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In a group tournament, unlike a knockout tournament, there is no decisive final match. Instead, all the competitors are ranked by examining the results of all the matches played in the tournament. Points are awarded for each fixture, with competitors ranked based either on total number of points or average points per fixture. Usually each competitor plays an equal number of fixtures, in which case rankings by total points and by average points are equivalent.


Points calculation

In 2-competitor games where ties are rare or impossible, competitors are typically ranked by number of wins, with ties counting half; each competitors' listings are usually ordered Wins-Losses(-Ties). In such games a games behind figure is sometimes included in listings for a tournament still in progress, to allow comparison of competitors who have not completed the same proportion of their allotted fixtures. Where draws are more common, this may be 2 points for a win and 1 for a draw, which is mathematically equivalent but avoids having too many half-points in the listings. These are usually ordered Wins-Draws-Losses. If there are more than 2 competitors per fixture, points may be ordinal--for example, 3 for first, 2 for second, 1 for third.

Some games may have more complex ranking criteria. In rugby union, bonus points may be awarded for scoring a certain number of tries, usually 4, or for losing by a relatively small margin, usually losing by 7 points (the value of a converted try) or less.

In football (soccer), where draws are relatively common, many leagues give 3 points for a win and 1 for a draw to encourage attacking play. Besides the traditional 2-1-0 points and newer 3-1-0 points systems for win-draw-loss, various other systems have been used to try to encourage attractive play. Some examples:

  • 3-2-1 as in the Greek League 1959-73[1]; or 4-2-1. Giving 1 point extra in each case for losing may be simply cosmetic, but does allow for awarding 0 points for forfeiting a match. (The FIFA standard is to count a forfeit as a 3-0 defeat.)
  • The W-League in 2002 gave 4-1-0 with a bonus point for scoring three goals [2].
  • The League of Ireland in 1981-82 had 4-3-2-1-0 points for away win — home win — away draw — home draw — loss[3]
  • In China in the 1970s and 80s, bonus points were for scoring headed goals, and for teams whose players were selected for the national squad.[4]
  • Bulgaria for three seasons 1984-7 gave no points for scoreless draws[5].
  • France gave a bonus point for scoring 3 goals in 1973-6[6], but stopped after rumours this encouraged match fixing. However, Michel Hidalgo has reported to the French Football Federation similar proposals to encourage attacking play.[7]

Some leagues have used penalty shootouts after drawn games, in which case points will vary for regulation win — penalties win — penalties loss — regulation loss:

In FIBA (basketball)-sanctioned tournaments, where ties are impossible (a game goes into as many extra periods — or overtimes — as possible to determine a winner), the following method is used:

  • Win = 2 points
  • Loss = 1 point
  • Loss by default (all players were ejected/disqualified) = 1 point
  • Loss by forfeit (fails to show up for a scheduled game or withdraws from the court before the end of the game) = 0 points
  • Win by forfeit = 1 point[14]

For an example, see 2006 FIBA World Championship. In the National Hockey League (and various other minor hockey leagues), where regular season games tied after three periods go into a five-minute sudden-death overtime period and then a shootout if needed, the following method is used:

  • Win: 2 points
  • Loss in regulation time: 0 points
  • Loss in overtime or shootout: 1 point

In the ice hockey at the 2010 Winter Olympics, a variation on the NHL method was used in the preliminary round-robin games:[15]

  • Win in regulation time: 3 points
  • Win in overtime or shootout: 2 points
  • Loss in regulation time: 0 points
  • Loss in overtime or shootout: 1 point

Tiebreaker criteria

When competitors are level on points, there is usually some tiebreaker criterion.

Sometimes, however, ranking ties may stand: prior to 1994, the Five Nations Championship in rugby union could result in joint champions; likewise for the British Home Championship in association football until 1978. In college football in the United States, many conferences will use tiebreaks to determine conference champions to determine (for Football Bowl Subdivision schools) conference champions for bowl selection or (for Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, and III) which team will qualify for the conference's automatic bid for the NCAA tournament, tiebreak criteria will be used for this. Where a conference is split into two divisions whose winners qualify for a conference title game, tiebreaks are similarly required for the divisional champions.

A tiebreaker may be a play-off, with extra matches between the tied competitors. If there are more than two tied competitors in a 2-competitor game, the play-off may be a round-robin or knockout tournament. Instead of a playoff, the original fixtures may provide the tie-breaker criteria:

considering only results of fixtures between the deadlocked competitors. If more than a single fixture is involved, a subtable may be used recursively for the ranking. For example, in the Super League Greece 2006-07, part of the final table was:[16]
Pos Team P W D L Pts
11 Xanthi 30 8 12 10 36
12 Iraklis 30 10 5 15 35
Apollon Kalamarias 30 9 8 13 35
Kerkira 30 8 11 11 35
15 Aigaleo 30 7 7 16 28
These were separated by considering matches between the three tied teams....:
Pos Team P W D L Pts
12 Apollon Kalamarias 4 3 0 1 9
13 Iraklis 4 1 1 2 4
Kerkira 4 1 1 2 4
...and then again for the two teams still tied:
Pos Team P W D L Pts
13 Iraklis 2 1 1 0 4
14 Kerkira 2 0 1 1 1
scoring average
the ratio of points (goals, etc.) scored to those conceded.
scoring differential
the difference between points (goals, etc) scored and those conceded.
points scored
irrespective of points conceded.
points scored away
valuing scores "on the road" above scores on one's home ground.
number of wins
in games where draws are possible
disciplinary record
fouls conceded, players sent off, etc.
seeding or pre-tournament ranking
This may be defined to favour the higher- or lower-ranked competitor.
Neustadtl score
the sum of defeated opponents' scores plus half the sum of drawn opponents' scores; this method is especially common in round-robin chess tournaments; in chess Swiss system tournaments it is used as a secondary tie-break criterion.

Ties remaining on one of these criteria may be resolved by resorting in turn to others of them. Where a group is the qualifying phase of a larger tournament, it may be necessary as a last resort to use drawing of lots as a tiebreaker. This was used in Group F of the 1990 FIFA World Cup to separate second and third place.

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.


  1. ^ Greece - Final Tables 1959-1999
  2. ^ United States (Women) 2002
  3. ^ (Republic of) Ireland League Tables
  4. ^ China League History
  5. ^ Bulgaria Championship History 1924-1997
  6. ^ France - First Division Results and Tables 1932-1998
  7. ^ Football industry: French in search of lost goals
  8. ^ France (Women) First Level 2001/02
  9. ^ Yugoslavia - List of Final Tables
  10. ^ USA - Major League Soccer
  11. ^ Japan 1996
  12. ^ North American Soccer League
  13. ^ USA - Western Soccer Alliance/League
  14. ^ Official FIBA rules
  15. ^ "2010 OWG Men's Tournament Playing Format". International Ice Hockey Federation. Retrieved 18 February 2010. 
  16. ^ Mastrogiannopoulos, Alexander; Jan Schoenmakers (2007-11-02). "Greece 2006/07". RSSSF. Retrieved 2008-06-09. 

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