A split season is a schedule format implemented in a variety of sports leagues. The season is divided into two parts, with the winners of both halves playing each other at the end for the overall championship.
Split seasons are usually found in sports with longer seasons, such as baseball, basketball, and soccer. They are common in scholastic sports, specifically basketball, in the United States. A number of Minor League Baseball leagues also use split seasons. In Latin America, some soccer leagues use a similar format known as Apertura and Clausura.
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball has used split seasons twice in its history.
In 1981, the Major League season was interrupted by a players' strike. Due to the two-month strike, the owners tried to create an equitable solution. So on August 6, the owners decided to split the 1981 season into two halves, with the first-place teams from each half in each division (or a wild card team if the same club won both halves) meeting in a best-of-five divisional playoff series. The four survivors would then move on to the two best-of-five League Championship Series. The extra round of postseason playoffs were won by the Yankees, Athletics, Expos, and Dodgers.
In Minor League Baseball, split seasons are used by two of the three Class AA leagues, the Southern League and the Texas League, as well as all Class A-Advanced leagues (California, Carolina, and Florida State) and full-season Class A leagues (Midwest and South Atlantic). Among the indelendent minor leagues, the Atlantic League and Pacific Association use a split schedule.
If a team should win both halves of a season, most leagues provide that this team would play the team with the second-best overall record. In the past, some leagues stated that a double winner would automatically be declared champion, or automatically advance to the next round of playoffs.
One reason given for the use of split seasons in the minors is that the purpose of these leagues is different than that of Major League Baseball. These leagues are primarily for the development of players, and as such players may move from level to level at any time during the season. A team with many very good players in the early part of the season may see them promoted, leaving lesser players remaining for the end. It also allows teams who played poorly in the first half to continue to play meaningful games later in the season.
The Apertura and Clausura tournaments are a relatively recent innovation for many Latin American soccer leagues in which the traditional season from August to May is divided in two sections per season, each with its own champion. Apertura and Clausura are the Spanish words for "opening" and "closing". In French-speaking Haiti, these are known as the Ouverture and the Fermeture, while in English-speaking Belize, they are respectively the "Opening" and "Closing" seasons. The North American Soccer League (NASL), a second-level league in the United States and Canada, adopted a split season in 2013; the season is divided into a "Spring Championship" and "Fall Championship".
In its only complete season, the American Basketball League conducted a split season. The champions of East and West divisions in the first half met for a three-game playoff series in January 1962, won by the Kansas City Steers. After that series, the second half of the season began. The second half playoffs were more complicated, featuring a six-team tournament, won by the Cleveland Pipers. Once that was concluded, Cleveland defeated Kansas City for the overall championship.
- Terry Gottschall. "October 1892: The Split-Season Playoff". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
- Lisa Winston (August 25, 2006). "A tale of two seasons: Leagues with split campaigns keep players, fans involved". Minor League Baseball. Retrieved July 4, 2016.
- "History of the American Basketball League". Association for Professional Basketball Research. Retrieved July 4, 2016.