A seed is a competitor or team in a sport or other tournament who is given a preliminary ranking for the purposes of the draw. Players/teams are "planted" into the bracket in a manner that is typically intended so that the best do not meet until later in the competition. The term was first used in tennis, and is based on the idea of laying out a tournament ladder by arranging slips of paper with the names of players on them the way seeds or seedlings are arranged in a garden: smaller plants up front, larger ones behind.
Sometimes the remaining competitors in a single-elimination tournament will be "re-seeded" so that the highest surviving seed is made to play the lowest surviving seed in the next round, the second-highest plays the second-lowest, etc. This may be done after each round, or only at selected intervals.
Professional tennis tournaments seed players based on their rankings. The number of seeds varies from tournament to tournament. Generally the bigger the event the more seeds there tend to be relative to lesser events. The 4 major (Grand Slam) tournaments progressively expanded from 8-seed format to 16-seed, then to the current 32-seed format, which was adopted in the middle of the 2001 season, after French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten had complained that clay-court specialists were at a disadvantage with just 16 seeds.
In a tennis event, one version of seeding is where brackets are set up so that the quarterfinal pairings (barring any upsets) would be the 1 seed vs. the 8 seed, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5; however, this is not the procedure that is followed in most tennis tournaments, where the 1 and 2 seeds are placed in separate brackets, but then the 3 and 4 seeds are assigned to their brackets randomly, and so too are seeds 5 through 8, and so on. This may result in some brackets consisting of stronger players than other brackets, and since only the top 32 players are seeded in Tennis Grand Slam tournaments, it is conceivable that the 33rd best player in a 128-player field could end up playing the top seed in the first round. A good example of this occurring was when World No. 33 Florian Mayer was drawn against (and eventually defeated by) then-World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the first round of the 2013 Wimbledon Championships, in what was also a rematch of a quarter-final from the previous year. Rankings of tennis players, based on a history of performance, tend to change positions gradually, and so a more "equitable" method of determining the pairings might result in many of the same head-to-head match-ups being repeated in successive tournaments. An example of a seeded 16-team bracket:
In American team sports, MLS, NFL and WNBA employ re-seeding in MLS Cup Playoffs, NFL playoffs & WNBA Playoffs, respectively, while the NBA playoffs and the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament do not; the NHL's Stanley Cup Playoffs formerly used re-seeding between 1994 and 2013. MLB does not have enough teams in its playoff tournament where re-seeding would make a difference in the matchups. (The MLS and NFL are at the minimum, which is 6 from each conference (or league in MLB) for a total of 12.) The NBA's format calls for the winner of the conference quarterfinal series between the first and eighth seeds (within each of the two conferences the league has) to face the winner of the other series between the fourth and fifth seeds in the next round, even if one or more of the top three seeds had been upset in their first-round series; critics have claimed that this gives a team fighting for the fifth and sixth seeding positions near the end of the regular season an incentive to tank (deliberately lose) games, so as to finish sixth and thus avoid a possible matchup with the top seed until one round later. So will the winner of the second and seventh seeds to take on the winner of the third and sixth seeds.
In some situations, a seeding restriction will be implemented; from 1975 until 1989 in the NFL and from 1998 until 2011 in MLB there was a rule where at the conference or league semifinal, should the top seed and last seed (wild card) be from the same division, they may not play each other; in that case, the top seed plays the worst division champion; the second-best division champion plays the wild card team.
In international fencing competitions, it is common to have a group stage. Participants are divided in groups of 6–7 fencers who play a round-robin tournament, and a ranking is calculated from the consolidated group results. Single elimination is seeded from this ranking.
- Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (2002), Fifth Edition, Oxford University Press, Oxford, Page 2737, ISBN 0-19-860457-2
- Beard, Robert. "seed". AlphaDictionary.com. Lexiteria. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
- "Grand Slams vote to keep 32 seeds - Tennis.life". Tennis.life. 2018-09-13. Retrieved 2018-10-07.
- Wimbledon: Novak vs Mayer in R1; Andy, Roger, Rafa all in bottom half, Novak Djokovic official website, 21 June 2013
- Wimbledon 2013: Men's matches to watch out for, The Roar, 22 June 2013