how many quarters in football

How Many Quarters In Football?

Football players have many avenues to rest during the game. For example, players can use timeouts to regroup in the middle of the game. When a team calls a timeout, the game clock gets stopped, and the team goes for a brief break.

Each team has up to three timeouts per half, with each lasting two minutes. That means that there are 24 minutes of timeout in a typical football game.

But how many quarters in football?

Football has four quarters. However, there are variations in the length of each quarter, depending on the league. 

So, how long does a quarter last in football? 

High school football games are typically divided into 12-minute quarters, and youths go for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, NFL games have 15-minute quarters.

However, things aren’t that simple. Dive in for more.

How Do Football Quarters Work?

The purpose of quarters is to divide the game into manageable segments so that both teams have an equal opportunity to score. In other words, it gives offenses and defenses a chance to rest and regroup between possessions.

In football, quarters are the periods of play in a game. There are four quarters in a football game. The game has two halves, each consisting of two quarters.

A halftime break, the most extended break, separates the 2nd and 3rd quarters. At the climax of each quarter, the opponents swap sides of the field. The coaches can make adjustments to their game plans at this time. The QB gets only 0.5 to 0.75 minutes to shoot the ball after the quarters.

The team with the most points at the game’s end is the winner. However, if the score is the same, the game goes into overtime (a quarter’s equivalent). In overtime, each team gets one possession to score. The team that scores the most points in overtime wins.

How Long Are Football Quarters?

How long is each quarter in football? Does college football have quarters?

football team in white jersey on a break

Games last around 10 to 15 minutes per quarter. However, total duration varies when aspects like the mercy rule, often at lower leagues, come into play. In the mercy rule, two opponents may decide to end the game after the attainment of a given lead margin.

College Football

In college football, the game includes four quarters. Games have 15-minute quarters, with a double-minute break between quarters one and two plus three and four. Plus, a halftime 12-minute rest. 

High School Football

High school football quarters typically last 12 minutes, for a total of 48 minutes of game time. 

However, there are a few minutes of additional time for things like penalties, out-of-bounds plays, and timeouts. So, in reality, a high school football game usually lasts at least 50 minutes.

This duration may seem like a short amount of time. But, each play in a football game takes a few seconds, and there are usually around 75-100 plays in a game. That means there’s minimal downtime in a football game, and the action is non-stop.

So why are high school football quarters shorter than college or NFL football? 

Firstly, the players aren’t as big or as strong as those at the higher levels. That means they get tired more quickly, and the shorter quarters help to keep them revitalized.

Also, high school football games are typically on Friday nights when most people are available to watch. If the game went too long, it would cut people’s ability to watch other games or do other things on a Friday night.

So, high school football quarters are the right length to keep the players fresh and the action moving.

Youth Football

The length of youth football quarters varies depending on the age group and level of play. However, quarters last 10 minutes on average. 

young football player wearing a white helmet

There’s often a running clock in youth football to reduce the demoralization of largely-losing teams. With a running clock, the clock doesn’t stop for out-of-bounds plays, penalties, or first downs. That means that the game can potentially end much sooner than typical.

Why Is a College Football Game Longer Than an NFL Game?

Are you wondering: “How long is a football game?” The average college football game is about 3.4 hours long, while the average NFL game is about 3.05 to 3.2 hours long. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. First downs: The primary reason college football games last longer than NFL ones is first downs. After a first down in college football, the game clock stops until the ref sets the ball. First downs in the NFL don’t stop the clock.
  1. Halftimes: In the NFL, there’s 12-minute halftime. In college football, the break lasts 20 minutes. This extra time allows for more strategy and adjustments from the coaches, which lengthens the game.
  1. More scoring: College football games tend to score more than NFL games. Increased scoring results in additional points, commercial breaks, and kickoffs.

What Happens at the End of Each Quarter?

In the NFL, there’s a two-minute warning during the last two minutes of quarters two and four. A change of sides happens at the end of each quarter. 

After quarters one and three, the team in possession of the ball retains possession for the next quarter. However, during halftime, the teams switch sides, and the one that lost the toss or deferred gets possession.

Are Quarters Made Specifically for Playing?

The quarter-playing system began in 1883 to enhance the game’s structure. Over time, the duration allocated rose and dropped. NFL players played for 20 minutes, starting in 1912, dropped to 12 in 1933, and now last for a quarter-hour.

football on a game field

The quarters aren’t just a policy thing. They serve various reasons. Having quarters also allows the teams to make adjustments at halftime and during the breaks between quarters. They provide a fair opportunity for each team to score and win the game. 

If the game were played without quarters, there’s a likelihood that one team would dominate the other based on field conditions. For example, one side may be muddier than the other.

The breaks also allow teams to strategize and rest.

Quarters in Football FAQs

What Does the Football Game Clock Mean?

The football game clock means a timer that tracks the duration each team has possession of the ball. The clock is typically divided into four quarters, each lasting 10-15 minutes. 

The clock stops when the ball is out of play. It starts again when the ball is put back in play. Football players on the field must keep track of the time and ensure they don’t run out of it.

Is the Same Match Time Always Used?

No, the same match time is not always used in football. Extra time may be awarded to cater to a tie outcome or other happenings during the game. Similarly, the matches in the premier league season vary depending on outcomes, injuries, and playing level.


In a nutshell, the game has four quarters, each has 10-15 minutes. There’s a 12 to 20-minute break between quarters two and three and a 2-minute break between the other quarters.

If the score ties at the end of the fourth quarter, the game goes into overtime. In overtime, each team gets one possession. The team that scores the most points during their possession wins the game.

With quarters, you get an opportunity as a team to explore and change your strategy. In the end, the game becomes more thrilling. 

Now that you know the number of quarters, you may also wonder about the longest time a match can last. Check out our “how long does a football game last?” guide.

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