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At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, referees are adding extra time to games. Lots of it.

Brazilian referee Raphael Claus gestures during the Qatar 2022 World Cup soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Monday. Claus added 29 minutes of stoppage time to the game - part of a growing trend at this tournament.
Paul Ellis
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AFP via Getty Images
Brazilian referee Raphael Claus gestures during the Qatar 2022 World Cup soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Monday. Claus added 29 minutes of stoppage time to the game - part of a growing trend at this tournament.

DOHA, Qatar — Something different is happening at the 2022 World Cup. Teams are playing longer. A lot longer.

A typical soccer game is 90-minutes of regulation with two 45-minute halves. Unlike basketball or football, the referee keeps the time on the field and can add time for stoppages like injuries, substitutions and celebrations after goals.

In World Cups of the past, a referee might tack on three or four minutes to a half. But this World Cup is different. During Monday's England-Iran game, the referee added 15 minutes to the first half (largely because of an injury to the Iranian goalkeeper) and then another 14-minutes to the second half.

The Netherlands-Senegal game got 11 extra minutes in the second half, according to official match statistics. In the U.S.-Wales match, the referee added 11 minutes at the end of the game. Argentina-Saudi Arabia played 14 minutes beyond regulation in their second half.

There's a reason for these changes. FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, wants to make sure that every minute of competition should be played on the field and not be lost because of a delay.

"The World Cup is the most important tournament on earth," said Pierluigi Collina, chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee during a news conference in Doha.

FIFA Referees Committee chairman Pierluigi Collina addresses a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center in Doha on Friday, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament.
Anne-Christine Poujoulat / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
FIFA Referees Committee chairman Pierluigi Collina addresses a press conference at the Qatar National Convention Center in Doha on Friday, ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football tournament.

He said the 129 match officials working the 64 games of the World Cup have been given a simple message: "We recommended our referees to be very accurate in calculating the time to be added at the end of each half to compensate to time lost due to a specific kind of incident."

This includes, Collina said, adding time for injury treatment, substitutions, penalty kicks, red cards and, particularly, lengthy celebrations after goals.

"Imagine in a half there are two, three goals scored. So it's easy to lose three, four, five minutes, only for a goal celebration. This time has to be considered and compensated at the end."

Collina said they did the same thing in Russia four years ago at the last World Cup. But the stoppage times added in Qatar so far are indeed more — leading to games lasting longer and excitement to the very end.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.