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If you are new to Ultimate Frisbee, one of the questions you might have is how long is an Ultimate Frisbee game?

While it seems like this would be a pretty straightforward answer, it is actually a little more complex than you would think. 

Many sports are played against a time clock, where when the time runs out, the team with the most points is declared the winner.

This is not the case for Ultimate Frisbee.

While the game is being timed, there are several factors that go into determining the length of a game, and each game you play may end up being a little different depending on how quickly or slowly points are scored.

We are going to explore these factors in depth so you have a better understand what to expect. 

How long is an Ultimate Frisbee game?

A typical game of Ultimate Frisbee is played to 15 points and usually lasts up to 1 and a half hours.

While this is the general guideline, however, the length of the game is actually determined by several different factors. 

The length of an Ultimate Frisbee game can either be set by a time limit or by a point cap.

Before the game begins, a game total is determined, which is the number of points required to win the game.

As previously mentioned, the game total is typically 15 points. 

A game is won when a team meets or exceeds the game total, but they must have a margin of at least two goals or reach the cap

We are going to unpack this a little more to get a better understanding of what this means. 

Two-point margin

In order to win an Ultimate Frisbee game, a team not only has to reach the game total, but they also have to be leading by a two-point margin.

In the case of the game being played to 15 points, a team would win with 15 points only if the other team had 13 points or less, thus meaning they had a two or more-point margin.

This does not occur in every case, though. If the leading team had 15 points, but the other team had 14 points, then the leading team would not be declared the winner because they do not have a two-point margin.

In this case, another point would be added to the game total, meaning the leading team will win if they score 16 points while the other team stays at 14. 

In the case where neither team is able to get two points ahead of the other, a point cap comes into play instead.

The cap

Before the game begins, a cap—or a maximum score limit—is set to help limit the amount of time it would take to declare a winner.

The game ends when one team reaches the game cap.

There are two types of caps to help determine the winner of the game: a point cap and a time cap.

Point cap

A point cap is simply the maximum score limit that is determined before the start of the game.

In the case of a game played to 15, the point cap is usually 17. 

As discussed previously, if a team reaches 15 points but does not have a two-point margin, the game total is extended to 16.

If the team with 14 points scores before the leading team can make it to 16 points, the game total is extended again to 17 to allow for the two-point margin.

This officially take the score up to the point cap.

This is put into place so that the game does not continue on for an undetermined amount of time.

In this case, the team that reaches the point cap of 17 is automatically the winner regardless of the two-point margin, which is done for the sake of ending the game.

Time cap

A winner can also be determined by a time cap. This comes into play when two teams are reasonably well-matched and it appears that it will take quite a while for either of them to make it to 15 points.

For example, if the score is 11-10 and an hour has already passed, the time cap would take effect. 

There are two types of time caps: a soft cap and a hard cap.

Both soft and hard cap times are determined before the start of the game, either by the team captains or the tournament organizers depending on what level you are playing at.

For the sake of explanation though, we will use the example that the soft cap for a game is 60 minutes and the hard cap is 70 minutes. 

A soft cap is a maximum score limit that is enforced when a predetermined amount of time has passed.

If the teams are in the middle of a scoring attempt when this predetermined time passes, they are allowed to finish their attempt before the soft cap takes effect. 

For example, if the score is only 12-11 but 60 minutes have already passed, then the soft cap would take effect.

Now instead of needing to get to 15 points, the winning team will only need to win by a margin of two points no matter what their final score is.

So in this case, a team can win with a final score of 13-11 or 14-12. Once soft cap is in play, the game will continue for ten minutes. 

If 10 minutes have passed and neither team has taken a two-point lead, then hard cap comes into play.

Once again, this takes effect after the current scoring attempt has been completed.

A hard cap is the end of the game after a predetermined amount of time has passed.

Once the team reaches the hard cap, the team with the most points is declared the winner regardless of the two-point margin.

In our example, the hard cap is 70 minutes.

Once the game play reaches 70 minutes, the leading team is determined the winner.

If the score is still 12-11 from when the soft cap was called, the team with 12 points wins the game even though they were only leading by one point.

The exception would be if the scores are tied.

In this case, the game would go into overtime until one of the teams scored, making that team the winner. 

Half time

In Ultimate Frisbee, halftime is determined by the number of points that have been scored rather than on how much time has passed.

Halftime occurs when one of the team’s scores meets or exceeds half of the game total.

For a game that is played to 15 points, halftime would begin when one of the teams scores their eighth point.

Once halftime starts, it lasts 10 minutes. 

There can also be a time cap on half time. As with the point and time caps, the half time cap is predetermined by officials and can vary based on which organization you are playing through. 

For example, The World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) set their halftime cap at 55 minutes.

If 55 minutes has passed and neither team has yet reached 8 points, the half time cap takes effect.

One goal is added to the leading team’s score to determine the new half time cap target.

Game play continues until the team reaches this modified cap, and then halftime begins.

For example, if the score is 6-4 when the gameplay time reaches 55 minutes, then the new halftime cap target would be set at 7.

Once the team, reaches 7 points, halftime begins. 

Time outs

Time outs are not included in the official gameplay time. If a team calls a timeout, gameplay stops and the official time count does as well. 

In a standard game, each team is allotted two timeouts per half and one timeout in overtime.

Each timeout is a maximum of 70 seconds long. 

Because the time count stops during timeouts, this time is not included in the up to ninety minute game time and it does not count toward either the soft or hard cap.

Types of Ultimate Frisbee Leagues

While everything laid out so far is the official way to keep score and keep time for Ultimate Frisbee, the length of the game can also be determined by the organization you are playing with or the level of the game.

If you are playing in a smaller league or a recreational league, there can be some variance.

For example, Ultimate Frisbee is played recreationally as part of college intramurals.

In this case, each college may have different rules for how they structure games.

It is unlikely that a college intramural team will play for ninety minutes because there are typically multiple games played per night and they are just playing for fun.

In this case, games are often played with a specific time limit, and halftime starts at the midpoint of that time limit rather than being determined by the score.

For instance, if a total game time limit is 40 minutes, the game would be divided into two 20-minute halves, and it does not matter what the score is at halftime. 

If you are playing under an official organization such as USA Ultimate, though, the rules explained in this article are standard practice and exactly what you can expect.

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