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 to October 1; in Association football, it is generally from August until May (although in some countries, especially those in Scandinavia and North America, the season starts in the spring and finishes in the autumn, due either to weather conditions encountered during the winter or to limit conflict with locally more popular football codes). A year can often be broken up into several distinct sections (sometimes themselves called seasons). These are:


Most team sports have a period of training to recover fitness levels, followed by exhibition games (commonly known as "friendlies" in football (soccer) lexicon) 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.

In some sports there may be a pre-season curtain-raiser or "supercup" competition—for example, in England, the previous season's winners of the FA Cup and Premier League play one another for the Community Shield before the start of the regular season. Part of the profits from this game are divided up amongst all teams participating in both competitions the year before, to donate to charities and good causes in their local area while the rest is given to national charities and good causes by The FA itself.

Regular seasonEdit

In almost every sport the term "regular season" would refer to the sport's league competition. 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 oppositions 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 addition to the regular season league competition, many sports also operate an elimination cup tournament. A cup tournament can either take the form of a league cup, where members of a league competition are seeded using their standings from the previous year, or an association cup which is open to teams playing the sport at all levels providing they are affiliated to the National body for that sport. These competitions usually run alongside the regular league competitions, though often there is a small overlap where the cup either begins slightly before or ends slightly after the regular season. It is not uncommon for the cup final to be held the week after the last games of the league.

In such a set-up it is usual for the top division teams to be given a bye into the last few rounds while the smaller teams are randomly drawn against each other in the early rounds. This set-up allows for the possibility of relative minnows and small-town teams to become giant-killers and eliminate one of the big Nationally recognised clubs from the competition.

In North American, and some Australian sports, the cup tournament is held immediately after rather than during the regular season and using the seedings from it. Also, in these sports, the league champion is determined by the cup competition, known as playoffs in North America and "finals" in Australia. In all four major US sports, winning the cup final (Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup) is vastly more important than winning the league. Similarly, in most major Australian sports, winning the cup final, most often called a Grand Final (as in the AFL, NRL and A-League), is more important than winning the regular season. However, that country has a tradition of presenting special trophies to teams that top the regular-season table (called "minor premiers" in the AFL and NRL, and "premiers" in the A-League). Leagues that play sports that primarily developed in North America such as Japanese professional baseball and professional baseball is organized similarly, while sports that developed primarily in Europe such as top flight of association football uses the traditional European double round-robin format with no playoffs.

In North America, this may be in part due to the unusual way in which that region's sports leagues are scheduled. Rather than every team playing all others twice, teams may 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 sub division of the conference)four times in a regular season, while both will only play the Boston Celtics, 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 2,606 miles (4,194 kilometers) from Boston, 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. 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 sports leagues, leagues, conferences and division are not based on skill, but instead geography, history and rivalries). Teams play 19 games against each of teams in their own division each year but will only play 18 games total against all of the teams in the other league. Because each of the interleague matchups is part of a 3-game series, teams will play no games at all against most teams from the other league.

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.

Many association 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.

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 regular season) 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 four times 1975, and has not happened since 1996. The elimination 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 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.

European leagues have also started holding playoffs (called "play-offs") after a double round-robin "regular season". The Football League started its promotion play-offs 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 association 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 that determines the country's second Champions League place, and the points at which the other three teams enter the Europa League.

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, has conducted a championship final since its inception in 1892, and first used multiple rounds of playoffs in 1920. 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 ITM Cup, has used playoffs since its inception 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, 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 leagueEdit

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 Motorsport Worldwide                 S      
AFC Champions League Association football Asia   Q S           P P F  
AFL Australian rules football 22x20px     S           P F      
ATP Tour Tennis Worldwide                     F S
ANZ Championship Netball 22x20px 22x20px   S       P F          
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 22x20px         S              
CFL Canadian football Canada             S       P F  
Chinese Super League Association football 22x20px     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 22x20px         S      
European Tour[nb 1] Golf Europe[nb 2] S                      
FIFA Club World Cup Association football Worldwide                       P F
Formula One Motorsport Worldwide     S                  
Heineken Cup Rugby union Europe       P F           S  
Indian Premier League Cricket 22x20px[nb 3]       S P F            
IndyCar Series Motorsport United States[nb 4]     S                  
IRB Sevens World Series Rugby union sevens Worldwide                   S    
J. League Division 1 Association football Japan     S                  
KBL Basketball 22x20px     P F           S    
KBO Baseball 22x20px       S           P F    
KHL Ice hockey 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px[nb 5]     P P F         S      
La Liga Association football Spain               S        
Liga MX Association football Mexico[nb 6] S       P   F     S     P P   F
Ligue 1 Association football 22x20px               S        
LPGA Tour Golf United States[nb 7] S                      
MLB Baseball United States Canada       S         P P F    
MLL Lacrosse United States Canada         S     F        
MLS Association football United States Canada     S             P F  
Grand Prix motorcycle racing Motorsport Worldwide     S                  
NASCAR Motorsport 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      
NHL Ice hockey Canada United States       P P P F       S    
NLL Lacrosse United States Canada S       F              
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] P F[nb 11]
NPB Baseball Japan     S             P F  
PGA Tour Golf United States[nb 12][nb 13] S             P P   F  
PBA Basketball 22x20px P P   F   S   P   F F S P   F   S    
Premier League Association football England[nb 14]               S        
Premier Soccer League Association football 22x20px               S        
Primera División (Argentina) Association footballArgentina[nb 15]   S           S        
RaboDirect Pro12 Rugby union 22x20px Italy Scotland 22x20px[nb 16]         P F       S      
Serie A Association football Italy               S        
Sheffield Shield Cricket 22x20px     F             S    
Super League Rugby league England 22x20px   S             P P F    
Super Rugby Rugby union 22x20px 22x20px 22x20px   S       P[nb 17] P F[nb 18] P F[nb 19]        
Top 14 Rugby union 22x20px         P F[nb 20]   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 P P P P
UEFA Europa League Association football Europe   P P P F   Q Q S      
V8 Supercars Motorsport 22x20px[nb 21]   S                    
WNBA Basketball United States         S     P P F[nb 22] F[nb 22]    
WRC Motorsport Worldwide S                      
WTA Tour Tennis Worldwide                   F S  
  1. 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.
  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 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. A new WGC event in South Africa was to be launched in 2012, but has been delayed.
  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 and one in Brazil. A race in China was added in 2012, replacing a former race in Japan.
  5. As of the current 2012–13 season, there are 20 teams in Russia and one each in Belarus, the Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Slovakia and Ukraine.
  6. Like many association 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.
  7. 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. As of 2013, two of its majors, one in the UK and the other in France, are 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.
  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 many regional developmental 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 at least one other regular-season game outside the US (London since 2007).
  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. A new WGC event in South Africa was to be launched in 2012, but has been delayed.
  13. The PGA Tour has announced major scheduling changes for 2013 and beyond. The 2013 season will be the last held within a calendar year. The 2014 season, and later seasons, will start in October of the previous calendar year, shortly after the Tour Championship.
  14. A team from Wales has competed since the 2011–12 season.
  15. Like many association football leagues in Latin America, Argentina divides its season into two phases with separate champions in each phase. Champions are determined at the end of league play in each phase.
  16. Italy joined beginning in the 2010–11 season.
  17. The playoffs, or "finals" as they are officially called, begin in late June in Rugby World Cup years.
  18. During World Cup years, the final match is held in July; in other years, the finals will begin in July.
  19. In non-World Cup years, the final match will be held in August.
  20. Depending on the calendar, the final may fall on the last weekend of May in some seasons.
  21. Currently, one race is held in New Zealand and one in the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, a race in the USA will be added. Longer-term plans call for additional races in Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea.
  22. 22.0 22.1 During Summer Olympic years


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.
    • However, other leagues use winter breaks to avoid most of the coldest days to prevent players suffering from hypothermia.
  • In some countries where association football competes with locally more popular football codes (e.g., 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 October
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 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 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 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.
Tennis Year-round

Notes and referencesEdit

See also Edit

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Season (sports).
The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with American Football Database, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.