Soccer is one weird sport.
That doesn’t make it any less enticing for fans, obviously. It’s perhaps the most popular game on Earth, a sport that captures the hearts and minds of those afflicted with its presence. From children to seniors, downtrodden to leaders, it’s a pastime that stimulates.
But it certainly has its quirks, one of which is the way its game clock works.
Sports like basketball, football and hockey feature a clock that descends from 12, 15 and 20 minutes in a period, respectively. It adds a certain tension to affairs; after all, there’s nothing quite like seeing your team pushing for an equalizing score as the clock dwindles towards zero.
That’s not the case in soccer, though. Rather, the clock counts upwards, and 0:00 represents the start of a game, not the finish.
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So, why is that the case? The Sporting News examines the history behind soccer’s rather intriguing method of timekeeping.
Why does the clock count up in soccer?
As is the case with many of soccer’s unique wrinkles, the sport’s system of timekeeping boils down to efficiency. Having a clock count upward allows for the match clock to continuously run, something we aren’t used to in North America. Here, every stoppage of play brings with it a stoppage of the clock, whether for seconds or minutes.
That’s not the case in the world of soccer. Using an upward-counting clock allows for time to be kept by just one referee, a far simpler proposition than using a downward clock and having to monitor every possible stoppage of play.
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Think about an NBA game. Whenever there’s a dispute over the amount of time left in a quarter, that requires each of the three referees to gather with one another, meticulously watch replays to determine just how much time is actually left and then overturn their initial call. It’s a tedious process. One that can prove quite precise, yes, but also quite convoluted.
Soccer’s system of timekeeping ensures that the on-field referee, sporting a watch of their own, can keep track of the time lost due to stoppages in play. That makes it easier to tack on time at the end of a half and generally limits the amount of confusion surrounding a match.
Can’t argue with that logic.