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Have any professional sporting tiebreaks been decided by a coin toss (or equivalent)?

Sports Asked on November 23, 2021

In most professional sporting events that involve some form of ranking system to determine an overall winner, or progression into later stages, there are a series of tie-breaker rules to determine a winner / loser when the primary ranking metric is tied across two or more competitors.

For example, for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the tie-breakers for the group stage were as follows:

  1. greatest number of points obtained in all group matches;
  2. goal difference in all group matches;
  3. greatest number of goals scored in all group matches.

[…]

  1. greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned;
  2. goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
  3. greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
  4. greater number of points obtained in the fair play conduct of the teams based on yellow and red cards received in all group matches;
  5. drawing of lots by the FIFA.

https://www.fifa.com/worldcup/news/tie-breakers-for-russia-2018-groups

Quite a lot of these tie-breakers end a coin toss, or another "luck of the draw" type scenario, to determine the "winner".

My question is: has any professional sporting event ever had to use its final "it’s down to luck" tie-breaker?

One Answer

There are a number of examples of this, but mostly from the days when they didn't have nearly as many tiebreakers before the "coin toss". Some football examples:

The latter two would these days have been settled by a penalty shootout; the former would probably have used one of the "disciplinary record" tie-breakers but I haven't looked into the details.

Answered by Philip Kendall on November 23, 2021

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