FIFA Tournament Tiebreaker Procedures

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Every four years, FIFA holds its World Cup soccer tournament. The final competition begins with 32 national teams divided into eight groups. Each team plays one match against each of the other teams in its group, garnering three points for each win and one point for each draw. The teams that finish first and second in each group move on to the round of 16. FIFA has six tiebreaker procedures for determining the ranking when teams finish the group round with the same number of points.

Group Stage

  • FIFA ranks teams according to the total number of points awarded for all matches played. If teams have the same number of points, FIFA next considers the goal differentials, then the number of goals scored in all group matches. If teams remain tied in the group rankings, FIFA uses the same criteria to break the tie -- but this time only matches the teams played against each other are considered. In the rare event two teams have identical points, goal differentials and goals scored, both overall and in matches against each other, the FIFA Organizing Committee will draw lots to determine which team moves on.

Tied Matches

  • The round of 16 and beyond are knockout rounds, so the matches themselves cannot end in a draw. If the score remains tied at the end of regulation, FIFA allows two 15-minute periods of extra time. Those periods are not sudden death, so if extra time is played and the score remains tied, the winner of the match is decided by penalty kicks.

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