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Main article: "Playoffs

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. 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 "Pro12, 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.

Seasons by league[edit]

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.

League Sport Countries/Regions Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
"ABL "Baseball "Australia P F               S    
"A-League "Association football "Australia "New Zealand       P F         S    
"ACB "Basketball "Spain[nb 1]         P P F       S    
"AFC Champions League "Association football Asia   Q S           P P F
"AFL "Arena Football "United States S       PF
"AFL "Australian rules football "Australia     S           P F      
"AIHL "Ice hockey "Australia       S       P F        
"ATP World Tour "Tennis Worldwide S                   F  
"ANZ Championship "Netball "Australia "New Zealand   S       P F          
"AUDL "Ultimate Frisbee "United States "Canada       S       P F        
"Asia Series "Baseball Asia                     P F  
"Bangladesh Premier League "Cricket "Bangladesh                     S P F
"Big Bash League "Cricket "Australia   P F                   S
"CAF Champions League "Association football Africa   Q Q S             P F  
"Aviva Premiership "Rugby union "England         P F       S      
"Bundesliga "Association football "Germany               S        
"Campeonato Brasileiro Série A "Association football "Brazil         S              
"CFL "Canadian football "Canada           E S       P F  
"Caribbean Premier League "Cricket "Barbados "Guyana "Jamaica "Saint Kitts and Nevis "Saint Lucia "Trinidad and Tobago           S P F          
"Chinese Super League "Association football "China     S                  
"CONCACAF Champions League "Association football North America     P P F   S          
"Copa Libertadores "Association football South America S P P F            
"Copa Sudamericana "Association football South America               S P P F
"County Championship "Cricket "England "Wales         S      
"CPBL "Baseball "Taiwan     S             F    
"DTM "Motorsport "Germany       S                
"European Rugby Champions Cup[nb 2] "Rugby union Europe       P F         S    
"European Tour[nb 3] "Golf Europe[nb 4]                     F S
"FIFA Club World Cup "Association football Worldwide                       Q P F
"Formula One "Motorsport Worldwide     S                  
"Greek Basket League "Basketball "Greece         P P F       S    
"Guinness Pro12 "Rugby union "Ireland "Italy "Scotland "Wales[nb 5]         P F       S      
"HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series "Rugby sevens (union) Worldwide                   S    
"Indian Premier League "Cricket "India       S P F            
"IndyCar Series "Motorsport "United States[nb 6]     S                  
"J1 League "Association football "Japan     S                  
"KBL "Basketball "South Korea     P F           S    
"KBO "Baseball "South Korea       S           P F    
"KHL "Ice hockey "Belarus "China "Croatia "Finland "Kazakhstan "Latvia "Russia "Slovakia[nb 7]     P P F         S      
"La Liga "Association football "Spain               S        
"LBPRC "Baseball "Puerto Rico P F                 S    
"Lega Basket Serie A "Basketball "Italy         P P F       S    
"LIDOM "Baseball "Dominican Republic P F                 S    
"Liga MX "Association football "Mexico[nb 8] S       P   F     S     P P   F
"Ligue 1 "Association football "France[nb 9]               S        
"LMB "Baseball "Mexico     E S       P F[nb 10]      
"LMP "Baseball "Mexico P F                 S    
"LPGA Tour "Golf "United States[nb 11] S                      
"LVBP "Baseball "Venezuela P F                 S    
"MLB "Baseball "United States "Canada   E E S         P P F F[nb 12]  
"MLL "Lacrosse "United States "Canada         S     P F        
"MLS "Association football "United States "Canada     S             P P F
"Grand Prix motorcycle racing "Motorsport Worldwide     S                  
"NASCAR "Motorsport "United States "Canada "Mexico "Europe[nb 13]   E S             P[nb 14] P P F  
"NBA "Basketball "United States "Canada       P P P F       E S    
"NBL "Basketball "Australia "New Zealand   P P F           S    
"NFL "American football "United States[nb 15] P F           E S      
"NHL "Ice hockey "United States "Canada       P P P F     E S    
"NHRA "Drag racing "United States "Canada   S             P[nb 16] P P F  
"NLL "Lacrosse "United States "Canada S       P F              
"NRC "Rugby union "Australia "Fiji[nb 17]               S   P F  
"NRL "Rugby league "Australia "New Zealand     S           P F    
"NCAA basketball "Basketball "United States     P P F             S  
"NCAA football "American football "United States P F               S   P[nb 18] P F[nb 18]
"NPB "Baseball "Japan     S             P F  
"PGA Tour "Golf "United States[nb 19]               P P   F S  
"PBA "Basketball "Philippines P P   F   S   P   F F S P   F   S    
"Premier League "Association football "England[nb 20]               S        
"Premier Soccer League "Association football "South Africa               S        
"Primera División (Argentina) "Association football "Argentina[nb 21]               S        
"Serie A "Association football "Italy               S        
"Serie del Caribe "Baseball Caribbean   P F                    
"Serie Nacional de Béisbol "Baseball "Cuba P F                   S  
"Sheffield Shield "Cricket "Australia     F             S    
"Super League "Rugby league "England "France   S             P P F    
"Supercars Championship "Motorsport "Australia[nb 22]   S                    
"Superleague Greece "Association football "Greece       P P F   S        
"Super Rugby "Rugby union "Australia "New Zealand "South Africa "Argentina "Japan[nb 23]   S       P[nb 24] P F[nb 25] P F[nb 26]        
"Top 14 "Rugby union "France         P F[nb 27]   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      
"WNBA "Basketball "United States         E S     P F[nb 28]    
"WNBL "Basketball "Australia   P P F             S    
"WRC "Motorsport Worldwide S                      
"WTA Tour "Tennis Worldwide                   F S  
  1. ^ A team from "Andorra, "BC Andorra, has competed in the league since the "2014–15 season.
  2. ^ Replaced the former European club competition, the Heineken Cup, effective in "2014–15.
  3. ^ The current scheduling, in which the season starts in January, took effect in "2012. In "2010 and "2011, the schedule began late in the previous calendar year.
  4. ^ The bulk of the tour's sole-sanctioned events are in Europe, with some in the "Persian Gulf countries. It co-sanctions many other events with tours in Asia, Africa, and Australia. Along with the PGA Tour, the European Tour co-sanctions the "major championships and the "World Golf Championships; one of the majors is held in the UK, one of the WGC events is held in China, and the rest of these events are in the US.
  5. ^ The league originally involved only the three Celtic nations; Italy joined beginning in the "2010–11 season.
  6. ^ Since the 2015 season, the only series race held outside the U.S. is hosted by Canada. Australia, Brazil, and Japan have hosted races in the past.
  7. ^ As of the most recent "2016–17 season, there are 22 teams in Russia and one each in Belarus, China, Croatia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, and Slovakia.
  8. ^ Like many football leagues in Latin America, Mexico divides its season into "two phases with separate champions in each phase. Unlike most leagues in that sport, Liga MX uses a knockout playoff, involving the top eight teams after league play, to determine its champions.
  9. ^ The current "2016–17 season features one team from "Monaco in "AS Monaco, which has been in the league on numerous occasions, most recently since the "2013–14 season.
  10. ^ The "Serie del Rey usually ends in September.
  11. ^ Most LPGA events are held in the US, but it also sole-sanctions official money events in Thailand, Singapore, Mexico, China, Canada, Malaysia, and Taiwan, as well as an unofficial event in Brazil. Since 2013, two of its "majors, "one in the UK and "the other in France, have been co-sanctioned with the "Ladies European Tour. The LPGA also co-sanctions events with the "Korean LPGA and "Japan LPGA in those countries and the "ALPG Tour in Australia.
  12. ^ The "World Series usually ends in late October, but can extend into early November.
  13. ^ Since the 2013 season, the top two NASCAR touring series, the "Cup Series and "Xfinity Series, race only in the US. The third-level "Truck Series has a race in Canada. The Xfinity Series has previously held races in Canada and Mexico. NASCAR also operates national series in "Canada and "Mexico and "a European series, plus many regional developmental series in the US.
  14. ^ NASCAR has used a playoff-style system to determine the champion of the Cup Series since 2004; in 2016, it extended this system to its other two U.S. national touring series. The playoffs in the Xfinity and Truck Series are shorter than that of the Cup Series, starting in October.
  15. ^ The NFL currently takes at least one regular-season game "outside the US (London since 2007). The "Jacksonville Jaguars are in the middle of a eight-year period (2013–2020) in which one home game is in London. The 2017 season will be the second consecutive season in which the "Oakland Raiders will play one home game in Mexico City. For several years in the early 21st century, the "Buffalo Bills played "one home game per season in Toronto.
  16. ^ The "NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series uses a playoff system known as the Countdown to the Championship to determine the champion of each of the four drag racing classes.
  17. ^ The competition was established in 2014 as a solely Australian affair; the "Fiji Warriors, that country's official "A" national side, will join in 2017.
  18. ^ a b The NCAA has never recognized "an official champion in the top-level "Division I FBS. Although the four-team "College Football Playoff began in 2014, it is not an official NCAA championship event. All other NCAA divisions determine officially recognized champions in playoff tournaments that start in November. The playoffs in Divisions "II and "III end in December. Since the 2010 season, the "Division I FCS "playoffs end in January.
  19. ^ The vast majority of the PGA Tour's sole-sanctioned events are in the US proper, but the tour also has events in Malaysia, Mexico, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Along with the European Tour, the PGA Tour co-sanctions the "major championships and the "World Golf Championships; one of the majors is held in the UK, one of the WGC events is held in China, and the rest of these events are in the US.
  20. ^ The current "2016–17 season features one team from "Wales in "Swansea City, which has been in the league since the "2011–12 season.
  21. ^ The 2016–17 season marked the completion of Argentina's transition from its former calendar-year "Apertura and Clausura season format to a single league season spanning two calendar years.
  22. ^ Currently, one race is held in New Zealand. Bahrain, China, the United Arab Emirates, and the USA have staged races in the past. Longer-term plans call for additional races in Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea.
  23. ^ "Argentine and "Japanese teams joined the competition in 2016. The Japanese team divides its "home" matches between Tokyo and "Singapore.
  24. ^ The playoffs, or "finals" as they are officially called, begin in late June in "Rugby World Cup years.
  25. ^ During World Cup years, the final match is held in July; in other years, the finals begin in July.
  26. ^ In non-World Cup years, the final match is held in August.
  27. ^ Depending on the calendar, the final may fall on the last weekend of May in some seasons.
  28. ^ During Summer Olympic years, the WNBA Finals run into late October. In non-Summer Olympic years, the WNBA Finals end in early October.


Sport Duration
American football August to December, playoffs from January to early February. College "bowl games from December to January. "Indoor football, past professional leagues such as the "USFL and "XFL, and some women's and amateur leagues play in the February to August season.
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:
  • In some northern countries with severe winter weather (such as the United States, Norway, and Sweden), the season is contested within a calendar year (roughly March to November) to avoid the worst weather.
    • However, other leagues use winter breaks to avoid most of the coldest days to prevent players suffering from hypothermia.
  • In some countries where soccer competes with locally more popular "football codes (i.e. Major League Soccer in the U.S., A-League in Australia), the season is arranged so as to minimize the time that it is in conflict with the more popular code(s). This arrangement also eases scheduling concerns regarding venues used for multiple football codes. However, in the case of the United States' MLS, their regular seasons can conflict with major tournaments such as the Gold Cup and FIFA World Cup due to the demand of the league's best national players to participate in the national squad.

(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 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:
  • The U.S. college basketball season begins in mid-November. The regular season ends in the first days of March, followed by conference tournaments and then national championship tournaments that run into early April.
  • The Philippine Basketball Association has a unique calendar. Its season runs from early October to August, and is divided into "conferences"—not the North American concept of subgroupings within a larger competition, but rather separate competitions involving the same set of teams, similar to football's "Apertura and Clausura in Latin America. The season was divided into three conferences from 1975 to 2003. It then transitioned to a two-conference season in 2004, and also changed to a season spanning two calendar years, with the transition completed in the 2004–05 season. The PBA returned to a three-conference season effective in 2010–11. The season starts with the Philippine Cup, restricted to Filipino players, followed by two other tournaments in which teams can field one non-Filipino, the Commissioner's and Governors Cups.
  • The WNBA season is scheduled during the offseason of its parent league, the NBA. When the league was launched, all of its teams were owned by NBA teams and generally played in the same arenas as their NBA counterparts; however, this has changed over time. The scheduling also allows many WNBA players to participate in overseas leagues, primarily in Europe, Australia, and China, during the traditional basketball season.
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.
Golf Year-round
Ice hockey Early October to mid-April, with playoffs extending up to early June. The three major exceptions to this rule are:
  • The U.S. college hockey season begins in early November. The regular season ends in late February, followed by conference tournaments and then national championship tournaments that run into mid-April.
  • The KHL regular season begins in early September and ends in late February. The playoffs run from March to mid-April.
  • The Australian Ice Hockey League's season runs from April to mid-August, with playoffs extending up to late August.
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.
Swimming Year-round
Tennis Year-round

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Rodney D. Fort; John Fizel (2004). International Sports Economics Comparisons. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 316–. "ISBN "978-0-275-98032-0. 

See also[edit]

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