In games and sports, a tiebreaker or tiebreak is used to determine a winner from among players or teams when their scores are tied at the end of a contest, or a set of contests.
In some situations, the tiebreaker may consist of another round of play. For example, if contestants are tied at the end of a quiz game, they each might be asked one or more extra questions, and whoever correctly answers the most from that extra set is the winner. In many sports, teams that are tied at the end of a match compete in an additional period of play called "overtime" or "extra time". The extra round may also not follow the regular format, e.g. a tiebreak in tennis or a penalty shootout in association football. In the Super Smash Bros. series of platform fighting games published by Nintendo, if at least two fighters have an equal amount of points or stocks when time runs out, then a tiebreaker will occur as "Sudden Death" with the tied players receiving 300% damage and whoever delivers the final hit is the winner of the match.
In some sports, tournaments, and playoffs, the tiebreaker is a statistic that is compared between different contestants who have the same win–loss record, or number of points scored etc. Some competitions, such as the FIFA World Cup, the EuroLeague, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the National Football League, have a whole set of tiebreaking rules in which a group of statistics are compared between the tied teams, one at a time, to determine the seeding in their respective knockout or playoff tournament.
The statistics that are compared may include total goals scored, the record between the two tied teams, and other factors. In many of these tiebreaking rules, if the teams remain tied after comparing all of these statistics, then the tie is broken at random using a coin toss or a drawing of lots. Swiss system tournaments use a variety of criteria not found in other types of tournament which exploit features specific to the Swiss system: see tie-breaking in Swiss system tournaments.
In some sports leagues, a one-game playoff, or occasionally a "best-of" series format, may be played instead to break the tie.
Some sports leagues may use tiebreaking rules to help determine which teams that have the same win–loss record are promoted and relegated, or have the higher pick in their respective sports draft. These tie-breaking rules may be the same ones used in their respective knockout or playoff tournament, except that the tied team with the worse statistic is the one that either get relegated or receives a higher draft pick, but in some sports leagues like the National Football League, the set of tie-breaking rules to compare the worst-ranked teams is completely different from the rules to select the playoff teams.
In association football contests, many matches are allowed to end in a draw, particularly when played in a round-robin tournament ("league format"), but in cases where a winner must be chosen such as play-offs, a tournament's final, a single-elimination tournament, there are several methods of deciding this: extra time, penalty shoot-out, match replay, and away goals rule in two-legged tie.
After regular time or 90 minutes, the usual method is extra time, where each team will play two 15-minute periods of extra time. The team that leads at the end of 30 minutes wins the tie. If, at the end of extra time, after 120 minutes, no winner can be decided, the match goes to a penalty shoot-out.
Occasionally, in matches like the Community Shield in England, the match can go straight to a penalty shootout after 90 mins of play has been completed.
Alternatively, in tournaments such as the English FA Cup, the match is replayed in its entirety, going through the aforementioned stages of extra time and penalties if the second match is drawn. This method is no longer used from the quarter-finals onwards. In league matches, when two or more teams are tied on points, a series of tiebreakers are adopted, where goal difference and head-to-head points are the most common ones. While some competitions (including FIFA competitions) use goal difference as the first tiebreaker, some others (including UEFA and AFC competitions) use head-to-head points.
In the National Football League of professional American football, if both teams are tied at the end of regulation, an overtime period is played under modified "sudden death" rules. Before the 2017 season, this period was 15 minutes in all games. Since 2017, a 15-minute period has been used only in playoff games (in which a winner must be decided); overtime in regular-season games consists of a 10-minute period, no overtime in preseason up to 1973 & since 2021. If the team that receives the ball first scores a field goal, then the opponent must receive a chance at equalising that score of their own; the first team to score a touchdown or safety wins the game; and once both teams have had possession of the ball in overtime, the first team to score under any legal means, touchdown (offensive or defensive), field goal or safety, wins. If neither team scores before the end of the overtime period, or both teams score one field goal each, the game is considered a draw and ends, and counts as a "half-win" in the standings for purposes of winning percentage for both draft order and playoff positioning. However, in the playoffs, true sudden death rules apply from double overtime onwards.
There is no tie-break for regular season matches in Australian rules football, and both teams earn two points each.
In the AFL, new rules were introduced for finals in 2016 and modified in 2020: if there is a tie at the expiry of regulation time, including in the Grand Final, two three minute halves of extra time are played with the teams swapping end after each half. If the match is still tied when extra time has expired, the procedure is repeated (but in true golden point) until a winner is determined.
Prior to 1991, if the scores were tied in a finals match after the final siren, the drawn final would be replayed on the following weekend, thus delaying all other finals by one week.
Due to various logistical issues that arose following the drawn 1990 Qualifying Final, the AFL replaced this procedure with extra time (with the exception of the Grand Final) in 1991. Until 2015, if the scores in a finals match were tied when regulation time expired, two five-minute halves of extra time were played until a winner was determined. This procedure was used twice: in the 1994 Second Qualifying Final between North Melbourne and Hawthorn (won by North Melbourne), and the 2007 Second Semi-final between West Coast and Collingwood (won by Collingwood).
If the scores were tied after the final siren in the Grand Final, the match would be replayed on the following weekend.
If a baseball game is tied at the end of the usual nine innings, the game continues into extra innings until an inning ends with one team ahead. Although games are occasionally ended as ties on account of weather or darkness (the latter happened much more often before lights were installed on most professional baseball fields in the 1940s), and some leagues (including Nippon Professional Baseball) allow only a limited number of extra innings before a game ends as a tie, professional baseball in the United States has no such limit. The longest Major League game in history (on May 1, 1920) lasted 26 innings, and a minor-league game in 1981 lasted 33 innings. In some venues, including international baseball, starting with the second extra inning that may begin a full reset of the batting order to the coach's choice with up to two runners already on base, in order to increase the chances of a resolution.
Major League Baseball used the term "tiebreaker" to refer to one or more additional games played after the scheduled end of the regular season between teams with identical win–loss records in order to determine participants in postseason play. This tiebreaker game format was abolished in the 2022 season, to compensate for an expanded postseason.
In chess, when two players play a match against each other and the score is even after the scheduled number of games, often there is a tie-break with games with faster time controls. In tournaments, when two or more players have the same final score, there can be a play-off but usually an auxiliary scoring system is used.
Most cricket matches do not feature tiebreakers. The most common tiebreaking method in limited overs cricket matches is the Super Over, wherein each team plays an additional over of six balls to determine the result. Subsequent Super Overs may be played if the first Super Over ends in a tie.
In a tournament, the most common way to separate two teams tied on points gained from matches won and lost is Net Run Rate, which is a measure of how much a team wins or loses each game of the tournament by.
Field target — a precision air rifle shooting sport — uses either a sudden-death or shot count tiebreaker. The sudden-death tiebreaker (usually used to determine a single place such as 3rd when 3 awards are to be given or between two shooters) consists of each tied shooter (order dictated or decided by coin-toss or other technique) shoots at a target (typically a difficult shot such as ½" at 35 yards). If all shooters in the tie fail, then the target is moved closer. If one shooter hits, then the next shooter(s) who miss are out of the competition. If a round is complete with multiple ties remaining, the target is moved out (made more difficult) and the same procedure is repeated until only one shooter remains. This procedure can then be repeated to determine further placings among the losers of the previous round.
In cases where multiple places are to be determined (as in five people tied for first place), one approach is to have each shooter make several shots (n − 1 or more with n being the number of tied shooters). If all shooters miss all shots, the target is moved in (made easier); similarly, if all shooters hit on all shots, the target is moved out (made more difficult). If some variation in hits exists after a round, the top score gets the highest placing while those with identical scores can have a sudden-death shootout or a repeat of the multiple shot shootout (typically with a more difficult target) to determine other placings.
If the scores are level when all the balls are potted in a frame of snooker, the black is "respotted" (placed back on the table, on its designated spot) and the cue ball put "in hand". The referee will then toss a coin, and the winner of the coin toss decides who will take the first shot. Play then continues until the black is potted or another frame-ending situation occurs.
At the conclusion of a professional sumo tournament (本場所, honbasho ), the winner of a division is the wrestler (力士, rikishi ) with best record at the end of the 15-day tournament. If two or more wrestlers share are tied for the lead within a division, a series of additional playoff bouts will be held on the final day to determine the divisional champion. Restrictions against bouts between close relatives, members of the same stable, and previously faced opponents are lifted during a playoff situation.
The term "tiebreaker" is sometimes used loosely outside the world of sports — for example, for an innovative weapon or strategy introduced in a war where the two opposing armies are evenly matched, a decisive political move introduced in an electoral race where the contending parties are evenly matched (such as a casting vote), and similar situations in other fields.
The golden goal is a rule used in association football, rugby league, lacrosse, field hockey, and ice hockey to decide the winner of a match in which scores are equal at the end of normal time. It is a type of sudden death. Under this rule, the game ends when a goal or point is scored; the team that scores that goal or point during extra time is the winner. Introduced formally in 1993, though with some history before that, the rule ceased to apply to most FIFA-authorized football games in 2004. The similar silver goal supplemented the golden goal between 2002 and 2004.
A penalty shoot-out is a tie-breaking method in association football to determine which team is awarded victory in a match that cannot end in a draw, when the score is tied after the normal time as well as extra time have expired. In a penalty shoot-out, each team takes turns shooting at goal from the penalty mark, with the goal defended only by the opposing team's goalkeeper. Each team has five shots which must be taken by different players; the team that makes more successful kicks is declared the victor. Shoot-outs finish as soon as one team has an insurmountable lead. If scores are level after five pairs of shots, the shootout progresses into additional "sudden-death" rounds. Balls successfully kicked into the goal during a shoot-out do not count as goals for the individual kickers or the team, and are tallied separately from the goals scored during normal play. Although the procedure for each individual kick in the shoot-out resembles that of a penalty kick, there are some differences. Most notably, neither the kicker nor any player other than the goalkeeper may play the ball again once it has been kicked.
Overtime is a method of determining a winner in an ice hockey game when the score is tied after regulation. The main methods of determining a winner in a tied game are the overtime period, the shootout, or a combination of both. If league rules dictate a finite time in which overtime may be played, with no penalty shoot-out to follow, the game's winning team may or may not be necessarily determined.
A draw or tie occurs in a competitive sport when the results are identical or inconclusive. Ties or draws are possible in some, but not all, sports and games. Such an outcome, sometimes referred to as deadlock, can also occur in other areas of life such as politics, business, and wherever there are different factions regarding an issue.
In a sport or game, sudden death is a form of competition where play ends as soon as one competitor is ahead of the others, with that competitor becoming the winner. Sudden death is typically used as a tiebreaker when a contest is tied at the end of regulation (normal) playing time or the completion of the normal playing task.
Overtime or extra time is an additional period of play specified under the rules of a sport to bring a game to a decision and avoid declaring the match a tie or draw where the scores are the same. In some sports, this extra period is played only if the game is required to have a clear winner, as in single-elimination tournaments where only one team or players can advance to the next round or win the tournament.
The penalty shootout is a method of determining a winner in sports matches that would have otherwise been drawn or tied. The rules for penalty shootouts vary between sports and even different competitions; however, the usual form is similar to penalty shots in that a single player takes one shot on goal from a specified spot, the only defender being the goalkeeper. If the result is still tied, the shootout usually continues on a "goal-for-goal" basis, with the teams taking shots alternately, and the one that scores a goal unmatched by the other team is declared the winner. This may continue until every player has taken a shot, after which players may take extra shots, until the tie is broken, and is also known as "sudden death".
The away goals rule is a method of tiebreaking in association football and other sports when teams play each other twice, once at each team's home ground. Under the away goals rule, if the total goals scored by each team are equal, the team that has scored more goals "away from home" wins. This is sometimes expressed by saying that away goals "count double" in the event of a tie, though in practice the team with more away goals is simply recorded as the victor, rather than having additional or 'double' goals added to their total.
The National Football League (NFL) playoffs is the single-elimination tournament held after the regular season to determine the league champion. Currently, seven teams from each of the league's two conferences qualify for the playoffs. A tie-breaking procedure exists if required. The tournament culminates in the Super Bowl: the league's championship game in which two teams, one from each conference, play each other to become champion of the NFL.
The golden point, a sudden death overtime system, is used to resolve drawn matches in a number of sports. The term is borrowed from soccer's now-defunct golden goal.
In a group tournament, unlike a knockout tournament, there is no scheduled decisive final match. Instead, all the competitors are ranked by examining the results of all the matches played in the tournament. Typically, points are awarded for each match, with competitors ranked based either on total number of points or average points per match.
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.
A replay is the repetition of a match in many sports.
The MLS Cup Playoffs is the annual postseason elimination tournament of Major League Soccer. The MLS Cup, the league's championship game, is the final match of the tournament. Under the current format adopted for the 2023 season, 18 teams qualify for the tournament based on regular-season point totals — the nine highest-placed teams from each the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference. Audi is the title sponsor of this tournament.
The National Women's Soccer League Playoffs are a single-elimination tournament among six teams in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) of the United States, deciding the winner of the NWSL Championship.
The 2015–16 Champions Hockey League was the second season of the Champions Hockey League, a European ice hockey tournament launched by 26 founding clubs, six leagues and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
Major League Baseball tie-breaking procedures are used by Major League Baseball (MLB) to break ties between teams for qualification and seeding into the MLB postseason. The procedures in use since 2022, when a third wild card team and resulting Wild Card Series were added for both the American League and National League, are outlined below.
The 2016–17 Champions Hockey League was the third season of the Champions Hockey League, a European ice hockey tournament launched by 26 founding clubs, six leagues and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The season started on 16 August 2016 with the group stage and ended with the final game on 7 February 2017 with Frölunda defeating HC Sparta Praha, 4–3 in overtime.
The 2021–22 Champions Hockey League was the seventh season of the Champions Hockey League, a European ice hockey tournament. The tournament was competed by 32 teams, with qualification being on sporting merits only. The six founding leagues were represented by between three and five teams, while seven "challenge leagues" were to be represented by one team each.
The 2022–23 Champions Hockey League was the eighth season of the Champions Hockey League, a European ice hockey tournament. The tournament is competed by 32 teams, with qualification being on sporting merits only. The six founding leagues will be represented by between three and five teams, while seven "challenge leagues" will be to be represented by one team each.