How Long Does An American Football Last? In-depth Explanation!)

Last Updated on October 9, 2023 by Alex PT

An American football game lasts for 60 minutes, divided into four 15-minute quarters. However, due to numerous stoppages in play, games typically last 3 hours or more.

The Table Below Contains The Level Of Play And Their Average Game Length. 

LevelAvg. Game Length
NFL3+ hours
NCAA3.5 hours
High School2-2.5 hours
Youth1-1.5 hours

NFL Game Length

NFL Game Length

The NFL is arguably one of the most popular sports leagues in the world. Fans from all over will buy tickets to the games or make plans to host watch parties, often arranging with friends and family to come and eat food, drink beer, and encourage their team. If you are wondering just how long these entertaining football matches last then take a look at our handy guide below!

How Long Are NFL Games?

NFL games last roughly three hours and consist of four quarters separated by halftime. The sport itself hasn’t changed all that much since its inception in the late 1800s, but like all great cultural traditions, it’s continuously evolving with each new season. In recent years, the longest average has been around three hours and nine minutes.

How Long Is An NFL Quarter?

In normal game time, NFL quarters are 15 minutes. The time it takes to play a 15-minute quarter is slightly over 40 minutes in real-time on average since the NFL game clock does not run continuously. 

How Long Is A College Football Game?

College football games are a full 60 minutes in length. The average time of a game was three hours, and 24 minutes in 2016. This is 17 minutes longer than the average NFL game that same year, which lasted a bit under three and a half hours. Other fans think this isn’t an issue at all and that it’s more about the quality of each individual game rather than how long they last as you can still enjoy the same amount of entertainment value regardless of how many plays there happen to be!

How Many Quarters In College Football?

A typical college football game consists of four quarters. Half-time occurs when the score of a quarter is tied with another. The NFL also has two halves, but instead breaks it down into quarters consisting of 15 minutes of play.

How Long Is College Football Halftime?

A college football halftime lasts for 20 minutes. College football halftime periods have been an issue that has come to light recently. Fans are getting fed up with the amount of time it’s taking for each team to regain their strength after the break and they do not feel as engaged as they would otherwise be in the game because most people tend to look at their phones during this time.

How Long Is A High School Football Game?

How Long Is A High School Football Game

The average length of a Saturday high school football game is 120 minutes and consists of 4 12-minute quarters, with a 10-minute halftime break. Many states are required to have 11-minute quarters during the regular season and 10-minute quarters in the playoffs. 

In other words, most states abide by the standard quarter length: of 12 minutes. However, Massachusetts has an exception to this rule as they use 11-minute quarters (instead of 12) during their regular season whereas they use 10-minute quarters in the playoffs. If you’re attending a high school game, although it usually lasts somewhere around two hours or so, because of a mercy rule, not everyone will make it to the last quarter and your evening could be over quickly.

How Long Is A Youth Football Game?

Youth football games are typically played for under 2 hours. They usually consist of four ten-minute quarters separated with a short halftime. Some advanced leagues can play quarter lengths at 10 minutes long instead of the typical 8-minute quarters. You may have a brief break between each quarter and halftime which can last up to 2 minutes per break. Rules vary across leagues, though most youth leagues implement a “mercy rule” that exists to discourage lopsided scores that become burdensome to players, families, and fans alike. Most youth leagues allow each team 3 timeouts per half.

What Factors Slow Down American Football Games?

There is a lot of dissension between how long the play clock is used in the NFL versus the length of an individual game. Some factors that influence how long it takes to complete an NFL game include:

1. Penalties

2. Style of Play

3. Weather

To highlight how these factors affect the length of a game, let’s discuss each of them in detail. 


In the National Football League, penalties add some extra time to the duration of a game. One thing that drives up the length is how long it takes to announce the penalty and to write down the new scenario. We have talked about this throughout this article, but it’s worth noting that 2015 was the longest average game length in recent years since so many more penalties were called. As we have discussed, however, that must not get us too worked up about all of this because it also means more fumbles and turnovers which adds excitement!

Whenever a referee throws a penalty flag, the play is stopped and the ref blows the whistle to signal it’s time to confer. The head referee on the field turns on their microphone and can declare the penalty to the opposing team. After this, they move their index fingers back and forth to communicate what exactly they called, then they complete the call with their hands by slapping both hands over both sides of it.

Style Of Play

Some professional sports games, like football or basketball, will last longer than others because they involve teams that prefer to pass often. For instance, in a game of American football, the total number of passes made per game can affect the duration of each match since the official recording of the time intervals will only continue when there is a change of possession and not necessarily when a pass is made. This can have an effect on how long games for these types of sports may last.

Game time takes on a completely different meaning when you’re watching NFL football. Teams run a variety of styles and some players prefer to keep the ball in their hands more often than others as they play. For some teams, they want to take their time before snapping the ball so that they shorten the clock by wasting it. 

Other teams, however, want to get after the opposition and snap the ball as quickly as possible so that they can make moves with it before calling a timeout or throwing an incomplete pass because then the losing team will have seconds left to try and score again. Either way, no matter what style of play that players or teams adopt, overall you can expect games in this sport to be longer than average length if compared to other sports like hockey for example.


Occasionally, games experience a not widely understood phenomenon called an in-game delay due to imminent weather threats. When this occurs the storm is usually low enough on the horizon that the rain will not be falling at the stadium, indicating it’s too late to cancel or postpone the game. 

Other delays are caused by lightning which can affect whether or not the game is canceled. Because strikes of lightning create a high amount of electromagnetic abnormalities (EAs) which have a permanent effect on radios used in stadiums games with lightning nearby have a small chance of experiencing a significantly delayed kickoff. It’s unlikely but possible for such problems to go even further than that and force the postponement of an entire game that was scheduled to play out during peak seasons.

Extreme rain or snow-related weather conditions often cause the football to become slippery, resulting in receivers running around and causing long-term damage to the actual ground. The impact usually causes a lot of slipping and sliding which means players and even spectators may potentially get injured on their way to the game.

How Much Live Action Is There Throughout an NFL Game?

During an NFL (National Football League) game, there is relatively little actual live action compared to the total duration of the game. The game is divided into four quarters, each lasting 15 minutes on the game clock. Here’s a breakdown of the live action in an NFL game:

  1. Snap-to-Whistle Time: This is the actual time when the ball is in play, and players are actively engaged in the game. On average, an NFL game has about 11 minutes of snap-to-whistle action.
  2. Play Clock: After each play, there is a 40-second play clock. This includes the time it takes for the offense to huddle up, get to the line of scrimmage, and snap the ball. If the offense doesn’t snap the ball within this time frame, they receive a delay of game penalty.
  3. Time Between Plays: Between plays, there is often a short pause as players reset and the referees spot the ball. This can vary but generally takes around 5-10 seconds.
  4. Timeouts: Each team is allowed a certain number of timeouts per half. These timeouts stop the game clock. Typically, there are a few timeouts in each half, and they can add a few minutes to the game’s duration.
  5. Two-Minute Warning: In the second and fourth quarters, there is a two-minute warning, which stops the clock and adds a brief pause.
  6. Halftime: At halftime, there is a longer break of about 12-15 minutes when teams go to their locker rooms and fans are entertained with various activities.
  7. Commercial Breaks: TV broadcasts include commercial breaks. These breaks can vary in length but generally last around 2-3 minutes each. There are usually multiple commercial breaks per quarter.
  8. Challenges and Replays: Coaches can challenge certain calls, leading to reviews by officials. These reviews can extend the game time.
  9. Injury Stoppages: If a player gets injured, there may be stoppages in play while they are tended to.
  10. End of Game: The final minutes of the game can involve clock management strategies, such as running out the clock, which can extend the duration.

Final Words

As you may have already known, an NFL game normally lasts for about 3 hours. In recent years, the average length of a game is slightly over 3 hours as we discussed earlier. An NFL game is made up of 4 quarters, with halftime taking place between the 2nd quarter and the 3rd quarter.



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