Is There a FIFA Soccer Mercy Rule?

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There is no official FIFA soccer mercy rule, but many leagues have their own rules. There are also steps coaches can and should take to control their score.

Is there a mercy rule in the FIFA World Cup?

There is no mercy rule in the FIFA World Cup, even though the World Cup may be one of the most likely professional competitions to have lopsided games. That’s because teams qualify by region, and some regions are much stronger than others.

World Cup games go to 90 minutes no matter what. Since goal difference and goals scored are tiebreakers, the winning team has an incentive to keep scoring as many times as possible. If they don’t, they risk another team in their group beating the same team by even more.

Here are the most lopsided games in World Cup finals history.

  1. Hungary 9-0 South Korea (1954)
  2. Yugoslavia 9-0 Zaire (1974)
  3. Hungary 10-1 El Salvador (1982)
  4. Sweden 8-0 Cuba (1938)
  5. Uruguay 8-0 Bolivia (1950)
  6. Germany 8-0 Saudi Arabia (2002)
  7. Uruguay 7-0 Scotland (1954)
  8. Turkey 7-0 South Korea (1954)
  9. Poland 7-0 Haiti (1974)
  10. Portugal 7-0 North Korea (2010)

Here are some of the other biggest blowouts in international soccer.

  1. Australia 31-0 American Samoa (2001, World Cup 2002 Qualifier)
  2. Kuwait 20-0 Bhutan (2000 Asian Cup Qualifier)
  3. Iran 19-0 Guam (2000, World Cup 2002 Qualifier)
  4. South Korea 16-0 Nepal (2003 Asian Cup Qualifier)
  5. Germany 13-0 San Marino (2006 Euro Qualifier)
  6. New Zealand 13-0 Fiji (1981, World Cup 1982 Qualifier)
  7. Argentina 12-0 Ecuador (1942 Copa America)
  8. Maldives 12-0 Mongolia (2003, World Cup 2006 Qualifier)
  9. Spain 12-1 Malta (1983, Euro 1984 Qualifier)
  10. France 10-0 Azerbaijan (1995, Euro 1996 Qualifier)

Is there a mercy rule in high school soccer?

There is no standard NFHS rule for a mercy rule in high school soccer. States usually set their own mercy rule.

Games typically end when a team is up by a certain number of goals — usually 6 to 10.

Some places require the game to reach the second half before the mercy rule comes into effect.

It’s also common for the clock to run without stopping once a team is up by a certain number of goals.

Is there a mercy rule in youth soccer?

Youth soccer leagues also create their own mercy rules. There’s often a goal difference rule similar to high school soccer.

Another common rule is to change the number of players. The winning team might have to take a player off, or the losing team might get to add a player.

Many leagues and tournaments only count a certain goal difference in the standings. For example, even if you win 8-0, it might only count as a 4-0 win.

Is there a mercy rule in adult soccer?

There is no standard mercy rule in adult soccer. Leagues often use something simlar to the local youth or high school league since many people are already used to those rules.

Is there a mercy rule in college soccer?

NCAA soccer doesn’t have a mercy rule. Some conferences, especially lower divisions, may create their own mercy rule.

What should coaches do in a lopsided game?

Coaches have to balance sportsmanship with getting their players playing time. For example, if a game is lopsided because one team’s players didn’t show up and the other team has all their subs, it’s not fair for players to not get to play as much.

In more competitive leagues, coaches might play for the mercy rule to end the game sooner. This can be the safest and most fair option in very bad mismatches where neither team is enjoying the game.

There are several strategies coaches can use to not run the score up.

  • Remove a player
  • Play players out of their usual positions
  • Give subs more playing time instead of starters
  • Require their team to make a certain number of passes before shooting
  • Require their team to play one or two touch
  • Require their team to use their weak foot or only score on headers

Settng special requirements can become controversial. It can come across as toying with the other team or just frustrate them even more. Coaches need to use good judgment on how to approach these types of games.

Learn more about the rules…

Become a referee or recertify as a referee.

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