Ranking the Best Overtime Rules in North American Sports

Photo Credit: Eurosport

Overtime is both one of the most stressful and one of the most structurally important aspects of Sports in North America.

The NCAA and pro sports leagues need to ensure that their overtime rules are exciting, practical, safe and above all, fair. Some organizations figured out how to best format their overtime rules for both the regular and postseasons, while others employ completely impractical processes.

Below I will rank the overtime formats of the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, and NCAA football from worst to best. Overtime rules between the NBA and NCAA Basketball are very similar, so college basketball will be grouped with the NBA.

5. MLB 

Sorry baseball fans, but extra innings in major league baseball has become quite a bit of a chore.

In the postseason the stress of every single at-bat being critical makes it a lot more watchable, but in the regular season, extra innings are truly hurting the game. As it is, baseball has an issue of games becoming far too long, resulting in a decrease in overall viewership, and extra innings are just adding to that already lengthy run time.

The MLB needs to add an extra layer to extra innings in the regular season, such as starting with a certain amount of outs with runners already on base. I’m not saying that this example is the answer, but something needs to be done to speed up the process.

4. NFL

There are two huge issues with overtime in the National Football League—it doesn’t allow for equal opportunity and it allows for ties. No matter what kind of game it is or who the teams are, both teams should get a chance with the ball in overtime, no exceptions.

Too often do we see the team that starts with the football drive down and score a touchdown to end the game without allowing an opportunity for the other team to respond. The Patriots’ Super Bowl 51 win and the Saints week three win over the Falcons come to mind in this regard.

The other issue with overtime is that it allows for ties. Let’s be real—unless you’re a soccer fan, ties are one of the most annoying things that can happen in sports. Without point based standings, NFL ties might as well just be losses for both teams. The NFL helped contribute to the likelihood of ties taking place by shortening overtime to only 10 minutes and it’s hurting the quality of the game.

3. NBA/NCAA Basketball 

Both professional and collegiate basketball have a respectable and efficient overtime system. They may not be as exciting as the top two selections on our list, but they work and don’t require any chance. Five minutes allows an opportunity for both sides while also ensuring that the game doesn’t extend too long.

2. NCAA Football 

College football overtime is an absolute joy. Not only is it an absolute thrill, but it’s also far superior to the format used in the NFL.

Both teams get a chance with the ball, allowing for equal opportunity to score. This is enhanced by the fact that both sides start at the 25-yard line in enemy territory.

Many like to criticize the fact that teams aren’t forced to drive the length of the field, but this doesn’t mean overtime wins aren’t earned. Great teams make great plays in situational football and the NCAA’s overtime format tests teams with situational football given both defenses are backed up. The NCAA has also ensured that shootouts won’t go on too long by forcing teams to go for two starting at the third overtime.

1. NHL

You don’t even have to be a hockey fan to understand just how stressful overtime is in the National Hockey League.

The NHL’s extra time format is the most efficient, exciting, and above all the smartest of all North American overtimes. The three on three format during the regular season ensures that its games don’t go on for too long by giving the players extra open space. In the worst case scenario, the game can be decided with a shootout to ensure player safety.

On the other side of things, the NHL ensured that playoff periods remain 20 minutes long with five skaters on each team, forcing teams to truly ‘earn’ a win in the postseason.

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