What Does “Agg” Mean in Soccer?

A soccer player in a green jersey with his arms raised after winning a goal against the opposing team.

You will sometimes hear the word “aggregate” in soccer. If you’re new to the sport, the term won’t really mean much. 

However, as you watch more games and dive deeper into the fandom, you may want to learn this game.

What Exactly is Aggregate Score Line?

In short, an aggregate scoreline is the combined scoreline between two teams that have faced each other two times, each playing on the court of another once.

The combined scoreline determines the winner of the game.

Combining the scores is something not seen in many other sports. “On aggregate” is something that is only seen in soccer.

How Does an Aggregate Works in Soccer?

In soccer, the aggregate score is just adding the scoreline of two games between two teams. 

Game 1: Team A 2–1 Team B

Game 2: Team A 1–3 Team B

Aggregate Score: Team A 3–4 Team B

Team B wins.

Various soccer tournaments use aggregate scoring to ensure that both teams have a fair chance since a single game is a bit low on the sample size.

Here are some of the most popular leagues that use the aggregate format:

  • FIFA World Cup qualifying rounds
  • UEFA Champions League
  • MLS conference rounds
  • Cope Libertadores

Soccer players mid action, battling for the win in a tiebreaker match.

What Does Aggregate Means for Teams?

Basically, both teams will play with their previous scores in mind. If Team A won 2–1, then Team B should be able to score one goal more than the other team just to tie.

If in the first game, a team was able to get away, like score 5 goals to 1, then that would effectively put the losing team at a severe disadvantage in their next meeting. They need to score 4 more goals.

This rids the notion that the second game is more important than the first. The first game is just as important, just without the added pressure of knowing what’s on the line, unlike in the second game.

Why is Aggregate Used in Soccer?

The answer is simple. It’s to give a fair chance for each team. While one game is sometimes enough to see which team is better, having more sample games to consider is always superior.

I don’t like using the term “lucky” in sports, but sometimes, teams just get “lucky” in one game and return to their form the next game.

More games mean more chances of seeing which team is better. 

Most leagues that use the aggregate system will take it even further and give each team 1 home game. This is to further level the playing field. 

It’s known that the home team performs marginally better in their home court. This is evident in all sports. The added psychological and physiological advantage of a home game is definitely worth at least a few percentages of improvements in performance. There’s actually data that supports this.

What Do You Do If There’s a Tie?

A soccer player in a yellow jersey about to kick the ball toward the goal for a winning aim to break the tie.

Now that we know what aggregate scoring is, we go to a controversial rule that is attached to aggregate scoring.

The away goal rule is one of the first 3 tie-breaker rules in knockout football (ones that use aggregate scoring). 

Considering that soccer is a pretty low-scoring game, there are bound to be tie games. Even with 2 games, there will still be ties. It is a common occurrence, actually. Let’s say Team A won 2–1 then lost the next game 1–2. That’s 3–3 which is a tie for both teams.

Because of this scenario, leagues use 3 tie-breaker rules. The two tie-breaker rules are extra time and penalty shootouts.

In this article, we’re only going over the away goal rule.

What is the Away Goal Rule?

The most basic way I can put it is away goals are worth more than home goals.

This is due to the rationale that scoring in away games seem to be more difficult for teams, hence, it’s worth more.

There are many scenarios in which the away goal rule would be applied. You can even imagine one yourself right now.

It’s super straightforward, though. The team that scores more away goals will win in aggregate.

What Happens if Away Goals are Tied for Both Teams?

This is where the other tiebreakers come into play.

They will be given extra time. 

But this is the part where it gets tricky. Applying the away goal rule means that the home team will always be at a disadvantage. A goal scored against the home team in extra time means they need to score more goals to win the game.

Controversies of the Goal Away Rule

Two soccer players colliding with each other as they compete for the goal during a final tiebreaking match.

In the case of a tiebreaker, the home team in the second game will be at a disadvantage. 

Think of it this way, the first home game is played only for 90 minutes. In case of a tie aggregate scoreline, the second home game will be played for 120 minutes. That’s 30 minutes extra scoring time for the away team.

As you can see, this isn’t fair for the home team in the second game.

Alternative for the Goal Away Rule

Just this year, UEFA decided to remove the goal-away rule for tiebreakers.

Starting the 2021–22 season, they will just use extra time—two 15-minute periods of extra time.

In case the score is still tied after the extra time, they would then proceed to a penalty shootout. The team that scores the most goals would win the match.

Since the goal-away rule is not anymore used to settle a tie, it will also be removed as a qualifying criterion when ranking teams.

It seems like many teams are going to follow suit since the goal-away rule does not make sense anymore.

Is the Goal-Away Rule Going Away?

It seems to be going in that direction, yes.

This is partly because home games today don’t carry as much weight as they used to.

Back in the day, away teams won’t receive a good reception in their away games because that’s just the way things were then. They would be given very basic comfort whenever they’re in an away game.

They would be given just the absolute basic accommodation which applies to food, transportation, lodging, and other things. You can imagine the effect it has on their performance.

But with the travel and lodging being standardized by league committees, the advantage of home games seems to be fading away. As such, it also follows that away goals be graded relative to this trend.

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