8 Questions Americans Have About the World Cup but Are Too Embarrassed to Ask

Why are penalty kicks used to decide ties, anyway?

ByABC News
July 13, 2014, 6:25 AM

— -- World Cup fever has taken over your local bar and office water cooler and you still have questions about what's going on.

You're not alone.

For many American sports fans -- some who are new to the game -- soccer continues to be confusing. Although soccer does not have a lot of rules, it does differ greatly from other sports Americans are used to watching on TV each week.

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Indeed, many of you have questions. Luckily, we've supplied the answers.

Why are ties decided by penalty kicks?

A penalty shootout is used when teams remain tied after 90 minutes of regulation and 30 minutes (two 15-minute halves) of overtime. There is no sudden-death in soccer. The entire 30 minutes of extra time is played regardless. If there is no winner after 120 minutes, then each team gets five penalty kicks. If it remains tied, each team kicks until there is a winner. The rule was introduced before the 1978 World Cup. The first shootout at a World Cup took place in 1982 between Germany and France. Germany won.

Why do they allow draws?

Tie games are allowed in soccer. However, this only happens in the first round when teams play a round-robin. In the knockout stage, games that end in a draw go to overtime and, if needed, penalties.

What is goal differential?

The top two teams in each first round group with the most points go through to the second round. Goal differential, used as a tie-breaker when teams are even with points, accounts for the number of goals a team has scored minus the ones it has allowed.

Why are the last first round games played simultaneously?

The reason why the games overlap starting today is to avoid collusion. That very thing happened in 1982 when Germany and Austria played. Knowing ahead of time that a 1-0 German win would qualify both nations to the knockout stage, the teams did just that. Germany won 1-0 (a goal that was scored after just 10 minutes) and as a result eliminated Algeria. Also, having the games played at the same time will add to the drama.

Why does the goalie wear a different color jersey?

The goalkeeper on both teams wears different colors than his respective teammates as to distinguish himself from his teammates and the other field players, according to FIFA rules. This is especially crucial on set pieces, such as corner kicks, when players bunch up in the penalty box. He is also the only player allowed to use his hands.

How long does a game actually last?

The short answer is 90 minutes. The long answer is not really. Matches do last 90 minutes on a clock that counts up. The clock also never stops. Therefore, the referee keeps track of time that is wasted and tacks on a few minutes at the end of each half. These few minutes -- known as injury time or stoppage time -- usually lasts a few minutes and is displayed by an official located on the sidelines.

Why are there no commercials?

There are no breaks in soccer, including timeouts. Each half lasts 45 minutes with a 15-minute break in between. Therefore, there is no time for commercials like in American sports.

What's considered out of bounds?

Unlike basketball, players can step out of bounds in soccer as long as the ball remains in play.

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