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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 1st through October 1st; in European football (soccer), 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:



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

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 a 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.


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.


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

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.

  • "S" denotes the start of the regular-season.
  • "P" denotes playoff(s)/postseason/knockout stages.
  • "F" denotes Final(s).
League Sport Countries Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
A-League Association football Australia New Zealand P F           S        
A1 Grand Prix Motor racing Worldwide                 S      
AFL Australian rules football Australia     S           P F      
ATP & WTA Tours Tennis Worldwide                     F S
CFL Canadian football Canada             S       P F  
Copa Libertadores Association football South America   S P P F F          
Euroleague Basketball European Union P P P P F         S    
European Tour[1] Golf European Union[2]                       S
Formula One Motor racing Worldwide     S                  
Guinness Premiership Rugby union England         P F       S      
Heineken Cup Rugby union European Union       P F           S  
Indian Premier League Cricket India[3]       S P F            
IndyCar Series Motor racing United States[4]     S                  
La Liga Association football Spain               S        
LPGA Tour Golf United States[5] S                      
Magners League Rugby union United Kingdom Republic of Ireland[6]         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[7]   S             P[8] P P  
NBA Basketball United States Canada       P P P F       S    
NBL Australasia Basketball Australia New Zealand   P P F         S      
NFL American football United States[9] P F             S      
UFL American football United States                   S PF  
NHL Ice hockey Canada United States       P P P F       S    
NRL Rugby league Australia New Zealand     S           P F    
NCAA basketball Basketball United States     P F               S
NCAA football American football United States F               S   P[10] F/P[10]
NPB Baseball Japan     S             P F  
PGA Tour Golf United States[11] S             P P      
PBA Basketball Philippines P P   F       P F     S    
Premier League Association football England               S        
Serie A Association football Italy               S        
Sheffield Shield Cricket Australia     F             S    
Super 14 Rugby union Australia New Zealand South Africa   S     P F              
Super League Rugby league England France Wales   S             P P F    
Top 14 Rugby union France         P F     S        
UEFA Champions League Association football European Union   P P P F       S      
WNBA Basketball United States         S     P P F[nb 1] F[nb 1]    
WRC Motor racing Worldwide S                      
  1. ^ a b During Summer Olympic Years


Sport Duration
American football August to December, playoffs from January to early February. College bowl games from December to January.
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, Russia, 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).
Australian rules football March to September
Baseball April to early October, with postseason extending up to early November.
Basketball Late October to mid-April, with playoffs extending up to mid-June. The WNBA season is scheduled during the offseason of its parent league, the NBA; the scheduling also allows many of its 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 mid-May in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Super 14 runs February to May, with domestic competitions in New Zealand and South Africa starting after the Super season and ending in October or November.
Tennis Year-round

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Effective with the 2010 season, the European Tour schedule starts in mid-December of the previous calendar year and ends in mid-November.
  2. ^ The bulk of the tour's sole-sanctioned events are in Europe, with some in the 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. ^ Most LPGA events are held in the US, but it also sole-sanctions events in Thailand, Singapore, Mexico, Canada, and China. 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.
  6. ^ The league will include teams from  Italy beginning in 2010–11.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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 2009).
  10. ^ a b 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. Starting with the 2010 season, the Division I FCS playoffs will end in January.
  11. ^ 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.


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