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Football Game Structure

How long is a football game? What are quarters in football? What is halftime in football? What is overtime in football? Let's learn about the football game structure.

Football Game Structure

All football games have the same basic structure - two halves or four quarters of game time. The game is 60 minutes long, made up of 15 minute quarters and 30 minute halves. The game clock monitors the time left in the quarter.

Football Halves

The two halves of a football game are called:

Football Quarters

Each half is made up of two quarters. So, the four quarters of a football game are called:

  • First Quarter - 15 minutes
  • Second Quarter - 15 minutes
  • Third Quarter - 15 minutes
  • Fourth Quarter - 15 minutes

Football Halftime

In between the first half and second half, play is suspended for halftime.

During halftime, players will go into the locker rooms and discuss strategy with their coaches for the second half.

Halftime is a big moment for media coverage and analysis of the game on television. During the Superbowl, there is a massive halftime show.


IMPORTANT: There are small intermissions in between the first quarter and second quarter, as well as the third quarter and fourth quarter.

Football Regulation

Together, these quarters and halves are known as regulation.


There can also be additional quarters of game time called overtime.

Football Overtime

If the score is tied at the end of regulation, there can be additional quarters of game time called overtime. Overtime is used to determine the winning team. There is a seperate set of overtime rules.


The rules of overtime are different for high school football, college football, and the NFL.

Start of a Football Game

Every football game will start the same way. It starts with the national anthem, then the coin toss, followed by the opening kickoff.

Football National Anthem

Football games start with a singing of the national anthem. The national anthem of the United States is the Star-Spangled Banner. Football can be played in any country, though the NFL is always played in the U.S.A. unless it is a special international game.

Football Coin Toss

The coin toss determines the initial setup of a football game with a flip of a coin. The winner of the coin toss gets the first choice of the coin toss options. We'll learn more about the coin toss in future tutorials.

Football Opening Kickoff

The opening kickoff puts the ball into play and the game officially begins. The team that elected to or was forced to kick off kicks to the other team. The receiving team starts the game with possession.

Game Structure Key Takeaways

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