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Q&A: All about soccer

Ask the Times

Soccer's stoppage time

I have watched a lot of the World Cup and still don't understand how they determine the time added on after 90 minutes of play. Can you explain?

Welcome to soccer, where the matches are always 90 minutes but added time is difficult to determine and is unknown to almost everyone until officials declare a match is over.

Stoppage time accumulates when play pauses for substitutions, injuries and any waste of time such as celebrations or faked injuries, in the opinion of the referee who keeps the time. There are guidelines for referees to calculate stoppage time, but the governing body in soccer, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, states in Rule 7 of its bylaws that "the allowance for time lost is at the discretion of the referee."

A round number of minutes, usually between 1 and 6, is calculated for each half of the game and announced just before the half ends. Then the game continues for at least that many minutes, until the referee blows his whistle to signal the end of the match. A primer:

Not catching on?

It's safe to say that soccer is the Western world's most popular spectator sport. Why has it never caught on in America?

Soccer has become more popular in the United States in the past several years, but historians and writers have long discussed why it lags behind football, baseball and basketball.

Foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum, the author of The Meaning of Sports: Why Americans Watch Baseball, Football and Basketball and What They See When They Do, wrote in the Guardian, a British newspaper, in 2004: "Baseball, American football and basketball have long since put down deep roots, claimed particular seasons of the year as their own (although they now overlap) and gained the allegiance of the sports-following public."

A 2006 USA Today article listed several reasons, including:

• Soccer "has roots in Britain, which exported the game to its colonies some 150 years ago. Little surprise we just said no." Randy Roberts, a history professor at Purdue, told the paper, "America was all about being independent from Great Britain, so soccer's inability to stick here really is a product of historical forces."

• America's best athletes play other sports, "eliminating the possibility of us ever seeing a Michael Jordan of soccer emerge from our shores."

• Soccer is the "casual sport of middle-class suburbanites and their elementary school offspring." Author Frank Deford: "There's not enough scoring, and ties make no sense. … From the 19th century onward, we have not taken to soccer. It's almost as if it's not in our DNA to like it."

Compiled from Times and wire reports. To submit a question, email

Q&A: All about soccer 07/10/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2014 1:16pm]
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