No one wants to see their favourite team record a heavy loss. But as a neutral fan with no skin in the game, when you turn on the TV to watch a soccer match you're always going to be hoping for goals. Whether you're watching the World Cup, the Premier League, or the Bundesliga, you'll generally find that the most entertaining games are the seven or eight-goal thrillers — we're talking about scores like 4-3, 5-5, or even 7-4 (this genuinely happened in the Premier League back in 2017, when Portsmouth beat Reading in a crazy eleven-goal clash at Fratton Park).
But sometimes, things can get out of hand. Whether it's in a knockout cup competition in which a lower league team is punching well above their weight, or an international qualifier that pits a huge nation against a tiny footballing minnow, over the years there have been some serious mismatches on soccer fields across the world. The result? Scorelines that are absolutely nuts.
In this article, we'll be taking you through some of the highest scoring soccer games that have ever been played, taking in some matches from the modern era, and some from years gone by. Ultimately, we'll provide a definitive answer to the question: what is the highest scoring soccer game ever?
Generally speaking, soccer is a low-scoring game, particularly when compared with major US sports such as basketball or American Football. While Kansas City Chiefs beat Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 to win Super Bowl LVII, it only took one goal for Spanish giants Real Madrid to win last year's Champions League final against Liverpool.
However, that doesn't mean there's hardly ever any goals in professional association football — quite the opposite. Read on for a recap of some of the highest scoring games in the history of the sport.
We're gonna ease you into this, because trust me, things get a lot madder than this. And yet, 26-0 - it's a pretty decent win! At the time, Preston North End were an absolute juggernaut of English football, consistently one of the best sides in the country (later on in the 1880s, they'd become the first team to win 'The Double' and become league champions and FA Cup winners in the same season). It was in the latter competition that this result was recorded against Hyde United; while Preston North End were a strong First Division outfit, they faced lower league opposition in Hyde FC, and it's fair to say they made that gulf in quality count. Running out 26-0 winners in the First Round of the FA Cup, Preston North End were the architects of what remains the biggest victory in the competition's history.
From a match in the 19th century to one in the 21st — now, while this was a friendly match, its ridiculous result, and the fact that it happened so recently, means that it's still worth covering. The game was a friendly between La Liga side Villareal (who have recently demonstrated their pedigree by winning the Europa League) and Navata, basically a semi-professional side based in Catalonia (who played in that region's local league). In the match, striker Jonathan Pereira notched a remarkable seven goals, while fellow forwards Joseba Llorente and Ruben Marcos also grabbed a couple each, as did former Arsenal man Robert Pires.
'Next Goal Wins', a recent documentary tracking the process of the tiny Pacific island American Samoa's international football team, was a hit. It's a charming story about a group of young players overcoming the odds and pushing themselves to the limits. However, it takes time to build a competitive football team. And the side that faced Australia at the Aussies' International Sports Stadium on 11th April 2001 certainly were not competitive.
Running out 31-0 winners, Australia set the world record for the biggest victory in an international soccer match. That wasn't the only record broken that day — Archie Thompson scored 13 for the home side to set a personal record for the most goals scored by one player in an international game.
As we saw in Australia's win against American Samoa, there are some teams in the Pacific islands with very limited funds, and a very limited pool of players. Therefore, some of football's highest scoring international games have often involved teams in this region. On that note, we give you the Federated States of Micronesia, a nation with an unfortunate reputation for being "the worst international team on the planet". In the 2015 Pacific Games tournament in which they conceded a remarkable 114 goals across three games, they recorded a 46-0 loss against Vanuata, with their team of Under-23s players crashing out of the tournament disastrously.
Last season, Scottish Championship side Arbroath FC made headlines for almost securing a dramatic promotion that would've made them the first part-time side to ever play in the Scottish Premier League (you can find out more about this story here). However, they've also received plaudits for another event: their whopping victory over newly-formed Scottish side Bon Accord way back in September 1885. To date, it's the largest margin of victory in a genuinely competitive game, aka one that hasn't been thrown (more on this very shortly). Taking place in the first round of the Scottish Cup, it was hosted at Arbroath's Gayfield ground, and has helped build the stadium's reputation for being an extremely tough place to go.
On 7th July 2013, one of the most incredible days of football action in history took place in a league which isn't known to attract huge amounts of outside attention. It was the climax of the season in the lower leagues of Nigerian football, with teams battling it out to win a place in the lowest tier of the professional league, the Nationwide League Division. After chalking up a 6-0 advantage in the first half, Police Machine saw their opponents Bubayaro completely collapse, scoring a succession of own goals that led to a 67-0 loss and strong accusations of match fixing, with the Nigerian Football Federation Organising Committee calling the result "unacceptable" and a "scandal of huge proportions".
However, that wasn't the most surprising result that day. Astoundingly, another game that led to serious allegations of match fixing also took place in the exact same league, on the same day. The match followed the exact same pattern as the previous fixture, with Akurba conceding a staggering 72 goals in the second half, many of which were own goals. Unsurprisingly, after an investigation from Dr Mohammed Sanusi, the NFF's Director of Competitions, all four involved clubs faced serious consequences as a result of the match fixing suspicions – each club was banned for ten years, while all of the players and match officials involved were handed lifetime bans from the game.
Akurba and Bubayaro may have grabbed headlines for their dodgy behaviour in the Nigerian league, but what happened on 31st October 2002 in the Madagascan top flight takes the biscuit. The final fixture of a four-team round-robin style playoff at the climax of the season, this game between AS Adema and Stade Olympique de l'Emyrne took place against an important backdrop: AS Adema had already won the league after securing a draw against SO Emyrne in the previous match. Their opponents were out of the title race, and they were fuming, with the club feeling as though a questionable refereeing decision had cost them the win. Their response? One of the most bizarre protests in soccer history.
In the final game of the season, as soon as the referee blew their whistle the SO Emyrne players started scoring own goals. Again and again, they smashed the ball into their own net, scoring an incredible 149 own goals in 90 minutes (an average of more than one every minute). Adema ran out 149-0 winners, and there were dire consequences for their visitors. The coach and four players lost their jobs, and also received three-year bans, meaning they couldn't join other teams. However, because the referee decided to play on, the result stands, and the record for the highest scoring soccer game ever is undeniably held by those two teams in the TBH Champions League, Madagascar's top division.
If reading through these baffling soccer scores has provided you with some serious entertainment, we've got lots more articles on our blog that dive into the quirks, eccentricities, and various cultural phenomena that surround our beautiful game. If you're into watching soccer-related TV, we've got a guide to 10 of the best soccer documentaries, and a piece on iconic Apple TV+ character Ted Lasso and his greatest ever quotes. Or if you fancy reading a more informative guide to the rules and structures of the sport, check out our article on relegation and the role it plays in soccer.
The highest scoring game of all time, as per the Guiness Book of Records, is AS Adema 149-0 Stade Olympique de l'Emyrne