When the total number of teams is 2^n (e.g. 32), there is no problem. Because when two top teams in each group promote to the next round we will have two teams for the final match.

But when the total number of teams isn't 2^n (e.g. 24) we can't reach two teams in the final match by only promoting two top teams in each group. In the 24 case we have to promote 4 of the best third teams in addition to the two top teams.

But the 2023-24 AFC Champions League has 40 teams in total. So they need to promote 10 first teams in each group in addition to 6 of the best second teams.

My Question: Are there other tournaments with groups of 4 teams each (a total of 40 or other numbers) with some of the second teams eliminated?

  • Something similar happened to third-placed teams on Euro 2020. There were six groups, so all first, all second and four best third-placed teams qualified to the round of 16. Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 8:43
  • 3
    @defaultlocale as I understand it, the OP is asking when some second place teams might not qualify.
    – Philip Kendall
    Commented Dec 6, 2023 at 9:27

1 Answer 1


One obvious answer here is the NFL - each conference has 4 divisions of 4 teams, with the 7 playoff teams from each conference being made up of:

  • The winner of each division
  • The three "best of the rest" (wild cards) - which could even be from the same division, meaning three second place teams can in theory miss out on the playoffs.
    • This was more likely before the 2020-21 season when there were only two wild cards rather than three.

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