In this post I provide examples of sports terms capitalized according to the guidelines of MLA style. There are three general principles to keep in mind when writing about sports terms in MLA style:

  1. Rules and parts of the game are lowercased, unless they contain proper nouns. For instance, “a lateral pass” and “a Hail Mary pass.”
  2. The names of major events are capitalized, but generic descriptions of them are lowercased. For instance, “the NBA Finals” and “the finals”; “the Stanley Cup Playoffs” and “the playoffs.”
  3. The names of teams, leagues, and conferences are capitalized. Team names are capitalized even when they do not include the city or school associated with the team. For instance, “the Cleveland Browns” or “the Browns,” and “the Stanford Cardinal” or “the Cardinal.”

In the examples that follow, I consulted Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary for spelling and punctuation.

Rules and Parts of the Game

double play

home run





Statue of Liberty (or a Statue of Liberty play)

hat trick

corner kick





hole in one

Major Events

the World Series

the Little League Baseball World Series 

the Sweet Sixteen

the NCAA Championship

the SEC Championship

the Sugar Bowl

the AFC Championship

the Super Bowl

the World Cup

the Wimbledon Championships (or Wimbledon)

the Open Championship (or the British Open)

Team Names and Leagues

the Dodgers (or the Los Angeles Dodgers)

the National League (or NL)

Major League Baseball (or MLB)

the Suns (or the Phoenix Suns)

the Storm (or the Seattle Storm)

the National Basketball Association (or NBA)

the Women’s National Basketball Association (or WNBA)

the Browns (or the Cleveland Browns)

the Crimson Tide (or the Alabama Crimson Tide)

the American Football Conference (or AFC)

the National Football League (or NFL)

the Southeastern Conference (or SEC)

Liverpool FC

the Premier League

Fédération Internationale de Football (or FIFA)

the Lawn Tennis Association (or LTA)

the Professional Golfers’ Association (or PGA)

the Ladies Professional Golf Association (or LPGA)

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Joseph Wallace

Joseph Wallace copyedits articles for PMLA and writes posts for the Style Center. He received a PhD in English literature from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before coming to the Modern Language Association, he edited articles for Studies in Philology and taught courses on writing and early modern literature.