Can Soccer End in a Tie? Why This Isn't Bad but Amazing!

Since my daughter loves playing soccer and has become a goalkeeper I have started working hard to learn all the intricacies involved within a soccer match.

One of the first things I began to investigate once my daughter started to play is how the game is played and how a winner is determined. This led me to understand at a deeper level all the levels of game play which exist in games both in matches and within tournaments as they do have different endings depending on the match being played.

Can soccer end in a tie? In most matches a tie can be a standard end state to the game. The only change within the rules are normally during a soccer tournament. In the championship brackets the winner moves on and the loser may move to another bracket. A tie should be viewed as a measure of two very equal teams without luck measuring in the end result.

Now that we have covered the main question above I felt that this would be a good time to clarify why ties exist and how different types of leagues exist and why as this may help you when selecting a league to place your child in.

Many parents mistakenly place a child in one type of league when they would possibly perform better and thrive in the other type. Please don’t force your choice on them so that they can develop and find where they can be themselves and have enjoyment in the game of soccer!

Duel between Henrietta Csiszar of MTK (L) and Lisa Evans of Potsdam during MTK vs. Potsdam football match at Hidegkuti Stadium - Can Soccer End in a Tie
Duel between Henrietta Csiszar of MTK (L) and Lisa Evans of Potsdam


Most recreational leagues will allow ties in all formats unless a recreational team should choose to join or host a tournament. Recreational soccer programs are primarily devoted to the enjoyment and development of soccer players without the emphasis on travel or high level competition.

They are open to all in almost all cases without tryouts and other evaluation mechanics. Another purpose of recreational soccer is for providing an opportunity for the participants to have fun, learn and begin to understand the sport and develop stronger skills including a life long love of the game of soccer.


Very similar in nature to the Recreational Leagues above, withing competitive soccer the primary differences revolve around building skills and a focus on high level competition. They do per FIFA rules have tie matches when not within a tournament. This style of play is more focused on being the best individual and team player possible. You don’t always get to play in this kind of league as the best players will be the players on the field in most times short of breaks or another situation.

In competitive leagues you will also have much more time dedicated to practices and many more games so you must ensure you can meet the needs and availability required with competitive leagues also. Many competitive leagues also will require long distance travel and money to be available to fly to a tournament possibly so you should always be aware of the costs involved in competitive play.


Within a tournament the rules will differ depending on the match level. When you reach the end of the tournament and are entered into the finals brackets the winner moves on and the loser does not. This change requires that you have a decided winner and these games can’t end in a tie.


These matches are a standard format and will end in a tie at the end of regulation. Most ties are scored with an assigned point value, which is greater than a loss, for each team along with an additional point per goal scored.

This scoring for goals scored is typically limited to a specific amount, in most cases, three goals or points. This way a tie can help ensure you a better spot in the tournament even if you aren’t able to get a win and provide you a step up over a team with a loss.


This level is where the information above about ties goes out the window. In the brackets to determine a champion it needs to be clear who was the winner and loser within each match.

This is done via a shootout, a shootout involves only the current players on the field, no one from the bench can be swapped in. Both teams will choose five players to take a shot on the opposite team goalkeeper. At the end of the five shots whoever has made the most goals is determined to be the winner of the match.

If both teams should again tie after the five shot shootout completes it becomes sudden death 1 on 1 shots until the winner is determined.

Final Thoughts on Can Soccer End in a Tie

While many in the United States may be upset that ties are a valid end state to the game it is a showing of both teams abilities when they can hold the tie.

This is why they get credit, unlike in other major American sports for a tie and that a tie isn't considered the same as a loss, where the majority of viewers in the United States only seem to like clear winners and losers.

I can tell you I used to be counted in with them on this side but while learning soccer with my daughter I have come to understand and enjoy the tighter competition where 1 goal can make or break you.