What Are Brackets in Sports?

Sports brackets are often used to determine which teams will face each other in playoffs. Learn more about sports brackets and how they work.

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In sports, a bracket is a term used to describe the structure of how teams or players progress in a tournament. When you see people talking about the “bracket” in sports, they’re usually referring to the playoff bracket. The playoff bracket is the road map that shows which teams play each other in the postseason.

What are Brackets in Sports?

A bracket in sports is a term used to describe the playoffs system used in some sports. It is a single-elimination tournament where two teams or players face each other in a game, with the winner moving on to the next round and the loser being eliminated. The most common way to set up a bracket is to have the two best teams face each other in the final game, but there are other ways to do it as well.

Single-elimination tournament

In a single-elimination tournament, bracket is a term for the structure of the tournament in which players are eliminated when they lose a game. The term “bracket” is American English; in other varieties of English, such as British English, the term “knockout” or “knock-out” is used for this concept.

A bracket is often represented visually by parentheses, square brackets, curly braces, or angles. They are usually subdivided into sub-brackets of two or four teams (or occasionally eight), each assigned to a specificraw from which it will enter the main bracket.

Double-elimination tournament

In a double-elimination tournament, no team is ever “out” of the tournament until it has lost two games. After the first round, half of the teams are “in” and half are “out”. In the second round, the losers of the first round play each other. Of those teams, half are now “out”. In each subsequent round, the number of teams who are “out” gets larger while the number who are “in” gets smaller, until only one team remains to be crowed champion.

Round-robin tournament

To understand brackets in sports, it helps to first know a bit about round-robin tournaments. A round-robin tournament is a type of sporting event in which each participant plays every other participant an equal number of times. For example, in a ten-person round-robin tournament, each person would play nine matches total.

Brackets are often used in conjunction with round-robin tournaments to keep track of which competitors will face each other in future rounds. In the early rounds of a bracketed tournament, the competitors with the best records will typically face off against each other while the competitors with the worst records will also face off against each other. This continues until only two competitors remain; these two competitors will then face off in the final match of the tournament.

While brackets are commonly used in sports such as tennis and golf, they can be used for any type of competition where there is a need to track which competitors will face each other in future rounds.


In conclusion, brackets are a way to keep track of the progress of a tournament or competition. They can be used in many different sports, from basketball to tennis. By looking at a bracket, you can see who is playing who and how far each team or individual has advanced in the tournament.

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