- Division (sport)
In sports, a division is a group of teams who compete against each other for a championship.
In sports using a league system (also known as a pyramid structure), a division consists a group of teams who play a sport at a similar competitive level. Teams can move up to a higher division of play or drop down to a lower one via the process of promotion and relegation, based on their performance in the standings at the end of the season. The existence of divisions based on level of competition ensures that teams at one competitive level can play other teams at a similar competitive level, thus creating parity and more exciting matches.
In North America, where sports usually operate on a franchise system rather than a league system, a division is a group of teams within a league which is organized along geographical lines rather than competitive success. Teams based in cities that are in a particular region of the continent are grouped together in the same division. For instance, in Major League Baseball, both the American and National Leagues have East, Central, and West divisions; the teams in each division are mostly (but not always) located in the eastern, central, and western sections of North America respectively. In a franchise system, teams are not promoted or relegated as are teams in a league system. All teams in the league (and by extension, the divisions of the league) are at the same competitive level and remain so year after year.
North American professional sports leagues often construct their season schedules in a way such that teams in a division play matches against each other more often than other teams in the league. This not only has the effect of reducing travel costs, but also creates exciting rivalries between the teams in the division. Moreover, the top teams in a division qualify for the postseason playoff tournament that crowns the league champion, which heightens the rivalries between the teams in a division.
Geographically-based divisions can become skewed if an expansion team joins the league or if one of the franchises within a division moves to another city, necessitating a shuffling or realignment of the teams in a division. Furthermore, the results of the realignment may not always reflect geographical realities. For instance, in 1995, the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL) moved to St. Louis, Missouri and became the St. Louis Rams. However, the team retained its place in the NFC West division despite the fact that St. Louis is further east than Dallas, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Although Dallas is located in the south-central United States, the Cowboys are a member of the NFC East division due to their long-standing rivalries with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Redskins, all of whom are located on the Eastern seaboard.
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