Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup Tiebreakers

John J. Miller finds it "lame" that there is (or was: the games are over) a possible outcome in which the U.S. and England, tied for 2nd and 3rd place in Group C, would have their positions determined by lottery.

He may not be aware of this, but the same is true in the American football playoff system. There is a series of tiebreakers, the last of which is "coin toss".

This isn't surprising: at some point in any round-robin system, it's possible that two or more teams may tie on any given number of measures. If that happens, something must be introduced to break the tie. You might say: use a one-game playoff, which works fine if two teams tie. But what if three teams tie? That's certainly a possible outcome, and further playoffs may do nothing to resolve the situation. So a coin toss, or lottery, is necessary just to come to a decision. It may be "lame", but it's unavoidable.

Happily, the U.S. and England each won their games and advanced to the knockout round without the need for any lotteries.

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