How Does a Double-Elimination Tournament Work?

Everyone in a the tournament starts in the winner's bracket

The Virginia Cavaliers celebrate winning to advance to the College Baseball World Series during the NCAA Baseball Super Regional against the Maryland Terrapins on June 9, 2014 at Davenport Field in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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A double-elimination tournament is one of the more complicated to understand tournament styles, but it's a great format for sports that often consist of series games. Unlike the college basketball tournament, which is single-elimination, a double-elimination tournament allows a team to lose and still have a chance to win the tournament as a whole.

Rules of Double-Elimination

A double-elimination tournament is broken into two sets of brackets, generally called the winner’s bracket and the loser’s bracket. Each team begins in the winner’s bracket, but once they lose, they move to the loser’s bracket, where they still have an opportunity to make it to the championship.

In a four-team bracket, which is what Division I college baseball uses in regional tournaments, the first round consists of two games.

In the second round, the two teams that lost in the first round play in an elimination game. The loser of that game is eliminated from the tournament. In addition, the two teams that won in the first round play each other.

The third round is a single game featuring the team that lost the game between the first-round winning teams and the team that won the game between the first-round losing teams. The loser is eliminated from the tournament, while the winner goes on to the championship.

The fourth round could be one or two games. If the team with one loss wins, both teams will each have one loss, and another game will be played to determine the winner. If the team with no losses wins, it is the champion. 

Example of Double-Elimination

For example, in the 2016 Division I college baseball tournament, Dallas Baptist lost in the first round, but then won its next two games and played undefeated Texas Tech in the championship. Dallas Baptist won the first game, giving Texas Tech its first loss of the tournament and forcing a second game. Texas Tech won the second game and the championship.