Aggregate Score in Soccer (How it Works and When it is Used)
While watching soccer matches on TV, you'll often hear commentators talk about the aggregate score, among other soccer terms.
Commentators will mention how crucial it is for the away team to come away from the tie with a goal or two.
In the build-up to big matches, teams, journalists, and fans all make reference to the it and how away goals could be a deciding factor in who comes out on top.
Just what exactly is an 'aggregate score' in soccer and how does it work?
Let's take a look!
What is an Aggregate Score in Soccer?
Simply put, it is the combined scoreline between two teams after playing each other twice.
The combined score from the two matches determines the overall winner and the outcome of the tie.
This form of scoring doesn't occur in every soccer competition.
It's usually seen in knockout tournaments or cup competitions which feature two-legged ties.
These include among others:
World Cup Qualifying Rounds
UEFA Champions League
AFC Champions League
CONCACAF Champions League
Liga MX play-offs (except the final)
Aggregate scoring is often used in knockout competitions to give both teams the fairest possible chance of advancing.
Here, teams have to play each other twice.
This gives each team the opportunity to face each other at their home stadiums, in front of their own fans.
Home teams are often said to have a psychological advantage due to the fan support in-stadium.
They would also have a physiological edge as they don't have to travel so far for the game.
Deciding the result of the tie on just one match would heavily favour one team (home team) over the other (away team).
Consequently, what seems to be the fairest way to split a tie is aggregating the score -- with both teams playing one home leg and one away leg each.
While this may sound simple enough, things can get complicated when applying the the away goal rule.
What is the Away Goal Rule?
While the away goal rule isn't always applied – again, depending on the competition – it is still well worth understanding.
What is an Away Goal?
Away goals are those scored by the away (or visiting) team.
In the away goal rule, these goals weigh more as these are often considered more difficult to score.
The rule helps determine the winner if the scoreline remains tied after two games, on aggregate -- without the need for a third game.
Applying this rule means that the team who has scored the most away goals over the two games is the winner of the tie.
This rule can make ties more dramatic as it can completely change the nature of the game.
How it Affects Teams
The rule also encourages the away team to be more aggressive and hunt for goals, as these may very well decide who makes it to the next round.
This should also, theoretically, make for a more exciting game.
However, this rule has often seen home teams play more conservatively to avoid giving up all important away goals.
The Away Goals Rule in Different Leagues
While the rule helps make games more exciting, debates remain as to whether it is the fairest way to break a two-legged tie.
For example, UEFA has recently scrapped the rule for all its club competitions from the start of the 2021-2022 season.
These include the Champions League and the Europa League.
On the other hand, competitions such as the FIFA World Cup Qualifying, the AFC Champions League, and the Copa Libertadores still opt to use the rule.
Not all these leagues, however, apply the away goals rule the same way.
Though the rule applies to all away goals scored in regular time, some of these leagues extend the rule to cover extra time.
All the ties still go to a penalty shootout if the aggregate score and all the criteria used are still tied at the end.
To help clarify things, let's look at some examples of aggregate scores both with and without the away goals rule.
Examples of Aggregate Scores Used in Soccer
As we've seen, things can sometimes get a bit complicated when it comes to tallying up the final scoreline in knockout competitions.
These examples should help clarify things!
Example 1: Team A Advances
In the first game Team A beats Team B 4 -1.
In the second game Team B wins 2 – 0.
The score on aggregate is Team A 4 – 3 Team B.
This means Team A wins on aggregate and advances through to the next round.
Example 2: Team B Advances
In this scenario both teams draw the first leg of the tie 1 – 1.
In the second leg of the tie, Team B just edges out Team A by 1 goal to 0.
The aggregate scoreline is then Team A 1 – 2 Team B.
Here, Team B progresses through to the next round.
Example 3: Team A Advances through Away Goals
In the first leg of the tie, Team A plays at home and beats Team B 2–0.
In the second game, Team B, now playing at home, wins 3 – 1 against Team A.
Although the aggregate score ends up 3 – 3, Team A advances to the next round.
This is courtesy of their sole away goal, the only one scored by either of the teams across the two matches.
Example 4: Team B Advances through Away Goals
In the first leg of the competition, Team A playing at home beats Team B 3 – 2.
In the reverse leg of the fixture, Team B then beats Team A 2 – 1.
While the aggregate scoreline is 4 – 4, Team B progresses thanks to scoring one more away goal than Team A.
Well, there you have it, everything you need to know about the aggregate score in soccer and how it works both with and without the away goal ruling.
It is still considered by many to be the fairest way over two legs of a tie to determine an overall winner.
In addition, the away goals rule adds an interesting dynamic to the game with unlikely results and unexpected comebacks.
While it can get a bit confusing, aggregate scores and away goals are an essential part of soccer today.