When showing a tournament calendar with an odd number of teams, how can I say (in sport terms) to indicate the team that is not playing on a given match day?

For example a tournament with five teams (A, B , C , D, and E):

A vs B

C vs D

E "has a day off"

  • Team E "is just trying to take it zero games at a time"
    – psr
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 16:31

5 Answers 5


I know this as a bye, as in Team E has a bye this round.

The term appears to have originated with cricket, in which a bye is a run scored when the batsman has not hit the ball. This phrase was later applied to tournaments in which a team advances without playing.

In North American usage, at least (certainly in American and Canadian football, baseball, and American professional soccer, and many collegiate sports), it has been further extended to gaps in the regular season when a team does not play, either because there are an odd number of teams in the league or because, in the case of the NFL, there are more weeks in the season than games for any team.

  • 1
    Most sources I've looked for an explanation give another definition. E.g., dictionary.com: in a tournament, the preferential status of a player or team not paired with a competitor in an early round and thus automatically advanced to play in the next round.
    – Art Licis
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 13:25
  • 3
    This may be what OP meant, but it is certainly not what he asked for. When the Rugby tournament was the Five Nations, every week saw four teams playing, and one 'sitting out'. But, as a league system. byes didn't come into it. Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 16:29
  • 2
    I don't think it's a bye unless the team is advancing despite not playing (e.g. by being the odd-one out in a series of elimination matches). A tournament may include group/round-robin/league matches too.
    – e100
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 16:30
  • 3
    @TimLymington But in the NFL (perhaps the US?) it is called a bye week even though it's not a knockout situation: "BYE WEEK: Cowboys, Lions, Raiders, Buccaneers "
    – robertc
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 17:33
  • 1
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_cricket_terms - Rest day: a non-playing day in the middle of a multiple day game. These were once common, but are seldom seen in the modern era. Bye: extras scored in the same way as normal runs when the ball does not make contact with any part of the batsman (bat, protective gear, body parts).
    – user9682
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 17:44

I have seen rest day being used to describe such days in newspapers. Not that the team would be taking a rest on that day, though.

  • This is often used for pitchers in baseball, who routinely play in only a portion of the team's total games, and rest up (missing games) in preparation for the next game that they will play. Overall, "rest day" has a connotation of being for an individual, not a team.
    – Zoot
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 16:16
  • @Zoot: yesterday was a rest day for the teams in the Tour de France.
    – e100
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 16:27
  • @e100 But that "rest day" means that no one competed, right? Baseball, basketball, and hockey teams will have "travel days" and "rest days" in a multi-game series, but those teams aren't playing anyone else during that time.
    – Zoot
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 16:33

Idle is a term that is sometimes seen in sports pages. It is particularly used in the case were the schedule is not rigid, such as basketball or baseball. Not every team plays every day, even if there are an even number of teams.

When National Football League teams don't have a game, that is referred to as a Bye week. In the playoffs the word "bye" would mean that you are exempted from that round, whereas "idle" means that is your day off. "Idle" is used when college football teams don't play for a week.


Perhaps free is a sound option.


In American English the term would be off-day. This is widely used. Rest day is not used except for team sports when they have time between games for travel and rest but it is better than the other choices. I guess idle could be used but I have seen many a tournament bracket laid out and never saw the word on it.

The word bye is very incorrect for a tournament because it implies a free win. If I am in a tournament and I have a bye then I automatically make it to the next round. The only two times I can think of that bye is used is when NFL teams are off the one week a year. Then the two best conference teams also get a bye int he postseason but that means they get to advance to the next round without playing.

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