Away goals rule
The away goals rule is a method of breaking ties in association football and other sports when teams play each other twice, once at each team's home ground. By the away goals rule, the team that has scored more goals "away from home" will win if scores are otherwise equal.
The away goals rule is most often invoked in two-leg fixtures, where the initial result is determined by the aggregate score — i.e. the scores of both games are added together. In many competitions, the away goals rule is the first tie-breaker in such cases, with a penalty shootout as the second tie-breaker if each team has scored the same number of away goals. Rules vary as to whether the away goals rule applies at the end of normal time of the second leg, after extra time, or both. It was first introduced by UEFA in 1965.
Originally, the away goal rule was introduced in football as an expedited way of doing away with playoffs or tie breakers on neutral grounds to resolve a logistical, physical and calendar problem when two teams were so closely matched the final score over the two legs remained in absolute parity, which could remain even after a third game tie breaker. Now, the away goals rule is intended to encourage the away team to be more aggressive. In football, at least, it sometimes leads to a nervous first leg: the home team is unwilling to commit large numbers of players to attack lest they concede a goal, whilst the away team attempts to defend and snatch an away goal to aid them in the second leg. Such tactics arguably make the second leg more exciting, after a low-scoring first leg leaves both sides with a chance to win. There are sometimes debates over whether the away goals rule gives an unfair advantage to the team playing away first — with the other team squandering their home advantage in the first leg due to away goal fears — and this may be a factor in its somewhat patchy adoption for competitions.
There is also the issue that if extra time is played in the second leg, the away team gets an extra 30 minutes to take advantage of the away goals rule. This can be countered by the fact that in extra time, the home team has the advantage of playing the extra 30 minutes at home.
Anecdotal evidence certainly suggests that most teams feel an away goal puts them in the driving seat, such as Liverpool being able to draw 1–1 at Arsenal in the 2008 UEFA Champions League quarterfinals; Liverpool did eliminate Arsenal to advance to the semifinals.
Many commentators have described the importance of a team being away to score an away goal, even when losing that leg, as it mathematically does give that team a chance to redeem itself on home soil by leveling the tie on aggregate while using the away goal as a tiebreaker. For example in the 2007 UEFA Champions League round of 16, while Bayern Munich lost the first leg 3–2 at Real Madrid, Bayern later won 2-1 at home to level the tie on aggregate, but it was Bayern's away goals scored during their first leg loss that let them advance. In a recent instance, at the 2013 UEFA Champions League semifinals, despite falling 4-1 in the first leg at Dortmund, Real Madrid would be able to advance if at home it managed to hold Dortmund to 3-0. (Real Madrid did score two goals in the last ten minutes to win the second leg 2–0 but were unable to score the third goal that would have sent them through to the finals.) In the other semifinal, however, as Barcelona was shutout at Bayern Munich 4–0, commentators have considered Barcelona essentially eliminated as Bayern could seal the tie by scoring one away goal even if Barcelona managed to score five goals.
The away goals rule results in the "lead" of the two legged tie swinging back and forth. For instance in the 2005 UEFA Champions League round of 16 between Barcelona and Chelsea, Barcelona was ahead on aggregate after a 2–1 win in the first leg at home. During the second leg held in London, Chelsea managed to first score three straight goals to take the lead on aggregate (4–2), but Barcelona responded with two goals to level the aggegate score at 4–4 while taking the lead on away goals (2–1). Chelsea managed to score again, though, to advance on aggregate 5-4.
The away goals rule is applied in many football competitions that involve two-leg fixtures, including the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, CAF Champions League, CAF Confederation Cup and any two-legged playoffs in qualification for the FIFA World Cup or European Championships. Major League Soccer in the U.S. and Canada introduced the away goals rule in the MLS Cup Playoffs, in which the conference semifinals and finals (the quarterfinals and semifinals of the overall tournament) are two-legged, for the first time in 2014. The rule was first applied in this competition when Seattle Sounders FC defeated FC Dallas in the 2014 Western Conference Semifinals.
In CONMEBOL competitions before 2005, for example the Copa Libertadores, CONMEBOL used neither the away goals rule nor extra time in any of its competitions. Series that were level on aggregate went to an immediate penalty shootout. After 2005, the two-legged ties is decided on points, followed by goal difference and the away goals rule, if the result is still tied, the penalty shootout is used. The Copa Libertadores finals became the only exception to the away goals rule and also only in the finals is employed extra time. In Latin America, an example of a tournament that always has used this rule is Copa do Brasil (Brazil Cup).
The away goals rule is sometimes used in round robin competitions (that is, leagues or qualifying groups), where it may be used to break ties involving more than two teams. For example, away goals are the third tiebreaker in the group stage of both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup. In Group C of the UEFA Champions League 2000–01, Olympique Lyonnais took the second qualifying spot ahead of Olympiacos on away goals. Because other tiebreakers take precedence, the away goals rule is rarely invoked in such tournaments. In many group tournaments, the away goals rule is never applicable; for example, in World Cup qualification.
The away goals rule was first applied in the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup when Budapest Honvéd beat Dukla Prague in the second round in 1965–66. It was introduced in the Fairs Cup in 1966–67, and in the European Cup in 1967–68 for the first round, 1968–69 for the second round, and 1970–71 for later rounds. Previously, ties level on aggregate had gone to a playoff on neutral ground.
If the two clubs contesting a two-legged fixture share the same stadium, each club may be the home club in one leg, and the rule may still apply. For example, the 2003 UEFA Champions League Semi-Finals drew Inter Milan and AC Milan together. Both legs were played at the San Siro, their shared stadium in Milan:
- First leg: AC Milan 0 – 0 Inter Milan
- Second leg: Inter Milan 1 – 1 AC Milan
With an aggregate of 1–1, AC Milan was declared the winner because they were the "away" side in the second game. In this example, as in many such cases, most tickets for each leg will be reserved for the "home" side's fans, so the designation was not totally arbitrary. The same happened in the 2009 Copa Sudamericana, in which Rio de Janeiro's Flamengo and Fluminense played both matches in Maracanã Stadium. After a scoreless tie in first leg, a 1-1 draw in the second caused Fluminense to go forward for being the "away club".
- First leg: Fluminense FC 0 – 0 CR Flamengo
- Second leg: CR Flamengo 1 – 1 Fluminense FC
Not all competitions with the away goals rule suffer from this anomaly, however: the Copa do Brasil has developed its rules to avoid some anomalies, such as the above. In that Cup, if two teams share either the same stadium or the same home town, neither is considered the home club and thus the away goals rule does not apply. This exception was seen, for example, in the 2006 final between Flamengo and Vasco, when both legs were played at the Maracanã Stadium.
More anomalous was a qualification play-off for the 1991 World Youth Championship between Australia and Israel: Australia won on away goals even though, due to security concerns arising from the First Intifada, Israel's "home" leg was played in Australia. The same situation occurred in the 2010 FIFA World Cup qualification tie between the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands, when the Bahamas advanced on the away goals rule even though both legs were played in the Bahamas.
There has been at least one case of a wrong application of the away goals rule by a referee in an international club tournament. It happened in a second-round tie in the 1971–72 European Cup Winners' Cup between Rangers and Sporting Clube de Portugal. This fixture had the following scorelines:
- First leg: Rangers 3 – 2 Sporting
- Second leg, after 90 minutes: Sporting 3 – 2 Rangers
- Second leg, after extra time: Sporting 4 – 3 Rangers
Since the teams were now level 6–6 on aggregate, the Dutch referee Laurens van Raavens ordered a penalty shootout, which Sporting won 3–0. Rangers appealed the loss, however, on the grounds that Van Raavens should not have ordered the shootout, since the Rangers goal in extra time in Lisbon gave them a lead of three away goals to two. Rangers won the appeal and went on to win the Cup Winners' Cup that season.
CONCACAF has a different rule for its CONCACAF Champions League, employing away goals at the end of full-time of the second leg, but not applying the rule at the end of extra time. MLS adopted this version of the rule for its playoffs in 2014. For example, the semifinal of the 2008–09 CONCACAF Champions League between Cruz Azul and the Puerto Rico Islanders had the following scorelines:
- First leg: Puerto Rico Islanders 2 – 0 Cruz Azul
- Second leg, after 90 minutes: Cruz Azul 2 – 0 Puerto Rico Islanders
- Second leg, after extra time: Cruz Azul 3 – 1 Puerto Rico Islanders
Since CONCACAF does not apply the away goals rule for goals scored after extra time, the game went to a penalty shootout, which Cruz Azul won 4–2.
Below is a summary of the variations of rules used in different competitions. In most examples in the table below, a penalty shootout is used to determine the winner if all criteria used remain tied. The exception is Primera División de México play-offs, where the higher seed, which has the better regular season record, wins the tie if the aggregate score is level.
|Away goals rule applied after regulation time?||Extra time played?||Away goals rule applied after extra time?||Examples|
|Yes||Yes||Yes||FIFA World Cup qualification
UEFA Champions League and Europa League
|Yes||Yes||No||CONCACAF Champions League and MLS Cup Playoffs
AFC Champions League and AFC Cup
|Yes||No||N/A||Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana (except finals)
CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup
Liga MX play-offs (except final)
|No||Yes||Yes||Football League Cup semi-finals|
|No||Yes||No||Football League play-off semi-finals|
- For example: IFAB (July 2007). "Procedures to determine the winner of a match or home-and-away" (PDF). Laws of the Game 2007/2008. Zurich: FIFA. p. 54. Archived from the original on 25 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-08. "Away Goals: Competition rules may provide that where teams play each other home and away, if the scores are equal after the second match, any goals scored at the ground of the opposing team will count double."
- For example, after a 1–1 draw away from home: "Reds away goal delights Benitez". Liverpool: BBC. 2008-04-02. Archived from the original on 7 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-18. "We are in a good position ... The away goal is always important in the Champions League."
- Kevin McCarra at the Bernabeu Stadium (2003-04-09). "Real Madrid 3 - 1 Manchester United | Soccer". The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
- "BBC SPORT | Soccer | Europe | Bayern M 2-1 R Madrid (agg 4-4)". BBC News. 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
- Peter Shard (2013-04-29). "Dortmund, Bayern resist the pitfalls of complacency | Soccer". BDlive. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
- "BBC SPORT | Soccer | Europe | Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona". BBC News. 2005-03-08. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
- "Major League Soccer to introduce away-goals rule for first time in 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs". Major League Soccer. 2014-03-07. Retrieved 2014-03-20.
- "Regulations of the UEFA Champions League 2006–07, Rule 4.05" (PDF). UEFA. March 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-11. "If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings:
- a) higher number of points obtained in the group matches played among the teams in question;
- b) superior goal difference from the group matches played among the teams in question;
- c) higher number of goals scored away from home in the group matches played among the teams in question;
- d) superior goal difference from all group matches played;
- e) higher number of goals scored in all group matches played;
- f) higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons."
- "Regulations of the UEFA Cup 2006–07, Rule 4.06" (PDF). UEFA. March 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-11. "If two or more teams are equal on points on completion of the group matches, the following criteria are applied to determine the rankings:
- a) superior goal difference from all group matches played;
- b) higher number of goals scored;
- c) higher number of goals scored away;
- d) higher number of wins;
- e) higher number of away wins;
- f) higher number of coefficient points accumulated by the club in question, as well as its association, over the previous five seasons."
- Slavík, Jirí; Karel Stokkermans (2004-04-15). "UEFA European Competitions 2000–01: UEFA Champions League 2000–01: Group C". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 5 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-26.
- Regulations, 2006 FIFA World Cup, page 6: "In the league system the ranking in each group is determined as follows:
- (a) greater number of points obtained in all the group matches;
- (b) greater number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
- (c) goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
- (d) greater number of goals scored in the group matches between the teams concerned;
- (e) goal difference in all the group matches;
- (f) greater number of goals scored in all the group matches;
- (g) a play-off on neutral ground."
- Zea, Antonio; Marcel Haisma (2008-01-09). "European Champions' Cup and Fairs' Cup 1966–67 – Details". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 9 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- Zea, Antonio; Marcel Haisma (2008-01-09). "European Champions' Cup and Fairs' Cup 1967–68 – Details". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 9 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- Zea, Antonio; Marcel Haisma (2008-01-09). "European Champions' Cup and Fairs' Cup 1968–69 – Details". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 9 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- "Cruyff pulls the strings". UEFA. 2006-01-01. Archived from the original on 23 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- Ross, James (2007-06-21). "European Competitions 1964–65". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 19 June 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-06.
- "Oceania U-20 World Cup 1991 Qualifiers". Rsssf.com. 2002-08-10. Retrieved 2013-10-18.
- Bermuda and Bahamas march on, FIFA.com