How Many Quarters In Football? (Explained!)

Last Updated on October 5, 2023 by Alex PT

There are four quarters in football. Each quarter lasts 15 minutes, for a total of 60 minutes of regulation play. If the game is tied at the end of regulation, the game goes into overtime, which consists of one or more 10-minute periods.

The table below consists of football levels, number, and duration of quarters. 

LevelsNumber of quartersQuarter Duration
Professional football (NFL)Four quarters15 minutes 
High school football Four quarters12 Minutes
College footballFour quarters15 minutes

How Many Quarters In Football?

In American football, a standard game consists of four quarters. Each quarter is a period of play, and they are typically of equal duration, lasting 15 minutes each. These four quarters add up to a total game time of 60 minutes. However, it’s important to note that the actual duration of a football game can be longer due to various stoppages in play, including timeouts, injury delays, and the halftime break.

Here’s a breakdown of how a standard football game is divided into quarters:

  1. First Quarter (Q1): The game begins with the first quarter. It lasts for 15 minutes of continuous play, during which the two teams compete.
  2. Second Quarter (Q2): Following the first quarter, there is a brief break between quarters. The second quarter also lasts for 15 minutes. At halftime, there is a more extended break, typically around 12-15 minutes.
  3. Third Quarter (Q3): After halftime, the third quarter begins. Like the previous two quarters, it is 15 minutes in duration.
  4. Fourth Quarter (Q4): The final quarter of the game is the fourth quarter, also lasting 15 minutes. This is when the game’s outcome is often determined, as teams make their final pushes to secure a victory or tie the score.
  5. Overtime (if necessary): In some cases, if the game is tied at the end of the fourth quarter, there may be overtime periods, each lasting 10 minutes, until a winner is determined.

So, while there are four standard quarters in American football, the actual time it takes to complete a game can vary due to stoppages, game situations, and potential overtime periods.

Overtime rules for NFL regular season

1. Coin Toss:

  • The game begins with a coin toss to determine which team gets possession first.
  • The team that wins the coin toss can choose to:
    • Receive the ball (offense).
    • Choose the side of the field they want to defend (defense).

2. Possession Rules:

  • If the receiving team scores a touchdown on their opening possession, they win the game.
  • If the receiving team scores a field goal on their opening possession, the opposing team gets a chance to possess the ball.
  • If the receiving team fails to score on their opening possession, the opposing team gets a chance to possess the ball.

3. Sudden Death:

  • Overtime in the regular season is sudden death, meaning the first team to score wins the game.
  • If neither team scores on their first possession, the game continues until a winner is determined.

4. Two-Point Conversion:

  • If the game extends to a second possession for each team, they must attempt a two-point conversion after a touchdown instead of the traditional extra point kick.

5. Game Length:

  • Overtime periods are 10 minutes each in the regular season.
  • If the score is tied at the end of the first overtime period, the game ends in a tie, except for playoff games.

6. Playoff Overtime Rules:

  • In NFL playoff games, overtime rules differ. The game continues with additional 10-minute overtime periods until a winner is determined.
  • If the game reaches the end of a 10-minute overtime period without a winner, it continues with additional periods until there is a decisive outcome.

Are There Breaks During the Game?

Are There Breaks During the Game

NFL and college games have many breaks that prevent the play clock from continuously running. The first break is known as halftime, which lasts for about 12 minutes in both NFL and college games. At the Super Bowl, many people come out to watch the halftime show so football players need to rest, be it mentally or physically because all of this entertainment can become tiring after a while especially when they are not used to performing onstage or having everyone stare at them which can lead to stage fright! 

In college ball games, however, there is no halftime show, so the band performs on the field and applies some much-needed morale-building into their performance during halftime. After every quarter of football has been played, an additional break occurs during which time one team switches sides to get a better field position despite it also being an annoying process that slows down their momentum.

When Are There More Than Four Quarters?

In professional football, NFL games are played in four 15-minute quarters. Each team is given a chance to score from the opposing team’s 25-yard line. If an NFL football game naturally goes into overtime, it begins with the current quarter and continues until a winner has been declared through scoring a touchdown during any three consecutive passing plays by one of the teams. A team can score a touchdown in college and high school football but doing so only ends the overtime period – not the entire game.

In football, the team that scores the most points at the end of a game wins. If a game continues into overtime it becomes known as “sudden death”. Besides, sudden death rules are often used in high school football. The team that wins the coin toss at the start of each overtime has a choice to whether to kick or receive (which can be considered an advantage for a winning team).

 The team that is declared victorious after two equal halves of play is awarded one point in NFL games. In Canadian football, the winning team is awarded one point as well – however, they are only awarded this specific point after a touchdown if it was scored in their opponent’s end zone. Obviously, they need to accomplish another feat prior to reaching the end zone first which is the goal line.

Why Do Some Football Games Have More Than 4 Quarters?

Why Do Some Football Games Have More Than 4 Quarters

In the last minutes of most football games, there will often be a tie between the two teams. During this time, the game goes into a 15-minute overtime period. The first team to score in this overtime wins the game! However, during an overtime period, all players from both teams get an opportunity to take part in the play. One of the teams may score a goal while another team has a fair chance of taking back control of the field and countering with their own goals. But until one team does so and successfully scores over their opponent, it becomes a tie at the end of regulation playtime. 

Football matches can be hard to predict. Many times when two teams are equally skilled, they will tie up at the end of regulation time. If a tie is reached in the final seconds of an overtime period, a field goal or touchdown must be scored by either team while they simultaneously possess the ball. The 2-point conversion overtime period will start when the game has reached a tie score after both competing teams have attempted to score a goal e.g. reaching 8 on a bonus point system (7 goals, 1 extra).

Overtime periods continue until one team has scored, thereby ending the game and winning their opponents. To win, you must make sure that your possessions start on your own 35-yard line if you play Canadian football – but if you play in the United States under high school guidelines then you must score starting from your own 10-yard line.

What Happens When One-Quarter Ends?

What Happens When One Quarter Ends

Two things happen when one quarter ends and they include:


In a regular football match, the first 15 minutes is intended for both teams to possess the ball. However, during the half-time break, both teams are required to switch from one end of the field to another. Players also tend to take some downtime before halftime starts and then again when it ends so as not to tire themselves out before even getting started with their next game strategy.


When the game begins, a new team takes possession of the ball for the first quarter. The rules also allow for teams to switch ends at halftime and to stay there for the second half. Possession can change numerous times throughout a game but only after a team scores points or a field goal or if they turn over the ball via interception or fumble. Each quarter represents 15 minutes worth of play time.


In conclusion, American football games have four 15-minute quarters separated by a 12-minute break at half-time. There is also another 2-minute break at the end of every quarter, giving teams a chance to adjust and regroup before an upcoming 15-minute period. The clock stops for incomplete passes, out-of-bounds plays, penalties, injuries, and the two-minute warning.


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