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An exhibition game (also known as an exhibition match or simply exhibition, or a demonstration or demo or an "exhibit" event) is a sporting event in which there is no competitive value of any significant kind to any competitor (such as tournament or season rankings, or prize money) regardless of the outcome of the competition. Quality of play is generally valued over the end result. In association football a common equivalent term is friendly match. The term scrimmage is also sometimes used, especially with regard to team sports, but is ambiguous because it has other meanings even in that context. Another synonym is preparation match.

Throughout the world, many team and one-on-one sports and games feature exhibition matches. For example, two professional snooker or chess players, or two ice hockey teams, may play an exhibition to settle a challenge, to provide (compensated) entertainment, or often to raise money for charities.

In some sports, especially in North America, exhibition games also take the form of a handful of pre-season games that are intended to familiarize teammates with each other and prepare for upcoming matches. In professional sports, pre-season games also help teams decide which players to keep for the regular season.

Given the highly competitive nature of professional sports (and the frequent lack of disciplinary action by officiating bodies for rules or sportsmanship infractions during exhibitions), "friendly" matches are not always the exemplars of good will and fair play that the term might suggest.

Association football

In the early days of association football (soccer), friendly matches (or "friendlies") were the most common type of match. However since the development of The English Football League in 1888, league tournaments became established, in addition to lengthy cup tournaments. By the turn of the millennium, national leagues were established in almost every country, as well as regional leagues for lower level teams, thus the significance of friendlies has seriously declined since the 19th century.

Today 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 some rules may be changed or experimented with (such as unlimited substitutions 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, some teams do compete in short tournaments, such as the Emirates Cup, Teresa Herrera Trophy and the Amsterdam Tournament. Although these events may involve sponsorship deals and the awarding of a trophy and may even be broadcast on television, there is little prestige attached to them.

International teams also play friendlies, generally in preparation for the qualifying or final stages of major tournaments. This is essential, since 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 during 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 also allow them to assess the abilities of players they may 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 also count towards a player's career records. In 2004, FIFAmarker ruled that substitutions by a team be limited to six per match in international friendlies, in response to criticism that such matches were becoming increasingly farcical with managers making as many as 11 substitutions per match.

In the UK and Ireland, "exhibition match" and "friendly match" refer to different types of matches. The types described above as friendlies are not termed exhibition matches, while annual all-star matches such as those held in the US MLS or Japan's J. League are called exhibition matches rather than friendly matches. A one-off match for charitable fundraising, usually involving one or two all-star teams, or a match held in honour of a player for service to his/her club, may be described as exhibition matches but they are normally referred to as Charity football match and testimonial matches respectively.

Ice hockey

Under the 19952004 National Hockey League collective bargaining agreement, teams were limited to nine preseason games. From 1975 to 1991, NHL teams sometimes played exhibition games against teams from the Soviet Unionmarker in the Super Series, and in 1978, played against World Hockey Association teams also in preseason training. Like the NFL, the NHL sometimes schedules exhibition games for cities without their own NHL teams. In the 2000s, some preseason games were played in Europe against European teams, during the NHL Challenge series.

In 1992, goaltender Manon Rheaume played in a preseason game for the Tampa Bay Lightning, becoming the first woman to suit up for a major pro sports team in North America.

The Flying Fathers, a Canadianmarker group of Catholic priests, regularly tour 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.

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 other pro players, and college teams would be overmatched against those teams even if they were allowed to play them. However, the national under-18 teams are made up of amateurs.)


Major League Baseball's preseason is known as spring training. All MLB teams maintain a spring-training base in Arizonamarker or Floridamarker. 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 other MLB teams. They may also play exhibitions against a local college team or a minor-league team from their farm system.

Several MLB teams used to play regular exhibition games during the year against nearby teams in the other 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, D.C. for the 2005 season. It also used to be commonplace to have a team play an exhibition against Minor League affiliates during the regular season, but worries of injuries to players, along with travel issues, have made this very rare. 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 is questioned because the All-Star pennant-winner has been awarded home field advantage for the upcoming World Series.


National Basketball Association teams play about seven preseason games per year. Nowadays, NBA teams almost always play each other in the preseason. However, from 1971 to 1975, NBA teams played preseason exhibitions against American Basketball Association teams. In the early days of the NBA, league clubs sometimes 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, will conduct a preseason tournament featuring two NBA teams and the finalists from that year's Euroleague. [85750]

Traditionally, major college basketball teams would begin their seasons with a few exhibition games. They would play traveling teams made up of former college players or, on occasion, other countries' national teams. However, 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 Division III. Major college basketball teams may still travel to other countries once every few years during the summer to play in exhibition games.

American football

National Football League teams play four or five pre-season exhibition games a year, for which ticket prices are the same as for regular-season games. These exhibition games are allegedly for the purpose of helping coaches narrow down the roster to the regular-season limit of 53 players; however, they also pad the profits of the team owners, as players are not paid regular-season salaries for exhibition games. The NFL has played exhibition games in Europe, Japanmarker, Canadamarker, Australia (including the American Bowl in 1999) and Mexicomarker to spread the league's popularity (a game of this type was proposed for Chinamarker but, due to financial and logistical problems, was eventually canceled). Exhibition games are quite unpopular with many 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.[85751]

The Pro Bowl, played after the end of the NFL season, is also considered an exhibition game.

College football teams do not play exhibition games (due to the importance of opinion polling in college football, even exhibition games would not truly be exhibitions because they could influence the opinions of those polled), although many play a public intramural exhibition game in the spring.

High school football teams frequently participate in scrimmages with other teams during preseason practice, but exhibition games are rare because of league rules and concerns about finances and player injuries. More common is the high school football all-star game, which brings together top players from a region. These games are typically played by graduating seniors during the summer. are used as showcases for players to be seen by colleges.

Australian rules football

Australian rules football has been introduced to a wide range of places around Australia and the world since the code originated in Victoriamarker 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.

Auto racing

Various auto racing organizations hold exhibition events, more specifically, races that do not count towards the season championship. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series holds one exhibition event annually, the invitation-only Budweiser Shootout at the start of the season. The top seven teams of each manufacturer from the previous season compete in the event which awards cash prizes only, and no points towards the Sprint Cup championship. A second event, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is also a non-points paying race; however, it is falls under the category of all-star events. NASCAR also held exhibition races previously at Suzuka Circuitmarker, Twin Ring Motegimarker, and Calder Park Thunderdomemarker.

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 Speedwaymarker.


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