How Long Is A Football Game? Time Explained

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: December 30, 2023

Football games at all levels are four quarters long. However, the length of those quarters varies based on the level of play.

In the professional and college football games, each quarter is 15 minutes long, totaling 60 minutes of football. In high school and youth football, each quarter is 12 minutes long, totaling 48 minutes of football.

In this article, we’re going to show you how long is an American football game and why each quarter is as long as it is.

How Long Is A Football Game

American Football games are played within four quarters. At the end of the second quarter, both teams will go into their locker rooms for halftime.

Each football game has this structure, and the play clock is often kept by the referee on the field, or on the scoreboard.

American football games are 60 minutes long, played in two halves of 30 minutes and four quarters that are 15 minutes long.

High school football and youth football have 12-minute quarters. There are some youth leagues that play 10-minute quarters, rules can vary per youth league.

American Football Referee

It’s important to note, that even though games are 15, 12, and 10 minutes long, that is not how long it will take to finish the quarter. The clock continues to run, as long as the ball carrier is tackled in bounds.

If any throw from the quarterback is incomplete, the clock will stop. Also, if a player is tackled out of bounds, the clock will stop.

So 15-minute quarters are typically 30 minutes long with all of the stopping and starting of the clock.

How Long Is A College Football Game?

College football games are typically longer than NFL games because of the clock rules. Once a player gets a first down, the clock will stop while the chain crew gets set. This gives the offense enough time to get set and run a play, without taking too much time off the clock.

The average college football game is three hours long. This doesn’t include an overtime period. If both teams go into overtime, then it could be extended another 15-30 minutes.

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How Long Is An Average NFL Game?

Regular season games in the NFL last for two and a half hours. This includes the halftime break and all four quarters.

Each game is played until the clock hits 0:00 in the fourth quarter. All teams will play four quarters until the final quarter ends and there is a winning team.

Games can only end in a tie if they are still tied at the end of the overtime period.

NFL games are long because of how many commercials are placed in between drives. If the offense fails to score, they will punt it to the opposing team. This will often result in a commercial break.

If one of the teams scores, then they will go to a commercial break. If there were no commercials, then football games would only be about an hour and a half of actual playing time.

But because the NFL needs to make money, they have to show commercials.

The Super Bowl is a whole event in itself. Commercials and the halftime show make up most of the time. The game will still run for an hour and a half, but the spectacular halftime show pushes it to about 3 hours.

The NFL season is 17 weeks long, and an additional 4 weeks with playoffs.

How Long Is Halftime In Football?

After finishing the first and second quarters, both teams will go into their locker rooms for a halftime break.

Halftime in football typically lasts for 20 minutes. This allows for both teams to rest, and fix their gameplan, as they go back to their locker room.

Teams will typically spend 20 minutes sitting down and talking to coaches about how they will play the second half. The two teams will come out of the halftime break and resume play.

Typically, whoever started with the football in the first quarter (based on the coin toss), will be the team that kicks the football in the third quarter.

Conclusion

American football leagues play four quarters of football (two halves), that typically lasts around three hours.

Depending on the league, football games last longer than the actual time on the clock, simply because of all of the stopping and starting. The active time of football games lasts 60 minutes in college and NFL.

If you like learning about football, we recommend you check out our Beginners Guide To Football below.

In high school and youth, the active time is 48 minutes.

Football games can seem longer than they are because of all of the commercial breaks, halftime shows, and stoppage of time. If you plan to watch football or go to a football event, we recommend being prepared to sit or stand for three hours of your day.

Learn more about American Football here:

Beginners Guide To American Football

Scoring In American Football

Rules Of American Football

History Of American Football

Who Invented American Football?

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.

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