Free Printable Tournament Bracket Templates – Fillable PDFs

A tournament is a series of games, either the same game played several times or a succession of games related by a single theme, played competitively to determine a single winning participant (team or individual). To illustrate the sequence of games in a tournament, a tournament bracket is used. The tournament brackets are popular among major professional tournaments in different sports like basketball, NFL, and wrestling.

A Tournament Bracket is a visual representation of competition between multiple candidates who participate in a series of games or multiple eliminatory rounds where winners from each game or round compete in the subsequent game or round.

Losers are eliminated after each round until a single winner is found. A tournament bracket can be manual or digital (typed or written on paper or electronic).

NCAA tournament brackets

The NCAA tournament is a famous user of tournament brackets. The tournament bracket template outlines the American college and university basketball teams participating in the tournament and how the championship winner will be determined in the final round. There are different NCAA tournament brackets templates available, as indicated below. 

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    Structure of the Tournament Bracket

    A tournament bracket gets its name from the “square brackets” punctuation marks, with an additional horizontal line protruding at the midpoint of the vertical line. The protruding line should be opposite that of the other two horizontal lines. The two horizontal lines of the “square bracket” should be 40 to 70 percent (%) longer than the “bracket’s” vertical line. With that in mind, a standard tournament bracket will look as shown below.

    Tournament Bracket Template
    tournament bracket example

    The structure represents one single game or round in the tournament. The direction of the tournament is right to left – the two horizontal arms facing right represent two teams, and the single horizontal line represents the winner of that round who will advance to the next round.

    How does the Tournament Bracket Template work?

    What is a tournament bracket template? It is a form with an even number of teams or players that compete against each other in several eliminatory rounds. The number of teams determines the number of rounds that have to be drawn before a single winner can be determined. Losing teams or individuals from each matchup are eliminated, and winners progress to the next matchup. The least number of participants in a tournament bracket template is four but can be as many as necessary to suit the number of teams. The teams are halved, and winners advance closer to the middle of the tournament bracket as participants are eliminated. Final winners from each half meet in the last round to determine the tournament’s winner.

    Now, how does a tournament bracket work? A tournament bracket template allows anyone to summarize a tournament in a straightforward diagram. It shows the matchups at each round of a tournament. It pits two participants (team or individual) against each other. Each round will have more than one game being played so as teams or individuals who win their matchup can advance and play against winners from another matchup. The final matchup is played by the final two winners of the last elimination round.

    Types of Tournaments

    Tournament brackets templates will differ depending on the type of tournament. Each type of tournament has its strengths and weaknesses, and the selection of the template should be based on suitability.

    Below are the standard formats of how tournaments are conducted:

    Fillable single elimination blind draw

    A single-elimination tournament sees participants compete in eliminatory rounds that eliminate half the participants such that only a quarter of the participants are left after the second round. Winners advance per round until “the tournament champion” is determined.

    This type of tournament is suitable when many participants have to compete in a short time and with limited locations. Matchups in single-elimination blind draws are based on luck and not previous results or experience. Single elimination tournaments require the least number of games but are limited to extensive games, not quick matches.

    Fillable single-elimination seeded

    Single elimination seeded tournament bracket templates are prevalent in football, baseball, and wrestling. In a seeded elimination, the highest-ranked team or individual (in terms of performance and experience) is matched up with the lowest-ranked opponents (referred to as “byes” based on the same merit, and this order is followed for other participants. As a result, it will often be used in the play-off stages of the tournament.

    Fillable double elimination blind draw

    A double-elimination tournament requires participants to play at least two games before being eliminated. A double-elimination blind draw ensures that participants are not matched up based on previous performance, skill, or experience but luck–drawn blindly. Participants are grouped into a winner’s bracket or loser’s bracket.

    All participants start in the winner’s bracket, play one game, and the losers are moved into the loser’s bracket, where they play one more game to earn an opportunity to move into the winner’s bracket. If defeated in the loser’s bracket, the participant is eliminated.

    Fillable double elimination seeded

    In a double-elimination seeded tournament, teams or players are drawn against each other based on previous results, skill, and experience. The lowest-ranked team plays against the highest-ranked team in terms of the selected metric.

    However, this format can be problematic for the second and third-seeded teams as they will typically have to play more games, especially in the tournament’s final stages. Double elimination also takes longer to complete than single elimination due to the number of games played per round.

    Fillable consolation brackets blind draw

    A consolation tournament template allows participants who lose in the first round a chance to continue participating and show their skills while playing for subsidiary honors in the consolation bracket.

    However, the winners of the first round qualify to play for the tournament champion – they remain in the winner’s bracket throughout the tournament. Subsequent losers may sometimes drop down into the consolation bracket and compete for the subsidiary honors. Participants are matched based on a lucky draw if the consolation tournament is a blind draw type.

    Fillable consolation brackets seeded

    A consolation brackets seeded format allows teams or players to be matched based on predetermined skills, experience, and previous experience. This allows the highest-ranked teams to meet in the tournament’s latter stages and compete for the tournament champion title. Consolation brackets are standard in wrestling tournaments.

    Fillable 3-game guarantee blind draw

    The three-game guarantee tournament allows each team to play at least three games before elimination. This can be highly beneficial for teams traveling long distances for the tournament. The three-game guarantee tournament bracket template will have two brackets; the winner’s and the loser’s bracket.

    However, unlike in the consolation format, teams play two games before being added to the loser’s bracket where they get to compete for consolation honors giving the team a chance to play at least three games, hence the name of this format. Furthermore, if the tournament is a blind draw, teams are pitted against each other after a lucky draw. 

    Fillable 3-game guarantee seeded

    In a three-game guarantee seeded format, teams are drawn against each other based on previous results, skill, and performance criteria. Three game guarantee format makes teams or individuals feel like they are getting value for their time by having three games to participate in no matter the results.

    Purpose of Using a Tournament Bracket Template

    These templates serve many pertinent tasks. Examples of these are:

    • Aids in keeping track of the match progress: They aid in keeping track of the progress of the matches. Those who are interested in the proceedings of the matches will have it easier to follow through from the first to the last match. In that way, the followers of the matches will find it easier to get to know just what to expect in the process.
    • Anticipate and prepare for matches: Many people definitely want to prepare well in advance for the matches that are yet to come. The only way they can manage this is to get their hands on the tournament brackets. Using this chart, a fan is able to know which matches to skip and which ones to watch beforehand.
    • Helps in dispute resolution: It is not uncommon for disputes to arise in the court of a tournament. The use of these brackets is a sure way of avoiding such disputes from arising in the first place. That is because it clearly states when a match is to happen and the protagonists of that particular match.
    • Facilitates the hosting of tournaments: It facilitates the hosting of various matches. Using this bracket, the organizers and officials will know well when and where they are supposed to hold what match. Any possibilities of confusion are also avoided using it.
    • Used for future references: If any matter arises with regards to the tournaments, the bracket may yet again be used for future references. This happens when they are safeguarded and stored for the future. In light of this, the bracket may also serve to facilitate litigations purely as exhibits.

    Related: 30 Free Printable Baseball Lineup Templates (Word, Excel)

    Final Remarks

    Tournament brackets are visual representations of how participants in a tournament are matched against each other and how the competition’s eventual winner will be arrived at. The brackets can be typed or online. The tournament organizers will use the tournament bracket template to communicate the official tournament schedule.

    Tournament bracket templates are utilized in most if not all professional sports tournaments, from football, basketball, baseball, wrestling, etc. Famous tournaments where tournament brackets are used include the NBA, World Cup, NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament (March madness), NFL, English Premier League, MLB, EUFA champions league, etc.   

    About This Article

    Maureen Taylor
    Authored by:
    Certified Microsoft Office Specialist, Design, Template Creation, Form Building
    Maureen Taylor is a recognized authority in the Microsoft Office suite, holding a distinguished certification that underscores her mastery. Based on her in-depth knowledge and hands-on experience, Maureen excels in design, seamlessly crafting visually compelling and functional assets. Her prowess extends to the creation of custom templates tailored to specific needs and the design of interactive forms that streamline data capture. Maureen's meticulous approach, combined with her knack for understanding user requirements, ensures that every project not only meets but often exceeds expectations. For businesses and individuals seeking an expert who can translate their vision into efficient Microsoft Office solutions, Maureen Taylor is the definitive choice.

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