a specified time has elapsed, and only then is the winner declared. If the contest remains tied after the extra session, depending on the rules, the match may immediately end as a draw, additional periods may be played, or a different tiebreaking procedure such as a penalty shootout may be used instead.

The term "overtime" is primarily used in North America, whereas "extra time" is used in other continents.


Association football

In professional football knock-out competitions, teams play an additional 30 minutes extra time where the deciding leg or replay of a tie has not produced a winner by the end of regulation or full time. Extra time is governed by the rules of the tournament, rather than the laws of the game. It follows a short break where players remain on or around the field of play and comprises two 15-minute periods, with teams changing ends in between. In a one-off tie or deciding replay, level scores nearly always go to extra time. Over two-legs, teams only play extra time in the second leg where the aggregate score – then normally followed by an away goals rule – has not produced a winner first. The score in games or ties resorting to extra time are often recorded with the abbreviation a.e.t. (after extra time), usually accompanying the earlier score after regulation time.

Not all knock-out competitions always employ extra time. For example, ties in the English FA Cup used to be decided by as many replays until one produces a winner, although replays are now limited to just the one. Equally, CONMEBOL has historically never used extra time in any of the competitions it directly organises, such as the Copa Libertadores (today, it uses extra time only in the final match of a competition).

Ties that are still without a winner after extra time are usually decided by kicks from the penalty spot, commonly called a penalty shootout. In the late-1990s and early-2000s, many international matches tried to reduce this by employing the golden goal (also called "sudden death") or silver goal rules (the game ending if a team has the lead after the first 15-minute period of extra time), but competitions have not retained these.

American and Canadian football


The NFL introduced introduced overtime for any divisional tiebreak games beginning in 1940, and for championship games beginning in 1946. The first postseason game to be played under these rules was the 1958 championship match between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants (the so-called "Greatest Game Ever Played"). In 1974, the NFL adopted sudden death overtime for regular season games. If the score is tied after regulation time has concluded, an additional 15-minute period is played. The captains meet with the officials for a coin toss, and then one side kicks off to the other, as at the start of a game. The first team to score during the extra period wins the game. In the regular season, if the overtime period is completed without either side scoring, the game ends in a tie. Because there cannot be a tie in the playoffs, the teams switch ends of the field and start additional 15-minute overtime periods until one side scores. The longest NFL game played to date is 82 minutes, 40 seconds (and the Chiefs' last-ever game at Municipal Stadium), Miami kicker Garo Yepremian kicked the winning 37-yard field goal after 7:40 of double-overtime in the 1971–72 NFL playoffs. The longest in all of modern professional football is a 1984 United States Football League playoff game, also using the sudden death rule, in which the Los Angeles Express defeated the Michigan Panthers 27–21 in triple overtime.

As a consequence of the 1974 rule changes, the number of tie games dropped dramatically. Only 17 NFL games have ended in a tie since then, and just four since 1990. The most recent was in 2008 when the Philadelphia Eagles tied with the Cincinnati Bengals 13-13.

Scoreless ties were common in the early years of the NFL, but none have happened since 1943.

In March 2010, the NFL amended its rules for postseason overtime after a vote by the team owners. If the team that wins the coin toss scores a touchdown on their first possession, they are declared the winner. If they score a field goal on their first possession, however, the opposing team is given possession of the ball and an opportunity to score; if the score is tied again after that possession, sudden death rules apply and the next team to score by any method is declared the winner, and the number of additional 15 minute periods will not matter. If neither team scores there will be another overtime period to be played, and that procedure is repeated until a winner is declared.[1] The rule change currently only applies to postseason games; regular season games will continue to use the existing sudden death rules.[1]

The Arena Football League and NFL Europa used a variant in which each team is guaranteed one possession. Whoever is leading after one possession wins the game; if the teams remain tied after one possession, the game goes to sudden death. This procedure was used by the United Football League in its inaugural 2009 season.[2]

The short-lived World Football League, for its inaugural 1974 season (the same year the NFL established sudden death in the regular season), used extra time (one full fifteen-minute quarter, divided into two halves).

The New York Pro Football League, a 1910s-era league that eventually had several of its teams join the NFL, used the replay to settle ties in its playoff tournament. The replay was used in the 1919 tournament to decide the championship between the Buffalo Prospects and the Rochester Jeffersons had played to a tie on Thanksgiving; Buffalo won the replay 20–0 to win the championship.

College, high-school, and Canadian football

In college (beginning with the 1996 season) and high school football, as well as the Canadian Football League, an overtime procedure is used to determine the winner. This method is sometimes referred to as a "Kansas Playoff," or "Kansas Plan" because of its origins for high school football in that state. A brief summary of the rules:

  • A coin toss determines which side shall attempt to score first, and at which end zone the scores shall be attempted.
  • Each team in turn will receive one possession (similar to innings in baseball), starting with first-and-10 from a fixed point on the opponent's side of the field:
    • In college football, the possession begins at the opponent's 25-yard line.
    • In high school football, the ball begins at the 10-yard line, with the option for state high school associations to use different yardage (such as the 15, 20, or 25-yard line)
    • In the CFL, where a single point can be scored on a punt, the 35-yard line is used.
  • The game clock does not run during overtime; the play clock, however, is enforced.
  • A team's possession ends when it scores (touchdown or field goal), misses a field goal, fails to gain a first down on the final down, or loses the ball by turnover. As usual, a touchdown by the offense is followed by a try for one or two points. In NCAA football, starting in triple overtime, teams must "go for two" after a touchdown. Starting in 2010, CFL teams also may not kick for an extra point after any touchdown in overtime and must instead "go for two".
  • In college football the defense may score on a play on which it gains possession by turnover. In high school football, the defense is generally not allowed to score if it gains possession, although the Oregon School Activities Association adopted the college rule experimentally in 2005, and the University Interscholastic League of Texas, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, and the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association use NCAA football rules.
  • Each team receives one charged time-out per overtime procedure (except in the CFL).
  • If the score remains tied at the end of the overtime procedure, an additional overtime procedure is played. The team with the second possession in one overtime procedure will have the first possession in the next overtime procedure.
  • In the CFL there is a limit of two overtime procedures in regular-season games (after which the game is a tie), but no limit in playoff games. In American college and high school football, the overtime procedures are continued until a winner is determined.

On two occasions, just two plays were required to determine an overtime winner in an NCAA football game. These occurred on September 26, 2002, when Louisville defeated Florida State 26–20, and September 27, 2003 when Georgia Tech defeated Vanderbilt 24–17.

It is possible for a college game to end after a single play in overtime if the team on defense secures a turnover and returns it for a touchdown. (One example of a defensive touchdown ending the game occurred on September 9, 2005 when Ohio defeated Pittsburgh 16–10 on an 85 yard interception return by Dion Byrum; this occurred on the third play of overtime.) Furthermore, it is possible (but not likely) that the defense may get a safety on the first possession in overtime, thus ending the game after only one overtime play. Because this would require the offense to go backward 75 yards, this is extremely improbable and has never happened in FBS.

As of 2011, the Missouri Tigers have competed in the most overtime college football games, totalling 14.[3]


The short-lived XFL used a modified Kansas Playoff, where the series would start on the 20-yard line and have four downs to score. However, if the first team to play overtime scored a touchdown in less than four downs, the second team would have to score in just as many plays (for instance, if the first team scored a touchdown on three downs, the second team would only have three downs to score a touchdown). Neither team could kick a field goal until the fourth down. Rather than a coin toss, the winner of the opening scramble at the beginning of the game also got to choose to go first or second in overtime.


In basketball, if the score is tied at the end of regulation play, the teams play a five-minute overtime period. In levels below collegiate/Olympic play, an overtime period is half the length of a standard quarter, i.e., four minutes for high school varsity. FIBA 33, a formalized version of the halfcourt three-on-three game, uses two-minute overtime periods. The alternating possession rule is used to start all overtime periods under international rules[4] while a jump ball is used under high school and NCAA rules, with the arrow reset based on the results of the jump ball to start each overtime. The National Basketball Association, which uses a quarter-possession rule to start periods after the opening jump, also uses a jump ball.[5][6][7] The entire overtime period is played; there is no sudden-death provision. The only exception is in FIBA 33, in which the game ends by rule once either team has scored at least 33 points. All counts of personal fouls against players are carried over for the purpose of disqualifying players. If the score remains tied after an overtime period, an additional overtime period is played.

As many as six overtime periods have been necessary to determine a winner in a NBA game.[8]

In exhibition games (non-competitive play), it is upon the discretion of the coaches and/or organizers if an overtime is to be played, especially if it is a non-tournament game (a one-off event).

Starting in the 2009–10 season, ULEB, the organizer of the Euroleague and Eurocup, introduced a new rule for two-legged ties that eliminated overtime unless necessary to break a tie on aggregate. The rule was first used in the 2009–10 Eurocup quarterfinals (which consist of two-legged ties), although no game in that phase of the competition ended in a regulation draw.[9] ULEB extended this rule to all two-legged ties in its competitions, including the Euroleague, in 2010–11. One game in the qualifying rounds of that season (the only phase of the Euroleague that uses two-legged ties), specifically the second leg of the third qualifying round tie between Spirou Charleroi and ALBA Berlin, ended in a draw after regulation. No overtime was played in that game because Spirou had won the first leg. Although other competitions use two-legged ties at various stages, the ULEB competitions are the only ones known to use overtime only if the aggregate score after the second game is tied.

Ice hockey

Ties are common in ice hockey due to the game's low-scoring nature. If the score is tied at the end of regulation play, certain leagues play overtime.

  • NHL (regular season): If a game is tied after regulation time (three 20-minute periods), the teams play in a sudden death five-minute overtime period, with a goaltender and four skaters per side (as opposed to the standard five).[10] If nobody scores in the overtime period, the teams engage in a "penalty shootout" where 3 skaters, selected by the head coaches on the teams, go one-on-one against the opposing goaltender, taking the puck at center ice for a "penalty shot."[11] If the shootout remains tied after the initial 3 rounds, the shootout continues in a sudden-death fashion.[11] The greatest number of shooters in a single shootout was 30 during a game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. Rangers defensemen Marek Malik gave New York a 3–2 shootout and game victory on a trick move.[12]

The 5-minute overtime period was introduced for regular season games beginning with the 1983–84 NHL season, but with teams at full strength on the ice.[13] Overtime in the regular season was reduced to four skaters a side starting in the 2000–2001 season.[13] The "shootout" was introduced for the 2005–06 NHL regular season.[13]

  • NHL (post-season)[14]: Following an intermission, an additional full 20-minute period is played. Teams remain at full strength unless this is affected by penalties during the third period. A goal ends the game in sudden death; if neither team scores, another intermission is taken, followed by an additional overtime period. The teams change ends of the ice for each period. This has made for lengthy games in the history of the NHL playoffs, with some games going as far as five or six overtimes before the deciding goal is scored.[15]
  • NCAA (regular season): If a game is tied at the end of regulation, the teams play a sudden-death 5-minute overtime. Both teams play at full strength, unless affected by penalties. If neither team scores during overtime, the game ends in a tie.
  • NCAA (in-season tournaments): For tournaments held during the season (such as the Beanpot and Great Lakes Invitational), in which advancement or determination of a champion is necessary, organizers have the option of either using the post-season overtime procedure or using the regular-season procedure followed by a penalty shootout. Statistics from a shootout are not counted by the NCAA, and a game decided by a shootout is considered a tie for NCAA tournament selection purposes.
  • NCAA (post-season): Same as the NHL overtime procedure above, except that all overtimes are played with the teams defending the same ends as for the third period. Games decided in overtime are considered wins or losses rather than ties, regardless of how many overtimes are played.
  • International (round robin): As of the 2007 IIHF World Championships, the IIHF instituted the "three point rule", which not only awarded the winning team three points for a regulation win, but awarded them two points for a win in a 5 minute overtime period or a Game Winning Shot (shootout). Games in IIHF round robins can therefore no longer end in a tie. In the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, the NHL's tiebreaking procedure at the time was followed: there was a five-minute sudden death period at four skaters per side, and if the score remained tied after the overtime period, it stood as a tie. The game between Sweden and Finland ended in a 4–4 tie after 65 minutes.
  • International (medal rounds): Various tiebreaking procedures have been used for international tournaments, with all of them save one (World Cup of Hockey 2004) following a common theme: one period varying in length of sudden-death overtime followed by a shootout of five skaters per side (as opposed to the NHL's three skaters per side). The length of the overtime period has varied between 5, 10, and 20 minutes, and 5-on-5 and 4-on-4 formats have been used. The most recent format used was at the 2010 Olympics (particularly in the gold medal game); there were 20 minutes of 4-on-4 followed by a shootout. In 2006, it was 20 minutes of 5-on-5. All men's games ended in regulation during the medal rounds, while the women's semifinal between the United States and Sweden required a shootout to determine the winner. At the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, the NHL's postseason tiebreaking procedure was used (multiple 20-minute periods of 5-on-5 until a goal is scored). The only overtime game in the playoff round was the semifinal between the Czech Republic and Canada. Canada won 4–3 with a goal 2 minutes and 16 seconds into the first overtime period.

Team handball

  • When a tie needs to be broken in team handball, an overtime period of 2x5 minutes is played. If the teams are still tied after that, another overtime period of 2x5 minutes is played.
  • If the teams are still tied after the latter period, there takes place a penalty shootout.

Baseball and softball

Baseball and softball are unique among the popular North American team sports in that they do not use a game clock. However, if the regulation number of innings are complete (normally nine in baseball and seven in softball) and the score is even, the game continues for multiple extra innings as are needed to determine a winner. The only exception to this is in Nippon Professional Baseball, where the game ends in a draw after 12 innings if the score is tied. Ties are allowed to stand in the regular season; postseason ties (which happen after 15 innings) must be replayed in their entirety.

Major League Baseball games normally only end in a tie if the match is called off due to weather conditions. In the early decades of baseball (up to the 1920s), a game could also be called off due to nightfall, but this ceased to be a problem once stadiums began installing lights in the 1930s.

Rugby league

Rugby league games in some competitions are decided using overtime systems if scores are level at full time (80 minutes). One overtime system is golden point, where any score (try, penalty goal, or field goal) by a team immediately wins the game. This entails a five minute period of golden point time, after which the teams switch ends and a second five minute period begins. Depending on the game's status, a scoreless overtime period ends the game as a draw, otherwise play continues until a winner is found.

Other sports

  • In Australian rules football, extra time is played only in finals matches. Two extra time periods lasting five minutes each (plus time on) are played. The only exception is the AFL Grand Final, which is decided by a full replay if the match is drawn; extra time is played if the replay is also drawn.[16]
  • In Gaelic football and hurling, two halves of ten minutes are played after a draw. In major Gaelic football tournaments, extra time is only used if a replay finishes in a tie.[citation needed]
  • In field hockey matches, extra time of 7½ minutes each way is played.
  • In water polo, if the score is tied at the end of regulation play, two overtime periods of three minutes each are played.
  • If a game of curling is tied at the end of its prescribed number of rounds (called ends), extra ends are played until there is a winner.
  • Ties are allowed to stand in most forms of cricket, but Twenty20 cricket provides for tiebreaker procedures should a winner be necessary (such as in tournament settings): a limited extra session called a Super Over. Some One Day International tournaments (including the 2011 World Cup) have also introduced the super over.
  • In netball matches, two seven minute periods are played with no break between periods. If the scores are still tied after this period, the match continues uninterrupted until one side is leading by two goals and are declared the winners. This is known as double overtime should a match end this way. All ANZ Championship matches, Commonwealth Games finals and Netball World Championship finals implement this tiebreaker to ensure of a winner.

Longest games



American football

  • Five National Football League playoff games have gone into a second overtime, the longest being an AFC divisional playoff game on December 25, 1971. The Miami Dolphins defeated the Kansas City Chiefs, 27–24 at 7:40 into the second overtime (at 82:40 of total play, the longest game in NFL history).[17] The most recent 2OT NFL game came in an NFC divisional playoff game on January 10, 2004, with the Carolina Panthers defeating the St. Louis Rams 29–23 in the first play of the second overtime, on a long touchdown pass.
  • In the former American Football League, the championship game played on December 23, 1962 went two overtimes, with the Dallas Texans defeating the Houston Oilers 20–17, on a 25-yard field goal at 2:54 into the second overtime. (This game, along with all other AFL games, were incorporated into the NFL record books following the 1970 merger of the two leagues.)
  • The former United States Football League had a triple-overtime playoff game on June 30, 1984. The Los Angeles Express defeated the Michigan Panthers, 27–21, on a walk-off touchdown 3:33 into the third overtime (at 93:33 of total play, the longest professional football game ever played in the United States).
  • The longest high school football game was on October 29, 2010 when Jacksonville High School (TX) defeated Nacogdoches High School (TX) by a score of 84-81 after 12 overtimes.

Ice hockey

  • NHL – March 23, 1936: The Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1–0 in the 6th overtime and after a total of 116:30 minutes had been played in overtime.[15]
  • Collegiate (NCAA Division I, men's) – March 8, 1997: In a WCHA men's quarterfinal, Colorado College defeated Wisconsin 1–0 in the 4th overtime, after 129:30 minutes of play. Yale University @ Union College & Quinnipiac University @ Union College both extended 5 overtimes.
  • Collegiate (NCAA Division I, women's) – March 10, 1996: In the ECAC women's championship game, New Hampshire defeated Providence 3–2 in the 5th overtime, after 145:35 minutes of play.


  • Collegiate (NCAA Division I, men's) – March 28, 2009: The Virginia Cavaliers team played in the longest game in the history of NCAA Division I lacrosse—a 10–9 victory over the Maryland Terrapins in seven overtime periods.

See also

  • Tiebreaker
  • Green-white-checker finish, the procedure used in American auto racing to add extra laps when the last lap ends in a yellow flag ("caution") condition.
  • Replay (sports), a procedure in some sports to resolve a tied game in which a game is played from the beginning, with the original match discarded.


  1. ^ a b Clayton, John; Mortensen, Chris (March 24, 2010). "Rules proposal passes on 28–4 vote". ESPN. http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=5022064. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
  2. ^ "The Rules of the United Football League". UFL. http://www.ufl-football.com/about-us/ufl-rules. Retrieved July 29, 2010. 
  3. ^ Ubben, David (November 4, 2011). "Big 12 did you know: Week 10". ESPN.com. http://espn.go.com/blog/big12/post/_/id/37950/big-12-did-you-know-week-10. Retrieved November 5, 2011. 
  4. ^ FIBA Official Basketball Rules (2010) Rule 4, Section 12.1.1 Retrieved July 26, 2010
  5. ^ Struckhoff, Mary, ed (2009). 2009–2010 NFHS Basketball Rules. Indianapolis, Indiana: National Federation of High Schools. p. 34.  Rule 4, Section 28, Article 1
  6. ^ 2009–2011 Men's & Women's Basketball Rules Rule 4, Section 42, Article 1. Retrieved July 26, 2010
  7. ^ NBA Official Rules (2009–2010) Rule 6, Section I, a. Retrieved July 26, 2010
  8. ^ This Date in History-January
  9. ^ "Eurocup 2009–10 Competition System". ULEB. http://www.eurocupbasketball.com/ulebcup/home/on-court/format. Retrieved 2010-02-10. 
  10. ^ 2009–2010 Official NHL Rulebook Section 10, Rule 84.1 Retrieved July 26, 2010
  11. ^ a b 2009–2010 Official NHL Rulebook Section 10, Rule 84.4 Retrieved July 26, 2010
  12. ^ "Malik's goal lifts Rangers in league's longest shootout". ESPN. November 26, 2005. http://espn.go.com/nhl/recap/_/id/251126013/washington-capitals-vs-ny-rangers-rangers. Retrieved July 26, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b c National Hockey League (NHL) Major Rule Changes
  14. ^ 2009–2010 Official NHL Rulebook Section 10, Rule 84.5 Retrieved July 26, 2010
  15. ^ a b "NHL Playoffs – Longest OT games". ESPN. April 12, 2007. http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/playoffs2007/news/story?id=2834465. Retrieved July 26, 2010. 
  16. ^ 2010 AFL Grand Final, Collingwood vs St. Kilda Ticket info, extra time confirmed, Retrieved 25th September 2010
  17. ^ NFL Record & Fact Book 2010. NFL. July 2010. p. 549. ISBN 978-1603208338. 

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