In an organized sports league, a season is the portion of one year in which regulated games of the sport are in session. For example, in Major League Baseball, one season lasts approximately from April 1 through October 1; in association football, it is generally from August until May (although in some countries, especially those in Scandinavia, the season starts in the spring and finishes in the autumn due to the weather conditions encountered during the winter). A year can often be broken up into several distinct sections (sometimes themselves called seasons). These are:

Pre-season[edit | edit source]

Most team sports have a period of training to recover fitness levels, followed by exhibition games or friendly matches prior to the start of their regular seasons ("pre-season training" and "pre-season" games). The game results do not count in the season standings of the teams, so they serve conveniently to test player candidates and to practice teamwork under game conditions. They may be used to promote the team effectively both at home and elsewhere. For some teams a pre-season overseas tour may be profitable, even lucrative. For some leagues, overseas games may promote their sport or their league to new audiences.

Regular season[edit | edit source]

The terms season (UK), regular season (North America) and home and away season (Australia) are used to denote the time when the bulk of games are played. In Australia and North America, it is common for the teams to play a regular season and use the results to seed a post-season playoff tournament. Elsewhere, league and/or cup competitions are played at the same time during the "season". Depending on the sport and league, all teams may or may not play against each other. All teams usually play the same number of games, and will play half the matches at their home ground or arena and the other half away at opponents' venues.

Post-season[edit | edit source]

Many sports leagues have playoffs that occur after the regular season is complete. A subset of the teams enter into a playoff 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.

Off-season[edit | edit source]

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.

Seasons by league[edit | edit source]

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.

  • "Q" denotes pre-competition qualifiers
  • "S" denotes the start of the regular-season.
  • "P" denotes playoff(s)/postseason/knockout stages.
  • "F" denotes Final(s).
League Sport Countries/Regions Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
A-League Association football 22x20px 22x20px P F           S        
A1 Grand Prix Motor racing Worldwide                 S      
AFL Australian rules football 22x20px     S           P F      
ATP & WTA Tours Tennis Worldwide                     F S
Aviva Premiership Rugby union England         P F       S      
Bundesliga Association football Germany               S        
CFL Canadian football Canada             S       P F  
Copa Libertadores Association football 22x20px Q S P P F F          
European Tour[nb 1] Golf 22x20px[nb 2]                       S
Formula One Motor racing Worldwide     S                  
Heineken Cup Rugby union 22x20px       P F           S  
Indian Premier League Cricket 22x20px[nb 3]       S P F            
IndyCar Series Motor racing United States[nb 4]     S                  
KHL Ice hockey 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px[nb 5]     P P F         S      
La Liga Association football Spain               S        
LPGA Tour Golf United States[nb 6] S                      
Magners League Rugby union 22x20px Scotland 22x20px Italy[nb 7]         P F       S      
MLB Baseball United States Canada       S           P F    
MLS Association football United States Canada       S           P F  
Grand Prix motorcycle racing Motor racing Worldwide     S                  
NASCAR Motor racing United States Canada Mexico[nb 8]   S             P[nb 9] P P F  
NBA Basketball United States Canada       P P P F       S    
NBL Australasia Basketball 22x20px 22x20px   P P F         S      
NFL American football United States[nb 10] P F             S      
UFL American football United States                   S PF  
NHL Ice hockey Canada United States       P P P F       S    
NRL Rugby league 22x20px 22x20px     S           P F    
NCAA basketball Basketball United States     P F             S  
NCAA football American football United States F               S   P[nb 11] F/P[nb 11]
NPB Baseball Japan     S             P F  
PGA Tour Golf United States[nb 12] S             P P      
PBA Basketball 22x20px P P   F       P F     S    
Premier League Association football England               S        
Serie A Association football Italy               S        
Sheffield Shield Cricket 22x20px     F             S    
Super League Rugby league England 22x20px 22x20px   S             P P F    
Super Rugby Rugby union 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px   S       P[nb 13] P F[nb 14] P F[nb 15]|          
Top 14 Rugby union 22x20px         P F[nb 16]     S        
Turkish Airlines Euroleague Basketball 22x20px P P P P F       Q Q S    
UEFA Champions League Association football 22x20px   P P P F   Q Q S      
WNBA Basketball United States         S     P P F[nb 17] F[nb 17]    
WRC Motor racing Worldwide S                      
  1. The current scheduling, in which the season starts in mid-December of the previous calendar year, took effect in 2010. The 2010 season ended in late November, and the 2011 season will end in early December.
  2. 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 other 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.
  3. The 2009 season was played in South Africa because of security issues related to the Indian general elections scheduled for the same time as the league.
  4. Two races are held in Canada, one in Brazil, and one in Japan.
  5. There are 21 teams in Russia and one each in Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Latvia.
  6. 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. It co-sanctions two European tournaments, including one of its majors, with the Ladies European Tour, and also co-sanctions events with the Korean LPGA and Japan LPGA in those countries.
  7. Italy joined beginning in the 2010–11 season.
  8. The top-level Sprint Cup Series and third-level Camping World Truck Series race only in the US. The second-level Nationwide Series has one race in Canada, and previously had a race in Mexico. NASCAR also operates four developmental series—two regional series in the US, and national series in Canada and Mexico.
  9. NASCAR uses a playoff-style system only in the Sprint Cup Series. The bulk of the Cup Series season is used to determine the 12 drivers who qualify to contend for the season title in a 10-race finale known as the Chase for the Sprint Cup. In all other NASCAR series, the season is contested as a unified whole, with all races counting equally toward determining the series champion.
  10. The Buffalo Bills play one annual regular-season home game in Toronto, and the NFL currently takes one other regular-season game outside the US (London in 2007 through 2010).
  11. 11.0 11.1 The top-level Division I FBS does not use a playoff, instead using a series of bowl games beginning in December and culminating in the Bowl Championship Series in early January. All other NCAA divisions determine their champions on the field in a playoff tournament that starts in November. The playoffs in Divisions II and III end in December. Since the 2010 season, the Division I FCS playoffs end in January.
  12. Almost all of the PGA Tour's sole-sanctioned events are in the US proper, but the tour also has events in 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.
  13. The playoffs, or "finals" as they are officially called, begin in late June in Rugby World Cup years.
  14. During World Cup years, the final match is held in July; in other years, the finals will begin in July.
  15. In non-World Cup years, the final match will be held in August.
  16. Depending on the calendar, the final may fall on the first weekend of June in some seasons.
  17. 17.0 17.1 During Summer Olympic Years

Summary[edit | edit source]

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 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 Norway and Sweden), the season is contested within a calendar year (roughly March to November) to avoid the worst weather.
  • In some countries where association football competes with one or more football codes that are more popular locally (e.g., Major League Soccer and the A-League), 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.
Australian rules football March to September
Baseball April to early October, with postseason extending up to early November.
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 divides its season 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 association 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 and Australia, during the traditional basketball season.
Canadian football July to 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.
Motor racing Year-round, but generally concentrated from March to October.
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 (beginning in 2011) 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 will then overlap slightly with the Super season, starting in July and ending in October or November.
Tennis Year-round

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

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