Water Polo Scoring Rules: A Comprehensive Guide

Water Polo Scoring Rules

Water polo is a sport that combines swimming, ball handling, and strategic planning. It’s a game that requires a unique set of skills and abilities from its players, including speed, agility, and strength. One of the most essential aspects of water polo is scoring, and understanding the scoring rules is crucial for any player or spectator.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the scoring rules in water polo. We’ll explore how points are awarded, what constitutes a goal, and the various ways in which a team can score.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, understanding the scoring rules is essential for fully enjoying the game of water polo. So, if you’re curious about how scoring works in water polo and want to learn more about this topic, then keep reading!

Basic Scoring Rules

In water polo, the scoring is based on the number of goals a team scores. A goal is counted when the ball fully passes the goalposts and goes under the crossbar.

Each goal counts as one point, regardless of whether it is scored from a penalty or a regular shot. The team with the highest number of goals at the end of the game is declared the winner.

Goal Scoring

When it comes to scoring goals in water polo, there are some essential rules to keep in mind. For a goal to count, the ball must fully cross the goal line and go under the crossbar.

If the ball hits the post and bounces back into the pool, the play continues, and the shot clock is reset to 20 seconds. If the attacking team recovers the ball, they can continue to play and attempt to score again

Fouls and Penalties

Water polo is a physical sport, and players are allowed to make contact with each other. However, there are certain fouls that can result in a penalty shot or exclusion from the game. A player can be excluded if they commit a major foul, such as hitting an opponent in the face or pulling on their swimsuit.

To indicate an exclusion in water polo, the referee blows the whistle twice, points at the player who is excluded, and moves their arm towards the re-entry area. The referee then puts up one or both hands and displays the number of the excluded player.

If a player commits a minor foul, like blocking or pushing another player, the other team is given a free throw. The player who committed the foul needs to step away from the ball and allow the other team to take a shot.

If the foul happens within six meters of the goal, the player who did the foul has to move back to the five-meter line, and the other team gets a penalty kick.

Advanced Scoring Rules

Water polo is a complex sport with many rules and regulations. In this section, we will explore the advanced scoring rules of water polo, including extra time scoring and tiebreakers.

Extra Time Scoring

In water polo, if both teams have the same score when the game ends, they play a little bit more to see who wins. This is called extra time and it has two parts that are three minutes each, with a one-minute break in the middle. If the score is still tied after extra time, they have a special way to decide who wins called a penalty shootout.

During extra time, the rules of the game are the same as they were before. The team that has the most goals at the end of extra time is the winner of the game.


In the event of a tie during a tournament or championship, tiebreakers are used to determine which team advances to the next round or wins the championship.

The tiebreaker rules vary depending on the tournament or championship, but common tiebreakers include goal difference, head-to-head record, and number of goals scored.

Goal difference is calculated by subtracting the total number of goals conceded from the total number of goals scored. The team with the highest goal difference advances to the next round or wins the championship.

Head-to-head record is used when two teams are tied on points and goal difference. The team with the better head-to-head record against the other tied team advances to the next round or wins the championship.

Number of goals scored is used as a last resort tiebreaker. The team with the most goals scored in the tournament or championship advances to the next round or wins the championship.

Strategy and Tactics

Water polo is a complex and dynamic sport that requires a solid understanding of strategy and tactics to succeed. Teams must be able to both attack and defend effectively, and this requires careful planning and execution. There are several key strategies and tactics that teams can use to improve their chances of success.

Offensive Strategies

One of the most important offensive strategies in water polo is to create space. This means that players must move away from each other to create gaps in the defense that can be exploited. Players can also use fakes and feints to deceive the defense and create opportunities for shots on goal.

Another important offensive strategy is to maintain possession of the ball. This can be achieved by passing the ball quickly and accurately, and by avoiding turnovers.

Teams must also be able to shoot accurately and quickly, as they only have a limited amount of time to take a shot before the shot clock runs out.

Defensive Strategies

On the defensive side, teams must be able to anticipate and react to the movements of the opposing team. This requires good communication and teamwork, as well as quick reflexes and strong swimming skills.

One key defensive tactic is to press the opposing team, which means putting pressure on them to force turnovers and prevent shots on goal.

Another important defensive strategy is to zone defense, which involves players guarding specific areas of the pool rather than individual players. This can be an effective way to prevent the opposing team from scoring, as it makes it more difficult for them to create space and take shots on goal.

In conclusion, water polo is a challenging and exciting sport that requires a range of strategies and tactics to succeed. Teams must be able to attack and defend effectively, and this requires careful planning and execution.

By using the right strategies and tactics, teams can improve their chances of success and come out on top in this dynamic and thrilling sport.

Set Plays

Set plays are pre-planned offensive plays that teams can use to create scoring opportunities. One common set play is the “drive and dish,” where a player drives towards the goal and then passes the ball to a teammate for a shot.

Another set play is the “pick and roll,” where two players set screens for each other to create open spaces for passing and shooting.

Overall, the key to success in Water Polo is a combination of strong offensive and defensive strategies, quick thinking, and teamwork. By using a variety of strategies and set plays, teams can create scoring opportunities and prevent the opposing team from scoring.

Equipment and Attire

Water Polo is a sport that requires minimal equipment. Players need a ball, caps, and goggles to play. The equipment is essential for the safety of the players and helps them to play the game efficiently.


Water Polo is played with a special ball made of inflated airtight nylon. The size of the ball is different for men and women. Men use a size 5 ball, while women use a size 4 ball. The ball must be able to float on the water’s surface and be visible to all players during the game.


Water Polo caps are a crucial part of the players’ safety gear. They provide protection for the players’ heads and ears against impacts and injuries.

The caps are designed with plastic cups to shield a player’s ears from water. The caps also feature numbers that help identify the players from a distance, particularly by the referee(s). The numbers on the caps range from 1 to 13, and the goalies wear red or red striped caps.

The primary goalkeeper typically wears the “1” cap, while the substitute goalkeeper wears the “13” cap (as per FINA rules) or “1A” cap (as per NCAA and NFHS rules).


While not required, goggles are recommended for players who need them. Goggles help players to see clearly underwater and protect their eyes from chlorine and other chemicals in the pool. However, players should be careful when wearing goggles, as they can be knocked off during the game and cause injuries.