Purpose: Small sided games (SSG) of football are an effective and efficient format to simultaneously train the physiological, technical, and tactical components of football. The duration of the recovery period between bouts of SSG will affect the physiological response to subsequent bouts. It was hypothesised that decreasing the duration of recovery periods separating serial SSG bouts would increase physiological, and perceptual responses, and decrease high speed running, and distance during SSG bouts. Methods Twelve experienced footballers (mean ± SD; age 21 ± 3 yrs; VO2peak 64 ± 7 ml min kg−1 ; playing experience 15 ± 3 yrs) completed two SSG sessions. Each SSG consisted of 3 vs. 3 players and 6 bouts of 2 min duration, with bouts separated by either 30 s recovery (REC- 30) or 120 s recovery (REC-120). Deoxygenated haemoglobin (HHb) in the vastus lateralis (VL) (using near infrared spectroscopy), heart rate (HR) and time motion descriptors (TMD) (speed and distance) were measured continuously during the SSG sessions and perceived exertion (RPE) was measured for each bout. Results During the recovery periods, in REC-30 compared to REC-120, there was a significant (p < 0.05) main effect of a higher HHb and HR. During the bouts, in REC-30 compared to REC- 120, there were no significant differences in HHb, HR, RPE, or TMD, but within both REC- 30 and REC-120 there were significant increases as a function of bout number in RPE. Conclusions Although a four-fold increase in recovery period allowed a significant increase in the recovery of HHb and HR, this did not increase the physiological, and perceptual responses, or time motion descriptors during the bouts. These results could have been due to the regulation of effort (pacing), in these experienced players performing an exercise task to which they were well adapted.