Can Lacrosse Games End in a Tie? (3 Facts You Should Know)


In sporting bouts, there is typically a clear victor at the end of the game. Sometimes, however, there is the possibility that the game ends in a tie. For those that are unfamiliar with lacrosse, the possibility of whether or not a game could end in a tie is unknown to them.

It is possible for lacrosse games to end in a tie depending on the league or tournament rules. However, the majority of lacrosse games continue on into overtime if the score is tied after regulation. High school and collegiate games have a sudden death overtime, according to the NFHS and NCAA.

There are several peculiar methods that lacrosse games are decided in the event of a tie. Read on to discover more about these bizarre overtime methods and exactly how they come into play.

Circumstances Where Lacrosse Games Could End in a Tie

As aforementioned, the majority of lacrosse games do incorporate some sort of overtime in case there is a tie. Nonetheless, there are certain exceptions to the rule. After searching around a bit online, I found several examples of where games were allowed to end in a tie.

In the 3d Lacrosse Boys Tournament, for example, qualifying games that ended in a tie after regulation time would transition into a four minute sudden death overtime. If the game remained tied after these four minutes, the game would end as a tie (source).

I suspect the reason for this is that the tournament is on a strict schedule. Tournament games cannot afford to be delayed any longer than they need to be. Since the qualifying games don’t matter nearly as much as the actual tournament playoffs, it makes the most sense to just have them end in a tie.

If you’ve ever been to a lacrosse tournament, you know that as soon as a lacrosse game is over, the next game starts immediately afterwards. Tournament coordinators do not like to waste time when it comes to game scheduling.

In another example, a lacrosse association operating in Minnesota called Edina Lacrosse states that any general youth league game that ends in a tie will remain as a tie (source). Again, this is likely to keep the games on schedule since lacrosse associations only have a certain amount of time on the field before they’re forced to leave.

Take note that ties are typically only reserved for recreational tournaments, pick up leagues, or youth play. Ties are considered more of a rarity during formal lacrosse play at the high school and collegiate level because they defer to the stringent guidelines provided by the NFHS and NCAA. Since this is the format where the majority of lacrosse players take part in, people are mistakenly led to believe that ties never happen in lacrosse.

How Overtime Works in Lacrosse

Even though the majority lacrosse games integrate some version of overtime into their game format, there are several forms that overtime can take depending on the league.

Fact #1: Standard Lacrosse Games Have a Sudden Death Overtime

The most popular version of overtime in lacrosse games is sudden death. With this type of overtime, gameplay is extended for a specified amount of time. Whichever team scores first within this overtime period wins the game outright.

Overtime play continues in the same standard format that was used during regulation time. If it’s field lacrosse, the 10v10 format remains. If it’s box lacrosse, the 6v6 format remains. The only noticeable difference in gameplay is the length of the overtime period.

The exact timeframe of this overtime period varies based on the lacrosse league and the context of the game. Typically, playoff games carry more stringent overtime rules than general league play and have longer overtime periods as a result.

Take NXT Lacrosse for example. The sudden death overtime periods are only four minutes long for general league play, but are eight minutes long for the championship game (source). This type of tiered overtime format is standard for most lacrosse tournaments and recreational leagues.

For NFHS and NCAA lacrosse, sudden death overtime periods last four minutes and continue until there is a clear victor. If multiple sudden death overtime periods are needed, there will be a two minute intermission between each overtime period (source 1 & source 2). These rules are enforced to preserve a sense of universal ruling at the high school and collegiate level.

Fact #2: Informal Lacrosse Games Use a Braveheart to Decide Overtime

Furthermore, there is also a form of overtime in lacrosse called a Braveheart.

A Braveheart is a unique style of overtime play that involves a one-on-one matchup between teams to decide the outcome of the game. It’s a more fun and quicker variant of sudden victory overtime that is especially popular at the youth level. For these reasons, Braveheart is a favorite overtime format of tournament coordinators.

This type of overtime format is not utilized for what are considered more formal lacrosse occasions. Often times, the Braveheart is reserved for fun tournaments where the competitive stakes are not so serious.

Coaches select whoever their best player is and pit them them against the best player from the other team. A player from any position can be selected for the Braveheart. In addition to these two players, the goalkeepers on each respective side play out there as well. The team that strikes first comes away with the victory.

The specific rules of the Braveheart format vary from league to league, like the rules regarding how penalties are handled for instance. Nonetheless, the overall nature of the Braveheart remains the same.

To see how an actual Braveheart is played out, click on the video below! I have to say that even I occasionally get goosebumps when I watch a Braveheart. The suspense can get too overwhelming at times!

Fact #3: Sudden Death and Braveheart Can Be Used in Conjunction to Decide Overtime

A combination of sudden death and Braveheart can also be used to decide the outcome of a lacrosse game during overtime. Rather than sticking to one specific overtime format over another, they utilize both if need be.

For example, if a game ends in a tie during regulation time in NXT lacrosse, the game immediately shifts into a four minute long sudden death overtime. If there is still no clear victor after these four minutes, then the overtime format shifts into a Braveheart to get the game moving along (source).

This offers a nice change of pace to the game while still making overtime lively. Players can grow complacent if the game seems monotonous. Switching up overtime formats is an ideal way to keep players engaged.

Do Lacrosse Games Go Into Overtime Often?

Generally, only a low percentage of lacrosse games ever make it into overtime. Fortunately, the majority of lacrosse games are decided within regulation time. Throughout my playing career, I only took part in a handful of overtime lacrosse games. Though I must say, those games were among the most memorable.

If you play lacrosse long enough, you’re bound to participate in an overtime game at one point or another. I would dare say that it’s almost like a rite of passage in lacrosse. Every experienced lacrosse player has participated in an overtime game at least once in their career.

There are outliers of course, but I’m speaking for the majority here. In short, don’t be surprised if you run into an overtime lacrosse bout some time in the near future.

What Rules Does Your Lacrosse League Play By?

In order to determine whether or not ties are possible in your lacrosse league, you’ll have to check the overtime rules out for yourself, especially if it’s a recreational league.

If you’re playing in a NFHS sanctioned lacrosse game, it is likely that overtime is present in some way, shape, or form. NFHS lacrosse events go straight by the book and they typically like to have a clear victor at the end of the day. The rules only really get murky with lacrosse leagues or tournaments that are hosted outside of the NFHS, through club organizations for example.

Even if you don’t know the particulars about whether or not the lacrosse league you’re playing with has overtime, I wouldn’t bother diving into the research unless absolutely necessary. After all, nobody really worries about the overtime rules until the game ends up tied after regulation. Even then, as long as you have a basic understanding of how overtime is played in lacrosse, you’ll do just fine.

The Bottom Line

Lacrosse games don’t often end in ties, but it is possible depending on which league you’re in. As a general rule of thumb, the more competitive the league is, the higher the likelihood that it has overtime. Sudden death is the most popular overtime format in lacrosse, but the Braveheart format is also present in some leagues as well.

I must admit that Bravehearts are my favorite overtime format by far. You can’t hope to outmatch a pure one-on-one battle to decide the winner of a game!

Sources: 1 2 3 4 5

Austin Carmody

I am the owner of Lacrosse Pack. I enjoy hitting the local lacrosse fields and honing in on the craft in my free time.

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