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Soccer Fans, What Are Your Favorite Kick-Off Times?

Anfield View

My first professional game I ever attended was a mid-week night game on a cold night in Wales. The floodlights could be seen from miles away and they seemed to light up the pitch and turn the color of the grass into a different shade of green.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen plenty of professional games in person whether they’ve been late at night, early afternoon or a late afternoon kick-off. Each has its pluses and minuses. A match that kicks off at 7:30pm on a summer’s night is perfect to see the sun setting in the distance. A lunchtime kick-off has the advantage of seeming like the whole day is still ahead of you even after the final whistle blows. A late evening kick-off in the autumn or winter can make the atmosphere feel electric as the dark sky helps divert the attention to everything that’s lit up by the floodlights, from the wet ball reflecting from the electric lights to the flares and smoke that light up the night.

On television, it’s a completely different experience. If I calculated at what times I’ve seen games on the box, it would probably be kickoffs at any hour of the day from the World Cup games in the middle of the night during the summer of 2002 to the early morning kick-offs we’re accustomed to watching the Premier League and then throughout the entire day.

Having said that, there are definitely times when I’m not a big fan of watching soccer either in person or on television. I’ve experienced far too many mid-day games in-person in South Florida where the heat has killed the game both on and off the field. On television, depending on the time of the year and the weather, I’ve watched plenty of 3pm GMT kick-offs that have been ruined by the massive shadow that is cast across the pitch by the roof of the stadium. It can often be a frustrating experience trying to watch those games and it really ruins the match at times.

I also remember once watching a game on television where the match came to a halt because the floodlights failed. Luckily, the organizers were able to get the floodlights working except for one, and the game itself then carried on but it looked pretty surreal watching it because there were parts of the pitch that weren’t very visible as usual. I also remember watching the Cuba against United States game a couple of years ago when the floodlights were so poor that it made the experience pretty tough trying to watch the game. Thankfully, these are the exceptions rather than the rule

For me, I much prefer watching night games with a local kick-off time of 7:30pm. Watching games at night, there’s usually a much better atmosphere than a day game. Plus a day game can feel like it takes an eternity for it to start. You wake up and then there’s the long insufferable wait for the game to arrive. So it’s sometimes difficult to find time to go to work or do whatever you need to do during the day time because you know that the game cuts into your day somehow. With a 7:30pm kick-off time, you can get so much accomplished well ahead of the game.

As for television, my favorite time is watching a 7:45am ET game. This way, it’s the first thing I do after I get up and it starts the day on a good note. Then, after it’s done, there’s the whole day ahead of me in case I need to run errands or spend time with the family.

One of the surreal experiences for me was almost four years ago when I went to England to watch Everton play Bolton at Goodison Park. It was a 3pm GMT kick-off time. If I was home, the game would have been shown on television at 10am ET. So my experience of watching that game in England felt so different than what I would have experienced in the States. Not because one was on television and one was in person. More so because the day seemed to drag on for so long as time crept by in anticipation of the 3pm kickoff. And to make matters worse, it was late autumn in England so by the time the game was ready to kick off, it was already beginning to get dark. And when the game ended, the sky was in complete darkness.

But if you had a choice, what for you are the best kick-off times to experience the beautiful game – for both television and in-person? Share your opinions in the comment section below.

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  1. IanCransosnKnees

    July 20, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    For those who aren’t armchair bound it has to be 3pm on a Saturday or 7.45pm midweek, anything else is simply kowtowing to TV in the UK.

    3pm = plenty of time to travel to the match if you’re an exiled home fan or an away fan, plenty of time to travel back. You can fit in drinking etc if you’re that way inclined and make a good day of it.

    Worst times over here are 12pm lunch time kick offs, they make for the dullest most mundane matches, or 5pm kick offs when every body else has finished playing and you’re on simply to satisfy a TV audience.

  2. eplnfl

    July 19, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    Love the early starts in the middle of winter when it’s still dark here in the Midwest. My next choice is actually the late Saturday start at tea time. The week day starts present a problem but you can dvr it and possibly avoid a result before you watch it.

  3. McQueen

    July 19, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    I am with you on evening games…and and those @#$%^& midday/afternoon shadows.

    My wife and I baked in the sun watching the SJ Earthquakes play Tottenham this weekend. BAKED! Why the MLS insists on playing during the summer months, I have no idea. On the plus side, we get football of some sort nearly year-round. The minus: BAKED!

    Evening games here in California are, by far, my favorite. And especially in the fall. Kick-off at 7pm PT. At the pub by 9:30p. What’s not to love?

    • CTBlues

      July 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm

      MLS will never be switch to fall because there is just too many sports going on that would compete with it. In the summer on the other hand all they have is MLB.

  4. Louis M

    July 19, 2010 at 1:36 pm


    Would you know if ESPN3 will have the French Ligue 1? I noticed that it is on the website:

    I could not find it on the ESPN3 website. Has anything been signed?

    • The Gaffer

      July 19, 2010 at 1:41 pm

      Louis, not that I’m aware of. There are a few mistakes on that Wikipedia page I just reviewed, so I wouldn’t trust it 100%. As far as I know, has no plans to show Lique Un at this time.

      The Gaffer

  5. Brandon

    July 19, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    I go to the University of Georgia and our Fall revolves around College Football. In the fall last year we had a lot of night home games so I was able to catch the Arsenal game at 12:30 or 10 and still have plenty of time to head to campus to tailgate. It was great. The spurs game was at 7:45 and usually that would make me upset since I don’t like getting up that early but it worked out because I was in Jacksonville for the GA-Florida game and was leaving to tailgate really early anyway. So I ended up watching the first half and most of the 2nd before I left to tailgate.

  6. Dave C

    July 19, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Hey Gaffer, just to prove I’m not a serial complainer, great article! It’s personal, relatable and kind of quirky.

    Having moved to the US a few years ago, I really love being able to watch premier league games early on Saturday mornings (in fact, being able to watch live games on Saturday, period, is great, unlike in the UK where they generally don’t broadcast live Saturday games). I would love to say I like those early morning games because they give me time to do errands etc afterwards like you said. But lets be honest, the real reason I like the early games is because they give me time to watch ANOTHER game almost immediately afterwards!

    I agree absolutely about the huge shadows of the stadium spoiling some afternoon games. I think St James Pk and Man City’s old stadium are/were both particularly bad for this. I wonder if the problem could be eliminated by putting floodlights on, even if it’s daylight.

    • The Gaffer

      July 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm

      Thanks Dave. I’m glad you enjoyed it. One of the other reasons why I love the early Saturday morning Premier Leagues games is because it reminds me of my childhood rituals on Saturday mornings when I lived in Wales… waking up and watching Football Focus with my cousin.

      And yes, you’re correct. Having an early morning kick-off also makes it so much easier to squeeze the 10am ET game in. And, if I’m lucky, the 12:30pm ET one too.

      Other stadiums that cast a big shadow include the Millennium Stadium and Wembley. I’m not a big fan of watching games televised in those stadiums for that reason.

      The Gaffer

  7. CTBlues

    July 19, 2010 at 9:30 am

    My least favorite start time has to be the 2:45pm EST Tuesday and Wednesday CL starts because it is hard for me to leave work early enough so I can make it to the pub for the match. Second least favorite start time has to be the 7:45am EST. It is just too freakin early. For my friends and I to get to the pub in time for kickoff we have to leave our town at like 7:15am which means getting up at 6:30am or so. I don’t know about most people, but I need my 8 hours and there is no way I can get 8 hours of sleep after hanging out on a Friday night.

    My favorite start time would have to be 12:30pm on Saturdays or 11:00am on Sunday. I also like the MLS game of the week start times either 8pm for an east coast game or 10 for a west coast game.

  8. Matthew Reed

    July 19, 2010 at 7:49 am

    During the domestic seasons, Saturdays are filled with live football. I do look forward to the 6amish (CST) start on ESPN. Family is still asleep and I can get a good uninterrupted hour or 2 of footy watching in. Friday evening SerieA games are also a nice way to start off the football weekend. Finally, I also enjoy watching the championship league game that comes on Sunday evenings as well, although taped.

    1- Sat AM (espn game)
    2 – Friday evening Serie A
    3- Sunday evening Championship League game

    Of course, there really isnt a bad time for a game, now is there?

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