Statistica Neerlandica

A numerical study of tournament structure and seeding policy for the soccer World Cup Finals

Journal Article

Tournament outcome uncertainty depends on: the design of the tournament; and the relative strengths of the competitors – the competitive balance. A tournament design comprises the arrangement of the individual matches, which we call the tournament structure, the seeding policy and the progression rules. In this paper, we investigate the effect of seeding policy for various tournament structures, while taking account of competitive balance. Our methodology uses tournament outcome uncertainty to consider the effect of seeding policy and other design changes. The tournament outcome uncertainty is measured using the tournament outcome characteristic which is the probability Pq,R that a team in the top 100q pre‐tournament rank percentile progresses forward from round R, for all q and R. We use Monte Carlo simulation to calculate the values of this metric. We find that, in general, seeding favours stronger competitors, but that the degree of favouritism varies with the type of seeding. Reseeding after each round favours the strong to the greatest extent. The ideas in the paper are illustrated using the soccer World Cup Finals tournament.

Related Topics

Related Publications

Related Content

Site Footer


This website is provided by John Wiley & Sons Limited, The Atrium, Southern Gate, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 8SQ (Company No: 00641132, VAT No: 376766987)

Published features on are checked for statistical accuracy by a panel from the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics (ENBIS)   to whom Wiley and express their gratitude. This panel are: Ron Kenett, David Steinberg, Shirley Coleman, Irena Ograjenšek, Fabrizio Ruggeri, Rainer Göb, Philippe Castagliola, Xavier Tort-Martorell, Bart De Ketelaere, Antonio Pievatolo, Martina Vandebroek, Lance Mitchell, Gilbert Saporta, Helmut Waldl and Stelios Psarakis.