Types of Softball Tournament Brackets


One of the most important choices that a tournament softball director faces when organizing his event is selecting the format of play used to crown a champion. He must balance a desire for finding the most equitable way of determining the best team in the tournament with completing games in a timely fashion. Choosing the right tournament format lets players enjoy the competition while ensuring that a worthy team wins the title.

Single Elimination

Single elimination is the least complex way to organize a softball tournament. Teams are placed into a bracket and play head-to-head games. The winner of the game advances to the next round, while the losing team is eliminated. One of the disadvantages of the single-elimination format is that teams are only guaranteed to play one game. A remedy for this is to drop losing teams into a consolation bracket, giving them a chance to continue to play for a consolation championship but making them ineligible for the overall title.

Double Elimination

A double-elimination bracket gives teams that lose one game a second chance at winning the title. In this format, teams remain in the winner’s bracket as long as they are undefeated. After they lose their first game, they are dropped into the loser’s bracket to face other teams with one loss. A second loss eliminates them from the tournament. The NCAA Women’s Softball World Series utilizes a double elimination format. The final two teams remaining play a best-of-three series to determine the champion, regardless of the number of losses a team has heading into the final series.

Round Robin

A round-robin format allows all of the teams entered into a tournament a chance to play against each other. The results of the round-robin play can either determine the winner of the tournament or be used to seed teams for elimination rounds. The World Cup of Softball uses a round-robin format, with all six teams playing against each other in the opening round robin. This is used to determine seeding for the final round, in which the two highest-rated teams meet for the championship.

Pool Play

The pool-play format divides all of the teams in a tournament into smaller groups. Teams in each pool play against each other, with the results in each pool determining which teams advance to the next round of the competition. The NAIA Softball National Championships use pool play to determine winners from eight pools. These teams are then placed into a bracket and play a double-elimination format to determine a national champion.