Match Timekeeping – A Critical Element

            One of the most critical elements in any high school soccer match is timekeeping.  Even an error of a few second in keeping match time can affect the game result. It is therefore crucial for the game officials to ensure that time is kept accurately and that the clock is stopped when required under the Rules as set forth in the NFHS Soccer Rules Book.

Rule 6 specifies that the home school is normally responsible for timing of the match utilizing a timing device that I visible, usually on a stadium clock.  In some states, by ruling of the high school association, the official time may be kept by the head referee.  The head referee may also keep the official time upon agreement of the opposing coaches.

When the clock is being kept by the home school, it is essential for the officials during their pregame activities to meet with the individual who will be operating the clock to provide clear instructions as to when the clock is to start and when the clock is to be stopped.

It is common in such circumstances that the clock operator is a team manager, student or faculty member who is not necessarily familiar with the soccer rules and without proper instruction, timing errors are sure to occur.

On the next page of this article is a Timekeeper Instruction sheet which you can reproduce and give to the timekeeper when you provide your pregame instructions.  Having this paper before him/her should eliminate or at least reduce timing errors.

During the match, the referee must insure that when the clock is to be stopped as indicated on the sheet, that the proper hand signal as specified in the Rules Book is used. (Hands crossed over the head – no wig wag).



Thank you for participating as a part of the official crew for this interscholastic soccer match. You are the official timekeeper for this match and the referee and his crew are dependent on you to keep the clock accurately. You will be backed up by the officials and in the unforeseen event of a clock failure, please immediately contact the nearest game official .

Length of Periods: 2 periods of 40 minutes with a 10 minute interval between halves. If a regular season match is tied at the end of the 2nd half, state associations may require overtime of no more than 20 minutes (for regular season games) to be played.  Please check with the officials prior to the match for overtime instructions.  If overtime is to be played. The interval before the first overtime period begins is 5 minutes and between the first and second overtime period is 2 minutes

Start the clock when the ball is actually put into play at the kickoff (ball moves forward and referee signals to start the clock) and keep the clock running at all times until the referee give the signal for a stoppage (hands crossed over his/her head) or until the period ends. It is important that you watch the referee at all times in order to know when to stop the clock.

Stoppages: The clock will be stopped by referee signal (hands crossed overhead)at the following times:

  1. A goal is scored
  2. A yellow card (caution) or red card (disqualification) is to be given
  3. A penalty kick is awarded
  4. Any other time that the referee determines that a stoppage is required such as for an injury, unnecessary delay, player sent off for equipment or jewelry violation, or other unusual situation

In the event that the referee fails to give the time out signal for any of the  events as 1-3 listed above, the clock must be stopped.

The clock is only restarted when the ball is actually put back into play (kicked or thrown), not when the referee whistles.

You must audibly count down the last 10 seconds of each period to the nearest official or use a public address system. Verbally count all the way down to “zero”, at which time you will activate the horn or other signal to end the match.