Which sport’s playoff format is the best?

If you’ve paid any attention to sports news lately, it’s likely that you’ve heard the scores from different postseason games every day.

As spring blends into summer, the playoffs for both the NBA and NHL are underway, providing something exciting for fans to keep tabs on.

Not all sports playoff formats are cut from the same cloth, however. Here are how some of the most popular ones are carried out.

Best of 7

The NBA and NHL go about their championship brackets by pitting the same teams against each other for a maximum of seven games, with the one that wins four first moving on.

The way this usually works is that the higher-seeded group hosts the lower-seeded team for the initial two contests before the series moves to the lower seed’s home for the following two.

Homesites are then alternated for Games 5-7.

This sort of format is perfect for fans who like to see the drama play out over a period of time. It also doesn’t hurt that your team can lose three times, but still, advance to the following round.

Game 7s might be the best thing in all of the sports. You get to watch a pair of what are obviously evenly-matched and well-acquainted crews battle to move on.

Single Elimination

On the way to the NFL’s Super Bowl, every game and every play counts, keeping fans on the edge of their seats. In essence, a club’s whole season and title hopes ride on one game.

This format isn’t particularly for the faint of heart. One play or sequence — think Buffalo and Kansas City this past January — can kill your chances.

The fact that your team can have a phenomenal season, maybe even go undefeated — such as the 2007 New England Patriots — and still have their dreams dashed by one sub-par performance is frightening.

On the flip side, there’s a chance that less-talented groups can gain steam down the stretch and make an improbable run through the postseason. It’s always exciting when a Wild Card team can forge all the way to a league crown, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers did in Super Bowl XL.

The sudden death aspect of the whole thing is what makes it fun. In the cold weather, it’s always fun to kick back and get cozy to watch playoff football.

March Madness

Every sports fan knows about March Madness and the bracket that goes along with it. I’m willing to bet that you’ve filled a few out before.

The premise of this path to a championship is 68 schools over four different regions, rated with 16 seeds. The most interesting thing about this format is the chance for a David and Goliath-type ordeal.

Once the chaos begins, this tournament gets fun. Many recall the Cinderella teams over the years. In 2022, it was Saint Peters, a tiny college in New Jersey, that captured the hearts of the whole nation with a few shocking upsets.

Still, the cream usually rises to the top, with historic teams making it to the Final Four. After an enthralling build-up, fans still have the pleasure of seeing the country’s best programs go toe-to-toe.

I would have to go with this format as being the best that sports has to offer. You can’t go wrong being able to dive into the storylines and meaning of each of the contests in such a large tournament.


This isn’t one that Americans are all that familiar with.

Popular in soccer, teams play twice, and the combination of their scores over the pair of meetings decides who moves on.

In NFL terms, imagine your favorite squad losing by a late field goal and getting another chance, this time blowing the opponent out.

This format is an interesting one, as a narrow, hard-fought loss in the first leg provides a good chance for the team to take over with a scoring outburst in the second.

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