Group stage

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A group stage (also known as pool play or the pool stage) is the round-robin stage of many sporting championships, particularly a sports' World Cup. The name implies that there is also a knock out stage to follow. For example in both the FIFA World Cup and Rugby World Cup the teams are split into groups (also known as pools) where they play each team in their group once under a round-robin system. Points are earned during group play in order to rank the teams within a group. The top ranked teams (often the top two) from each group then proceed to the tournament's knock out phase. From there the tournament continues under a knock out system until the winner is found.

Association football[edit]

Group stage usually consists of 4 teams where the 2 teams with the most points qualify. If points are level the top 2 teams would be decided on goal difference. If goal difference is level, then it goes onto goals scored, then often goals scored away.

In single round-robin four-team pools with the top two advancing to the next round, after all teams have played two of three games often one is already qualified (usually after two wins) and another cannot reach second place anymore (usually after two losses), so the third games only affect ranks to a minor degree. With 3 points awarded for a win and 1 for a draw, it’s only possible to place third with 2 wins if every team wins twice (6:6:6:6), also 1 win and 2 draws (i.e. 0 losses) is not enough for qualifying second place if all teams win against the same team and draw against each other (5:5:5:0), but if 1 team wins all its games and the rest end remis second place scores just 2 points (9:2:2:2). Last place cannot score better than 1 win and 1 draw (4:4:4:4), but that is still more points than the worst possible score for first place when every team wins once and loses twice (3:3:3:3). A team can also draw all 3 games and still come out last if every other team has 1 win and 1 loss (4:4:4:3).

Possible scores after 1st of 3 rounds
Place 0 draws 1 draw 2 draws
1st 3 3 1
2nd 3 1 1
3rd 0 1 1
4th 0 0 1
Point sum 6 5 4
Possible scores after 2nd of 3 rounds
Place 0 draws 1 draw 2 draws 3 draws 4 draws
1st 6 6 3 6 6 4 4 4 6 4 4 4 2
2nd 6 3 3 4 3 4 3 4 2 3 4 2 2
3rd 0 3 3 1 1 3 3 1 1 2 2 2 2
4th 0 0 3 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 2
Point sum 12 11 10 9 8
Possible scores after 3rd of 3 rounds
Place 0 draws 1 draw 2 draws 3 draws 4 draws 5 draws 6 draws
1st 9 9 6 6 9 9 9 7 7 7 7 6 6 9 7 7 7 7 7 7 6 6 5 4 9 7 7 7 6 5 5 5 5 4 7 5 5 5 5 3
2nd 6 3 6 6 6 4 4 7 6 6 4 6 4 4 7 6 5 5 4 4 5 4 4 4 2 5 4 4 5 5 5 5 4 4 3 5 5 4 3 3
3rd 3 3 6 3 1 4 3 3 4 3 3 4 4 2 1 2 4 3 4 3 4 4 4 4 2 2 3 2 2 5 4 5 4 4 2 3 2 3 3 3
4th 0 3 0 3 1 0 1 0 0 1 3 1 3 1 1 1 0 1 1 2 1 2 3 4 2 1 1 2 2 0 1 2 2 3 2 1 2 2 2 3
Point sum 18 17 16 15 14 13 12

In international competition and some club competitions, group play consists of a single match against each opponent in the group (single round-robin). In other club competitions, such as the UEFA Champions League, each club has two matches - one home and one away - against each opponent (double round-robin).