An exhibition game (also known as a friendly, a scrimmage, a demonstration, a preseason game, a warmup match, or a preparation match, depending at least in part on the sport) is a sporting event whose prize money and impact on the player's or the team's rankings is either zero or otherwise greatly reduced. In team sports, matches of this type are most often used to help coaches and managers select players for the competitive matches of a league season or tournament. If the players most of the time play in different teams in additional leagues, exhibition games offer an opportunity for the players to learn to work with each other. The games can be held between separate teams or between parts of the same team.
An exhibition game might additionally be used to settle a challenge, to provide professional entertainment, to promote the sport, or to raise money for charities. Several sports leagues hold all-star games to showcase their best players against each other, while additional exhibitions games might pit participants from two different leagues or countries to unofficially determine who would be the best in the world. International competitions like the Olympic Games might additionally hold exhibition games as part of a demonstration sport.
In the early days of association football, known simply as football or soccer, friendly matches (or "friendlies") were the most common type of match. Notwithstanding after the development of The Football League in England in 1888, league tournaments became established, in addition to lengthy derby and cup tournaments. By the year 2000, national leagues were established in almost every country throughout the world, as well as local or regional leagues for lower level teams, thus the significance of friendlies has seriously declined after the nineteenth century.
Since the introduction of league football, most club sides play a number of friendlies before the start of each season (called pre-season friendlies). Friendly football matches are considered to be non-competitive and are only used to "warm up" players for a new season/competitive match. There is generally nothing competitive at stake and a few rules might be changed or experimented with (such as unlimited substitutions, which allow teams to play younger, less experienced, players, and no cards). Although most friendlies are simply one-off matches arranged by the clubs themselves, in which a certain amount is paid by the challenger club to the incumbent club, a few teams do compete in short tournaments, like the Emirates Cup, Teresa Herrera Trophy and the Amsterdam Tournament. Although these events might involve sponsorship deals and the awarding of a trophy and might even be broadcast on television, there's little prestige attached to them. Frequently such games take place between a large club and small clubs that play nearby, like those between Newcastle United and Gateshead.
International teams additionally play friendlies, generally in preparation for the qualifying or final stages of major tournaments. This is essential, after national squads generally have much less time together in which to prepare. The biggest difference between friendlies at the club and international levels is that international friendlies mostly take place throughout club league seasons, not between them. This has on occasion led to disagreement between national associations and clubs as to the availability of players, who could become injured or fatigued in a friendly.
International friendlies give team managers the opportunity to experiment with team selection and tactics before the tournament proper, and additionally allow them to assess the abilities of players they might potentially select for the tournament squad. Players can be booked in international friendlies, and can be suspended from future international matches based on red cards or accumulated yellows in a specified period. Caps and goals scored additionally count towards a player's career records. In 2004, FIFA ruled that substitutions by a team be limited to six per match in international friendlies, in response to criticism that such matches were fitting increasingly farcical with managers making as a large number of as 11 substitutions per match.
In the UK and Ireland, "exhibition match" and "friendly match" refer to two different types of matches. The types described above as friendlies aren't termed exhibition matches, while annual all-star matches like those held in the US Major League Soccer or Japan's Japanese League are called exhibition matches rather than friendly matches. A one-off match for charitable fundraising, most of the time involving one or two all-star teams, or a match held in honour of a player for contribution to their club, might additionally be described as exhibition matches but they're normally referred to as charity matches and testimonial matches respectively.
A bounce game is generally a non-competitive football match played between two sides most of the time as part of a training exercise or to give players match practice. Managers might additionally use bounce games as an opportunity to observe a player in action before offering a contract. Usually these games are played on a training ground rather than in a stadium with no spectators in attendance.
Exhibition Fights were once common in boxing. Jack Dempsey fought a large number of exhibition bouts after retiring. Joe Louis fought a charity fight on his rematch with Buddy Baer, but this wasn't considered an exhibition as it was for Louis' world Heavyweight title. Muhammad Ali fought a large number of exhibitions, including one with Lyle Alzado. In more modern times, Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. and Jorge Castro have been involved in exhibition fights.
Although not fought for profit, amateur bouts (usually) and sparring sessions aren't considered to be exhibition fights.
Prior to the 1917-18 NHL season, an exhibition game was played on 15 December, between the Montreal Canadiens and the Montreal Wanderers. The game was played as a benefit to aid victims of the Halifax explosion.
Under the 1995–2004 National Hockey League collective bargaining agreement, teams were limited to nine preseason games. From 1975 to 1991, NHL teams at times played exhibition games against teams from the Soviet Union in the Super Series, and in 1978, played against World Hockey Association teams additionally in preseason training. Like the NFL, the NHL at times schedules exhibition games for cities without their own NHL teams, most often at a club's minor league affiliate (e.g. Carolina Hurricanes games at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, home of their AHL affiliate; Los Angeles Kings games at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, home of their ECHL affiliate; Montreal Canadiens games at Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City, which has no pro hockey but used to have an NHL team until 1995; Washington Capitals at 1st Mariner Arena in the Baltimore Hockey Classic; various Western Canada teams at Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon, a potential NHL expansion venue). Since the 2000s, a few preseason games have been played in Europe against European teams, as part of the NHL Challenge and NHL Premiere series. In addition to the standard preseason, there additionally exist prospect tournaments like the Vancouver Canucks' YoungStars tournament and the Detroit Red Wings' training camp, in which NHL teams' younger prospects face off against each additional under their parent club's banner.
The Flying Fathers, a Canadian group of Catholic priests, regularly toured North America playing exhibition hockey games for charity. One of the organization's founders, Les Costello, was a onetime NHL player who was ordained as a priest after retiring from professional hockey. An Additional prominent exhibition hockey team is the Buffalo Sabres Alumni Hockey Team, which is composed almost entirely of retired NHL players, the majority of whom (as the name suggests) played at least a portion of their career for the Buffalo Sabres.
American college hockey teams occasionally play exhibition games against Canadian college teams as well as against USA or Canadian national teams. (In men's hockey, the senior national teams are selected from NHL and additional pro players, and college teams would be overmatched against those teams even if they were allowed to play them. Notwithstanding the national under-18 teams are comprised of amateurs.)
The Major League Baseball's preseason is additionally known as spring training. All MLB teams maintain a spring-training base in Arizona or Florida. The teams in Arizona make up the Cactus League, while the teams in Florida play in the Grapefruit League. Each team plays about 30 preseason games against additional MLB teams. They might additionally play exhibitions against a local college team or a minor-league team from their farm system. Some days feature the team playing two games with two different rosters evenly divided up, which are known as "split-squad" games.
Several MLB teams used to play regular exhibition games throughout the year against nearby teams in the additional major league, but regular-season interleague play has made such games unnecessary. The two Canadian MLB teams, the Toronto Blue Jays of the American League and the Montreal Expos of the National League, met annually to play the Pearson Cup exhibition game; this tradition ended when the Expos moved to Washington DC for the 2005 season. Similarly, the New York Yankees played in the Mayor's Trophy Game against various local rivals from 1946 to 1983.
It additionally used to be commonplace to have a team play an exhibition against Minor League affiliates throughout the regular season, but worries of injuries to players, along with travel issues, have made this quite rare. Exhibitions between inter-city teams in different leagues, like Chicago's Crosstown Classic and New York's Subway Series which used to be played solely as exhibitions for bragging rights are now blended into interleague play. The annual MLB All-Star Game, played in July between players from AL teams and players from NL teams, was long considered an exhibition match, but as of 2003 this status was questioned because the league whose team wins the All-Star game has been awarded home field advantage for the upcoming World Series.
Another exhibition game, the Hall of Fame Game/Classic which was played in Cooperstown, New York on the weekend of inductions to the Baseball Hall of Fame, was additionally ended in 2008 due to interleague play and teams playing only substitutes.
National Basketball Association teams play eight preseason games per year. Today, NBA teams almost always play each additional in the preseason, but mainly at neutral sites within their market areas in order to allow those who can't most of the time make a trip to a home team's arena throughout the regular season to see a game close to home; for instance the Minnesota Timberwolves will play games in arenas in North Dakota and South Dakota, while the Phoenix Suns schedule one exhibition game outdoors at Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California yearly, the only such instance an NBA game takes place in an outdoor venue.
However, from 1971 to 1975, NBA teams played preseason exhibitions against American Basketball Association teams. In the early days of the NBA, league clubs at times challenged the legendary barnstorming Harlem Globetrotters, with mixed success. The NBA has played preseason games in Europe and Asia. In the 2006 and 2007 seasons, the NBA and the primary European club competition, the Euroleague, conducted a preseason tournament featuring two NBA teams and the finalists from that year's Euroleague. In the 1998-99 and 2011-12 seasons, teams were limited to only two preseason games due to lockouts.
Women's National Basketball Association teams play up to three preseasons games per year. WNBA plays will play each additional and will additionally play women's national basketball teams.
Traditionally, major college basketball teams began their seasons with a few exhibition games. They played travelling teams comprised of former college players on teams like Athletes in Action or a team sponsored by Marathon Oil. On occasion before 1992, when FIBA allowed professional players on foreign national teams, colleges played those teams in exhibitions. Notwithstanding in 2003, the National Collegiate Athletic Association banned games with non-college teams. Some teams have begun scheduling exhibition games against teams in NCAA Division II and NCAA Division III, or even against colleges and universities located in Canada. Major college basketball teams still travel to additional countries throughout the summer to play in exhibition games, although a college team is allowed one foreign tour every four years, and a maximum of ten games in each tour.
Compared to additional team sports, the National Football League preseason is quite structured. Every NFL team plays exactly four pre-season exhibition games a year, two at home and two away, with the exception of two teams each year who play a fifth game, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. These exhibition games, most of which are held in the month of August, are played for the purpose of helping coaches narrow down the roster from the offseason limit of 90 players to the regular-season limit of 53 players. While the scheduling formula isn't as rigid for preseason games as they're for the regular season, there are numerous restrictions and traditions that limit the choices of preseason opponents; teams are additionally restricted on what days and times they can play these games. Split-squad games, a practise common in baseball and hockey, where a team that's scheduled to play two games on the same day splits their team into two squads, are prohibited. The NFL has played exhibition games in Europe, Japan, Canada, Australia (including the American Bowl in 1999) and Mexico to spread the league's popularity (a game of this type was proposed for China but, due to financial and logistical problems, was eventually canceled). The league has tacitly forbidden the playing of non-league opponents, with the last interleague game having come in 1972 and the last game against a team additional than an NFL team (the all-NFL rookie College All-Stars) was held in 1976. Exhibition games are quite unpopular with a large number of fans, who resent having to pay regular-season prices for two home exhibition games as part of a season-ticket package. Numerous lawsuits have been brought by fans and classes of fans against the NFL or its member teams regarding this practice, but none have been successful in halting it. The Pro Bowl, traditionally played after the end of the NFL season (since 2011 is played the week prior to the Super Bowl), is additionally considered an exhibition game.
The Arena Football League briefly had a two-game exhibition season in the early 2000s, a practise that ended in 2003 with a new television contract. Exhibition games outside of a structured season are relatively common amongst indoor American football leagues; because teams switch leagues frequently at that level of play, it isn't uncommon to see a few of the smaller leagues schedule exhibition games against teams that are from another league, about to join the league as a probational franchise, or a semi-pro outdoor team to fill holes in a schedule.
College and high school football
Many college football teams, particularly larger organizations, play a public intramural exhibition game in the spring mainly to promote the team and give new recruits an early chance at public game action. Many of these intramural games are nationally televised, though not to the same level of prominence as intercollegiate play. In college sports the commonly used term for the major scrimmage at the end of spring practise is the "Spring Game."
True exhibition games between opposing colleges at the highest level don't exist in college football; due to the importance of opinion polling in the top level of college football, even exhibition games wouldn't truly be exhibitions because they could influence the opinions of those polled. Intramural games are possible because a team playing against itself leaves little ability for poll participants to make judgments, and at levels below the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), championships are decided by objective formulas and thus those teams can play non-league games without affecting their playoff hopes.
However, most of the major FBS teams annually schedule early season non-conference preseason home games against lesser opponents that are lower-tier FBS, Football Championship, or Division II schools, which most often result in lopsided victories in favour of the FBS teams and act as exhibition games in all but name, though they additionally provide a large appearance fee and at least one guaranteed television appearance for the smaller school. These games additionally receive the same criticism as NFL exhibition games, but instead it is targeted to schools scheduling low-quality opponents and the simplicity for a team to run up the score against a weak opponent. Notwithstanding these games are susceptible to backfiring, resulting in damage in poll position and public perception, especially if the higher ranked team loses, although the mere act of scheduling a weak opponent is harmful to a team's overall strength of schedule itself. Games an FBS team schedules against lower division opponents don't count toward the minimum seven wins required for bowl eligibility, and only one game against an FCS team can be counted. With the start of the College Football Playoff system for the 2014 season, major teams are now discouraged from scheduling weaker opponents for their non-conference schedule because of a much higher emphasis on strength of schedule than in the Bowl Championship Series era, and FBS conferences have pushed to expand the number of games in a conference season a team is required to play against in-conference opponents.
High school football teams frequently participate in controlled scrimmages with additional teams throughout preseason practice, but exhibition games are rare because of league rules and concerns about finances, travel and player injuries, along with enrollments not being registered until the early part of August in most school districts under the traditional September–June academic term. A more common exhibition is the high school football all-star game, which brings together top players from a region. These games are typically played by graduating seniors throughout the summer or at the end of the season. Many of these games, which include the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and Under Armour All-America Game, are used as showcases for players to be seen by colleges.
Teams in the Canadian Football League play two exhibition games each year, in June. Exhibition games in the CFL have taken on great importance to coaching staff and players alike in that they're used as a final stage of training camp and regular season rosters are finalised after the exhibition games, which are generally referred to as "pre-season" play.
Australian rules football
Australian rules football has been introduced to a wide range of places around Australia and the world after the code originated in Victoria in 1859. Much of this expansion can be directly attributed to exhibition matches by the major leagues in regions and countries where the code has been played as a demonstration sport.
Various auto racing organisations hold exhibition events; these events most of the time award no championship points to participants, but they do offer prize money to participants. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series holds two exhibition events annually - the Sprint Unlimited, held at Daytona International Speedway at the start of the season, and the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, held at Charlotte Motor Speedway midway through the season. Both events carry a hefty purse of over USD $1,000,000. NASCAR has additionally held exhibition races at Suzuka Circuit and Twin Ring Motegi in Japan and Calder Park Thunderdome in Australia.
Other historical examples of non-championship races include the Marlboro Challenge in IndyCar racing and the TOCA Touring Car Shootout in the British Touring Car Championship. Until the mid-1980s there were a significant number of non-championship Formula One races.
The National Hot Rod Association Pro Stock teams will have a pre-season drag meet held before the traditional start in Pomona. The Pro Stock Showdown is a pre-season drag meet held for the Pro Stock teams held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.