In American sports, the final four is the last four teams remaining in a playoff tournament. Usually the final four compete in the two games of a single-elimination tournament’s semi-final (penultimate) round. Of these teams, the two who win in the semi-final round play another single-elimination game whose winner is the tournament champion. In some tournaments, the two teams that lose in the semi-final round compete for third place in a consolation game.
The term “final four” is most often used in the United States and in sports heavily influenced by that country; elsewhere, only the term “semi-finals” is in common use. “Final four” first appeared in print in a 1975 article for the Official Collegiate Basketball Guide, whose author Ed Chay was a sportswriter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Chay stated that the Marquette basketball team “was one of the final four” during the previous season’s tournament. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) pioneered the term and later trademarked it.
The NCAA also uses “Final Four” for other sports besides basketball, such as the Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Championship. For ice hockey tournaments, the NCAA uses a variation of the term: the “Frozen Four”.