How Many Quarters Are in a Game of Football?

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There are typically four quarters in a game of American football, whether it be the National Football League (NFL), college, or high school football. However, there are different aspects to each quarter, and situations such as overtime can alter the standard four-quarter time. Read on to learn more about how football is measured in quarters, and specifics unique to each quarter.

How Long Is Each Quarter?

In college football and in the NFL, each quarter is 15 minutes long, meaning that each standard game is an hour in timed length. However, the entire game is much longer than one hour, considering time outs, injuries, commercial breaks, halftimes, and other stoppages, such as reviewing a play. In high school football, quarters are 12 minutes long, meaning that a standard game is 48 minutes in timed length.

Are There Breaks During the Game?

The play clock can stop for many reasons, but there are always standard breaks during an NFL, college, or high school game. The halftime period is the longest break. In a regular-season NFL game, halftime is 12 minutes in length, but it can sometimes be 15, depending on the situation. During the Super Bowl, the halftime break is much longer, which allows the entertainment act to perform. In college games, the band performs on the field, so halftime is 20 minutes long. At the end of the first and third quarters, the teams also change sides of the field, which has a break of two minutes or more.

When Are There More Than Four Quarters?

If two teams are tied at the end of regulation of an NFL game, a 15-minute overtime period begins. During this time, the first team to score a touchdown wins the game. A team can score a field goal, but that gives the opposing team the opportunity to take the field and win with a touchdown. If an overtime period goes to the end with no score, it is ruled as a tie. If a team scores a touchdown during the overtime period, it immediately ends.

In college and high school football, each team is given a chance to score from the opposing team's 25-yard line. Scores can range from touchdowns on the offensive and defensive sides, field goals, extra points, and two-point conversions. If the game is tried after each team attempts to score once, a new overtime period begins. Once the game reaches the third overtime, each team is required to go for a two-point conversion following a touchdown. The game continues until one team is ahead at the end of an overtime period.

In high school football, the two-point conversion must be attempted starting with the second overtime period, and the possession usually begins on the opponent's 10-yard line. In Canadian football, which is slightly different than American football, the possessions in overtime begin on the opponent's 35-yard line.

What Are Two-minute Warnings?

Each team has three timeouts during each half, where they can stop play and huddle as a team to discuss their strategy. However, in addition to these, there are two-minute warnings at the end of the first half (first two quarters) and the last half (last two quarters). These "extra timeouts" give both teams time to discuss strategy prior to the end of the half or the end of the game. 

What Are Other Reasons for Clock Stoppage?

In addition to timeouts and breaks, the play clock can stop for several reasons. If the ball carrier goes out of bounds or the quarterback throws an incomplete pass, this stops the clock. Other reasons include injuries, officials' reviews of plays, there is a score in the game (touchdown, field goal, or safety), or a coach has challenged a call. 

Are There Quarters in Soccer?

Soccer is also referred to as football in many parts of the world, and sports watchers may be interested to hear if soccer is broken down in the same manner as American football. The answer is — it is not. Soccer has two distinct halves and halftime, but these halves are not broken down into quarters like the NFL or American college football. Each half of soccer is 45 minutes of regulation, and the halftime period lasts 15 minutes.