In an organized sports league, a typical season is the portion of one year in which regulated games of the sport are in session: for example, in Major League Baseball the season lasts approximately from the last week of March to the last week of September.In other team sports, like association football or basketball, it is generally from August or September to May although in some countries - such as Northern Europe or East Asia - the season starts in the spring and finishes in autumn, mainly due to weather conditions encountered during the winter.
A year can often be broken up into several distinct sections (sometimes themselves called seasons). These are: a preseason, a series of exhibition games played for training purposes; a regular season, the main period of the league's competition; the postseason, a playoff tournament played against the league's top teams to determine the league's champion; and the offseason, the time when there is no official competition.
In association football, many clubs tour and then they have a series of exhibition games for training purposes.
In baseball, many clubs go to spring camp and then they have spring training. The National Football League preseason is a highly structured three-game series of games in which teams are afforded a larger roster limit and play games that do not count toward the record. It is used to evaluate and prepare talent for the upcoming regular season.
In the highest levels of professional tennis, the preseason (November-December) consists of extensive period of training on and off the court (gym/fitness work as well as working on tennis-specific skills like for example improving the accuracy of serve).
In sport, the term "regular season" or "home and away season"refers to the sport's league competition. The regular season is usually similar to a group tournament format: teams are divided into groups, conferences and/or divisions, and each club plays a set number of games against a set number of opponents. In most countries the league is played in a double round-robin format, where every team plays every other team twice, once at their home venue, and once away at the opposition's venue as visitors. The results over all games are accumulated and when every team has completed its full schedule of games, a winner is declared.
In North America, the scheduling is different. Rather than every team playing all others twice, teams usually play more games against local rivals than teams in other parts of the country. For example, the NBA's Los Angeles Lakers will play the Los Angeles Clippers (a team within their division, a subdivision of the conference) four times in a regular season, while both will only play the Toronto Raptors, who are in the opposite Eastern Conference, twice. Part of this is due to the vast geographic distances between some teams in North America — measured in a straight line, Los Angeles is 3,494 kilometres from Toronto, for instance — and a desire to limit travel expenses. In the scheduling system used in the NFL, it is possible for two teams to only meet every four years, and to only have 2 common opponents in a season. Major League Baseball has the most uneven schedules of all the four major North American sports. In MLB, the conferences are called leagues instead, but have exactly the same effect as conferences (as with all North American major leagues, leagues, conferences, and division are not based on skill, but instead geography, history, and rivalries). Teams play 19 games against each of the teams in their own division each year but will only play 20 games total against all of the teams in the other league. Because each of the inter-league match-ups is part of a 3-game series or a 2-game series, teams will play no games at all against most teams from the other league. They play 6 of the 15 teams in the other league, a historically high number (until 1997, interleague play was limited to exhibition matches and the postseason World Series, and thus MLB teams did not play the other league's teams at all).
In Australia, the two largest football leagues, the AFL (Australian rules football) and NRL (rugby league), both grew out of competitions held within a single city (respectively Melbourne and Sydney) and only began expanding to the rest of the country when inexpensive air travel made a national league possible. These leagues use a single table instead of being split into divisions. The term "home and away season" is sometimes used instead of regular season.
Many football leagues in Latin America have a very different system. Because most Latin American countries never had a football cup competition, they instead split their season into two parts, typically known as the Apertura and Clausura (Spanish for "opening" and "closing"). Most countries that use this system, Argentina being one notable example, crown separate league champions for each part of the season, using only league play. A few others, such as Uruguay, crown one champion at the end of a playoff involving top teams from each half of the season. Mexico operates its Apertura and Clausura as separate competitions that both end in playoffs. Brazil has a different system, the season starts with the state championships in January (every Brazilian state have his own championship), these state championships ends in April. The Campeonato Brasileiro Série A itself starts in May and ends in early December, and is played in a double round-robin format in the same way as the European championships.
A system similar to the Apertura and Clausura developed independently in Philippine professional basketball, with formerly two, now three tournaments (called "conferences") in one season, with each conference divided into an "elimination round" (the single round-robin group stage) and the playoffs in the North American sense. Winning the playoffs is the ultimate goal of every team for every conference; while there is no season championship, winning all conferences within a single season is rare and has only happened five times since 1975, with the two most recent examples occurring in 1996 and 2013–14. The qualifying round and playoffs setup has permeated down to the local level and in most team sports, although seasons are not divided into conferences.
Many sports leagues have playoffs or "finals" that occur after the regular season is complete. A subset of the teams enter into a playoff tournament, usually a knockout tournament, generally a pre-determined number with better overall records (more wins, fewer losses) during the regular season. There are many variations used to determine the champion, the league's top prize. In many of these leagues, winning the league's top prize at the conclusion of the postseason is more important than winning the regular season. This includes the five major U.S. and Canada sports leagues (Super Bowl, Stanley Cup Finals, NBA Finals, World Series and MLS Cup), the major Australian sports (NBL Grand Final, A-League Grand Final, AFL Grand Final and NRL Grand Final) and the CFL's Grey Cup.
European leagues have also started holding playoffs after a double round-robin "regular season". The Football League started its promotion playoffs in 1987, with the third up to the sixth-ranked teams participating for the final promotion berth (the two top teams are automatically promoted). Elsewhere, relegation playoffs are also held to determine which teams would be relegated to the lower leagues. One prominent top-level football league, the Eredivisie of the Netherlands, uses two different playoffs—one for relegation purposes, and the other to determine one of the league's entrants in the following season's UEFA Europa League. In Superleague Greece, which currently has two places in the UEFA Champions League and three in the Europa League, the teams that finish second through fifth in the regular season enter a home-and-away "playoff" mini-league. Since one Europa League place is reserved for the country's cup winner, only three of the four teams are guaranteed a place in the next season's European competitions (unless both the cup winner and runner-up are already qualified for Europe by other means). The playoff determines the country's second Champions League participant, and the points at which the two or three Europa League entrants join that competition. Conversely, some leagues like the Premier League do not hold a postseason, and therefore these leagues' champions and relegation are instead based on the regular season records.
Although rugby union did not become professional until 1995, that sport has a long history of playoffs, primarily in France and the Southern Hemisphere. The French national championship, now known as Top 14, staged a championship final in its first season of 1892, first used more than one round of playoffs in 1893, and has continuously operated a playoff system (except during the two World Wars) since 1899. South Africa's Currie Cup has determined its champions by playoffs since 1968, and New Zealand's National Provincial Championship, the top level of which is now known as the Mitre 10 Cup, has used playoffs since its creation in 1976. Argentina's Nacional de Clubes has determined its champion by playoffs since its inception in 1993. Currently, two separate competitions feed into the Nacional, the Torneo de la URBA (for Buenos Aires clubs, held since 1899) and Torneo del Interior (for the rest of the country); both use playoffs to determine their champions. Super Rugby, involving regional franchises from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa and national franchises in Argentina and Japan, has used playoffs to determine its champions since its creation as Super 12 in 1996.
By contrast, other European countries were slow to adopt playoffs in rugby union. The English Premiership only began playoffs in 1999–2000, and did not use them to determine the league champion until 2002-03. The Celtic League, now known as Pro14, resisted a playoff system even longer; its champions were determined solely by league play from its inception in 2001–02 until playoffs began in 2009–10.
When the UEFA Champions League reformatted in 1993, it added a "knockout stage" involving four teams that finished at the top two places in their respective groups. Like North American sports leagues, this setup prevented some participants from facing each other, necessitating a two-round knockout stage to determine the champions. It has since been expanded to the 4-round knockout stage today. The Copa Libertadores has applied a knockout stage since the 1988 tournament, expanding to the current four-round format next season. All intercontinental club football competitions now feature a knockout stage.
The off-season, vacation time, or close season is the time of year when there is no official competition. Although upper management continues to work, the athletes will take much vacation time off. Also, various events such as drafts, transfers and important off-season free agent signings occur. Generally, most athletes stay in shape during the off-season in preparation for the next season. Certain new rules in the league may be made during this time, and will become enforced during the next regular season.
As most countries which have a league in a particular sport will operate their regular season at roughly the same time as the others, international tournaments may be arranged during the off season.
For example, most European football league club competitions run from July or August to May, subsequently major international competitions such as the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Football Championship are organised to occur in June and July.
The table represents typical seasons for some leagues by month. Blank or white denotes off-season and pre-season months and solid colors mark the rest of the year. Leagues in the same sport use the same color.
|AFC Champions League||Association football||Asia||Q||S||P||P||F|
|AFL||Arena Football||S||P F|
|AFL||Australian rules football||S||P F|
|AIHL||Ice hockey||S||P F|
|ATP World Tour||Tennis||Worldwide||S||F|
|ANZ Premiership||Netball||S||P F|
|AUDL||Ultimate Frisbee||S||P F|
|Asia Series||Baseball||Asia||P F|
|Bangladesh Premier League||Cricket||S||P F|
|Basketbol Süper Ligi||Basketball||P||P F||S|
|Big Bash League||Cricket||P F||S|
|CAF Champions League||Association football||Africa||Q||Q S||P||F|
|Campeonato Brasileiro Série A||Association football||S|
|CFL||Canadian football||E||E S||P F|
|Caribbean Premier League||Cricket||S||P F|
|Chinese Super League||Association football||S|
|CEV Champions League||Volleyball||Europe||P||P||P F||Q||Q S|
|CONCACAF Champions League||Association football||North America||P||P||P F|
|CONCACAF League||Association football||North America||P||P||P F|
|Copa Libertadores||Association football||South America||S||P||P||F|
|Copa Sudamericana||Association football||South America||S||P||P||F|
|Euro Beach Soccer League||Beach soccer||Europe||S||PF|
|European Rugby Champions Cup||Rugby union||Europe||P||F||S|
|Greek Basket League||Basketball||P||P F||S|
|Guinness Pro14||Rugby union||P F||S|
|HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series||Rugby sevens (union)||Worldwide||S|
|Indian Premier League||Cricket||S||P||F|
|J1 League||Association football||S|
|KHL||Ice hockey||P||P F||S|
|La Liga||Association football||S|
|Lega Basket Serie A||Basketball||P||P F||S|
|Liga MX||Association football||S||P F||S||P||P F|
|Ligue 1||Association football||S|
|MLR||Rugby union||S||P F|
|MLS||Association football||S||P||P F|
|Grand Prix motorcycle racing||Motorsport||Worldwide||S|
|NASCAR||Motorsport||E S||P||P||P F|
|NHL||Ice hockey||P||P F||F||E||S|
|NHRA||Drag racing||S||P||P||P F|
|NCAA basketball||Basketball||P||P F||S|
|NCAA football||American football||P F||S||P||P F|
|NWSL||Association football||S||P F|
|PGA Tour||Golf||P||P F||S|
|PBA||Basketball||P||P F S||P F||F||S||P F||S|
|Premier League||Association football||S|
|Premier Lacrosse League||Lacrosse||S||P F|
|Premier Soccer League||Association football||S|
|Primera División (Argentina)||Association football||S|
|Premiership Rugby||Rugby union||P F||S|
|Primera División||Association football||S||P||P||P||P||F|
|Serie A||Association football||S|
|Serie del Caribe||Baseball||Caribbean||PF|
|Serie Nacional de Béisbol||Baseball||PF||S|
|Suncorp Super Netball||Netball||S||P F|
|Super League||Rugby league||S||P||P F|
|Superleague Greece||Association football||P||P||F||S|
|Süper Lig||Association football||S|
|Super Rugby||Rugby union||S||P||P F||P F|
|Top 14||Rugby union||P||F||S|
|Turkish Airlines EuroLeague||Basketball||Europe||P||P||P||P||F||Q||Q S|
|UEFA Champions League||Association football||Europe||P||P||P||F||Q||Q||S|
|UEFA Women's Champions League||Association football||Europe||P||P||P||P||F||Q S||P||P||P||P|
|UEFA Europa League||Association football||Europe||P||P||P||F||Q||Q||S|
|World TeamTennis||Tennis||S||P F|
|American football||Originally football was played only in the fall, but for many years the season has extended from late summer through early to mid-winter. |
|Association football||Usually August to May in the Northern Hemisphere, and February to November in the Southern Hemisphere. Exceptions are generally for one of two reasons: |
(See Domestic association football season for details.)
|Australian rules football||March to late August, with finals series extending up to late September or early October.|
|Baseball||March or April to early October, with playoffs extending up to early November. The Australian Baseball League runs from November to early February, with playoffs extending up to late February.|
|Basketball||In most countries, late October to mid-April, with playoffs extending up to mid-June. The three major exceptions to this rule are: |
|Canadian football||July to late October, with playoffs extending into November.|
|Cricket||Year-round. Domestic seasons typically held in the driest period of the year—summer in temperate climates, dry season in tropical climates.|
|Ice hockey||Early October to mid-April, with playoffs extending up to early June. The three major exceptions to this rule are: |
|Motor racing||Year-round, but generally concentrated from March to October. NASCAR runs from mid-February to late September, with playoffs extending up to late November.|
|Rugby league||Late February to October in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.|
|Rugby union||September to late May, sometimes the first weekend in June, in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, Super Rugby starts in February and ends in early July in World Cup years and mid-August in other years. Domestic competitions in New Zealand and South Africa overlap slightly with the Super Rugby season, starting in July and ending in October or November. In Australia, the domestic competition does not overlap at all with Super Rugby, instead beginning in August and ending in early November.|
The playoffs, play-offs, postseason and/or finals of a sports league are a competition played after the regular season by the top competitors to determine the league champion or a similar accolade. Depending on the league, the playoffs may be either a single game, a series of games, or a tournament, and may use a single-elimination system or one of several other different playoff formats. Playoff, in regard to international fixtures, is to qualify or progress to the next round of a competition or tournament.
A tournament is a competition involving 4 or more teams, or a large number of competitors, all participating in a sport or game. More specifically, the term may be used in either of two overlapping senses:
In North America, a bowl game is one of a number of post-season college football games that are primarily played by teams belonging to the NCAA's Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). For most of its history, the Division I Bowl Subdivision had avoided using a playoff tournament to determine an annual national champion, which was instead traditionally determined by a vote of sports writers and other non-players. In place of such a playoff, various cities across the United States developed their own regional festivals featuring post-season college football games. Prior to 2002, bowl game statistics were not included in players' career totals and the games were mostly considered to be exhibition games involving a payout to participating teams. Despite attempts to establish a permanent system to determine the FBS national champion on the field, various bowl games continue to be held because of the vested economic interests entrenched in them.
The British Basketball League, often abbreviated to the BBL, is a men's professional basketball league in Great Britain and represents the highest level of play in the country. The league is contested by 11 teams, with representation from both England and Scotland. There are no clubs however from Wales or Northern Ireland. The BBL runs three additional knockout competitions alongside the BBL Championship; the BBL Cup and the BBL Trophy, and the end-of-season Play-offs.
A sports league is a group of sports teams or individual athletes that compete against each other and gain points in a specific sport. At its simplest, it may be a local group of amateur athletes who form teams among themselves and compete on weekends; at its most complex, it can be an international professional league making large amounts of money and involving dozens of teams and thousands of players.
A single-elimination, knockout, or sudden death tournament is a type of elimination tournament where the loser of each match-up is immediately eliminated from the tournament. Each winner will play another in the next round, until the final match-up, whose winner becomes the tournament champion. Each match-up may be a single match or several, for example two-legged ties in European football or best-of series in American pro sports. Defeated competitors may play no further part after losing, or may participate in "consolation" or "classification" matches against other losers to determine the lower final rankings; for example, a third place playoff between losing semi-finalists. In a shootout poker tournament, there are more than two players competing at each table, and sometimes more than one progressing to the next round. Some competitions are held with a pure single-elimination tournament system. Others have many phases, with the last being a single-elimination final stage, often called playoffs.
The Apertura[apeɾˈtuɾa] and Clausura[klawˈsuɾa] tournaments is a split season format for Spanish-speaking sports leagues. It is a relatively recent innovation for many Latin American football leagues in which the traditional association football season from August to May is divided in two sections per season, each with its own champion. Apertura and Clausura are the Spanish words for "opening" and "closing". In French-speaking Haiti, these are known as the Ouverture and the Fermeture, while in English-speaking Belize, they are respectively the Opening and Closing seasons. When used in the United States and Canada, they are known as the Spring and Fall seasons.
The Belgian First Division A, Belgian Pro League or 1A Pro League since the 2015–16 season, is the top league competition for association football clubs in Belgium. Contested by 18 clubs since 2020–21 season, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the Belgian First Division B. Seasons run from early August to late April, with teams playing 34 matches each in the regular season, and then entering play-offs I or play-offs II according to their position in the regular season. Play-offs I are contested by the top-four clubs in the regular season, with each club playing each other twice. Play-offs II are contested by teams ranked 5 to 8 in the regular season, divided in four groups of four teams playing each other once. The team finishing in 18th place is relegated directly. However, the 17th place will battle for promotion-relegation play-off against 2nd place of Belgian First Division B.
Primarily in Australian sports, a grand final is a game that decides a sports league's premiership winning team, i.e. the conclusive game of a finals series. Synonymous with a championship game in North American sports, grand finals have become a significant part of Australian culture. The earliest leagues to feature a grand final were in Australian rules football, followed soon after by rugby league. Currently the largest grand finals are in the Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL). Their popularity influenced other competitions such as soccer's A-League, the National Basketball League, Suncorp Super Netball and European rugby league's Super League to adopt grand finals as well. Most grand finals involve a prestigious award for the player voted best on field.
There are a number of formats used in various levels of competition in sports and games to determine an overall champion. Some of the most common are the single elimination, the best-of- series, the total points series more commonly known as on aggregate, and the round-robin tournament.
A wild card is a tournament or playoff berth awarded to an individual or team that fails to qualify in the normal way, for example by having a high ranking or winning a qualifying stage. In some events, wild cards are chosen freely by the organizers. Other events have fixed rules. Some North American professional sports leagues compare the records of teams which did not qualify directly by winning a division or conference.
In sport, a championship is a competition in which the aim is to decide which individual or team is the champion.
The NIFL Premiership, known as the Danske Bank Premiership for sponsorship purposes, and colloquially as the Irish League or Irish Premiership, is a semi-professional association football league which operates as the highest division of the Northern Ireland Football League – the national league in Northern Ireland. The Premiership was established as the IFA Premiership in 2008 under the auspices of the Irish Football Association, before the Northern Ireland Football League was created for the start of the 2013–14 season. At the end of the season, the champion club is presented with the Gibson Cup.
In sports, a two-legged tie is a contest between two teams which comprises two matches or "legs", with each team as the home team in one leg. The winning team is usually determined by aggregate score, the sum of the scores of the two legs. For example, if the scores of the two legs are:
A third place match, game for third place, bronze medal game or consolation game is a single match that is included in many sporting knockout tournaments to decide which competitor or team will be credited with finishing third and fourth. The teams that compete in the third place playoff game are usually the two losing semi-finalists in a particular knockout tournament.
A one-game playoff, sometimes known as a pennant playoff, tiebreaker game or knockout game, is a tiebreaker in certain sports—usually but not always professional—to determine which of two teams, tied in the final standings, will qualify for a post-season tournament. Such a playoff is either a single game or a short series of games.
The Stanley Cup playoffs is an elimination tournament in the National Hockey League (NHL) consisting of four rounds of best-of-seven series to determine the league champion and the winner of the Stanley Cup. Eight teams from each of the two conferences qualify for the playoffs based on regular season points totals. The final round is commonly known as the Stanley Cup Finals, which matches the two conference champions.
The CONCACAF Champions League, known officially as the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League for sponsorship reasons, is an annual continental club football competition organized by CONCACAF. The winner of the CONCACAF Champions League automatically qualifies for the quarter-finals of the FIFA Club World Cup. The competition has been completed 55 times through the 2020 event, with 57 champions due to a three-way shared title in the 1978 competition.
In a sports league, the ranking of a team is the place where it is within the division. Generally, ranking is based on won-lost record of games, with the team with the best record at the top, and the worst record at the bottom. Another common method is a points-based ranking system, where a team is awarded a certain number of points per win, fewer points per tie, and none for a loss.
The Shaughnessy playoff system is a method of determining the champion of a sports league that is not in a divisional alignment. This format is also known as the Argus finals system. It involves the participation of the top four teams in the league standings in a single elimination tournament. While the first round of the playoffs involve the pairing of the first- and fourth-place teams in one contest and the second- and third-place teams in the other, a variant of the Shaughnessy playoffs would pair the first- and third-place teams in one semifinal round and the second- and fourth-place teams in the other. In either variant, the winners of the first two games would then compete for the league championship. Some lower-level leagues use a Shaughnessy playoff for purposes of promotion to the next-higher league.