Lacrosse is an exciting, fast-paced sport that has been rapidly growing in popularity in recent years. However, for those new to the game, the length of a lacrosse match can seem ambiguous. This comprehensive guide will explain how long a lacrosse game lasts at various competition levels.
Game Length Basics
At most levels of play, a regulation lacrosse game consists of four quarters, each lasting around 15 minutes. Between each quarter there is a 2-minute break. And halftime, after the second quarter, is around 10 minutes.
This means a standard lacrosse game, without overtime, will last around 60 minutes of play time. However, with stoppages, timeouts, penalties, and breaks factored in, a typical game can stretch from 90 minutes to 2 hours.
Here is a quick overview of the game length in lacrosse:
- 4 quarters
- Each quarter: Around 15 minutes
- Quarter break: 2 minutes
- Halftime: 10 minutes
- Total game time: Usually 60 minutes of play
- With stoppages: 90 minutes to 2 hours
For young children just learning the sport, youth lacrosse games tend to be shorter. League rules vary, but most games at this introductory level last around 45-60 minutes total.
The youth levels with shortened games usually include:
- Boys ages 7-11
- Girls ages 7-9
At these ages, a regulation stick and full protective gear is usually not used. The focus is on helping young kids learn lacrosse fundamentals and basics in a fun, safe environment.
As children get older, move to regulation equipment, and develop more skills, the games get longer. By ages 11-15, games lengths increase to more closely mirror high school, college, and pro games.
Here are some examples of game lengths at various youth levels:
- Ages 7-9: 2 x 20-25 minute running time halves.
- Ages 9-11: 4 x 10-12 minute quarters.
- Ages 11-15: 4 x 12-15 minute quarters.
High School Lacrosse
Once lacrosse players reach high school level competition, the game duration matches the typical regulation length. NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) rules state the following for high school boys and girls lacrosse games:
- 4 x 12 minute quarters
- 2 minute breaks between quarters
- 10 minute halftime
Some states may run shorter youth quarters of 10-11 minutes before extending to the full 12 minutes in later high school years.
Additionally, the clock stops during the final 2 minutes of regulation if the score is within 2 goals. This makes games with a close score at the end take longer than a blowout.
NCAA rules dictate that college lacrosse games follow the same time guidelines as high school games, with a few minor differences:
- 4 x 15 minute quarters (instead of 12)
- 2 minute breaks between quarters
- 10 minute halftime
With the slightly longer quarter length, college lacrosse games tend to run around 2 hours including stoppages and breaks.
Women’s college lacrosse also abides by the 2-minute clock stoppage rule in the final 2 minutes if the teams are within 2 goals.
At the professional level in both the NLL (indoor) and PLL (outdoor), lacrosse games consist of 4 x 15 minute quarters, matching NCAA college rules.
Professional matches also often have TV timeouts worked into the games for broadcasting. This stretches a typical pro lacrosse game to around 2 hours of total time.
If the score is tied at the end of a regulation lacrosse game, it moves into sudden death overtime. The overtime structure varies based on the level of competition:
- Youth: Often no OT, game ends in tie. If OT, first goal wins with 4-5 minute OT.
- High School: 4 minute OT periods until a goal is scored. Unlimited OT periods.
- College: 5 minute OT periods until a goal. Unlimited OT.
- Professional: 15 minute OT periods until a goal. Unlimited OT.
So while youth overtime is generally quite short, high school, college, and pro lacrosse games can keep going into additional overtime periods until a goal is scored.
This means the total game length is unpredictable when overtime is required. Youth games usually will not exceed 1 hour 15 minutes. But high school, college, and professional matches can potentially last as long as 3+ hours when extended by overtime.
Averages and Range
Given the information above, here are some averages and ranges for lacrosse game lengths:
- Youth: 45 minutes to 1 hour (older ages on high end).
- High School: 1.5 to 2 hours.
- College: 2 to 2.5 hours.
- Professional: 2 to 3+ hours.
The wide range accounts for blowouts that end faster versus close games extended by overtime. But in general, a standard lacrosse match lasts around 2 hours from start to finish.
Factors Affecting Game Length
Several factors impact the total time of a lacrosse match:
- Level of Competition: Professional games with TV timeouts take longest.
- Closeness of Score: Close games that come down to the wire or go to OT take longer.
- Number of Penalties: More penalties and stoppages of play extend game time.
- Weather: Rain or excessive heat can delay a game and extend length.
So the pace of play, amount of stoppages, competitiveness of teams, and weather conditions all play a role in determining the exact duration of a lacrosse match. But typically you can expect to set aside around 2 hours for a high school, college, or pro lacrosse game.
Tips for Spectators
If you are new to lacrosse and plan to attend a game, here are some tips:
- Arrive 15 minutes early: To get settled, find seats, purchase refreshments.
- Expect games to last 1.5 to 2 hours: This accounts for the average game time plus overtime, if needed.
- Bring supplies: Food, drinks, sunscreen. Venues may not sell concessions.
- Dress appropriately: Check the weather. Bring a jacket for early season games.
- Stay for overtime: Games tied at the end of regulation are exciting to watch in OT as next goal wins!
Understanding how long a lacrosse game lasts helps fans plan their schedule and enjoy this fast-paced, exciting sport. Lacrosse offers non-stop action with the uniqueness of games often coming down to the last minutes of regulation or overtime.