term for exhibition
games that precede the main regular season
schedule of a league
Even though preseason games don't count towards statistics, nor standings, they still serve several purposes.
Preseasons allow a team's coaching staff to see how his players perform and lets him get examine their talent and skills without worrying about winning or losing a game. This is especially useful when evaluating young prospects, to help further their growth.
Usually, a team will a larger amount of players with them in preseason, and cut the team down to its regular season size. As such, borderline players generally take the preseason very seriously, since they're fighting for spots on the roster. Star players often do not, but use the preseason to get into a rhythm and warm up for the games that count. For example, currently Barry Bonds leads the league in home runs this preseason. These homers don't count towards any of his season or career stats.
Coaches can also use the preseason to practice new tactics or formations for the coming season.
Preseason schedules are fairly short compared to regular season, usually lasting several weeks as compared to several months for the regular season.
In baseball, the preseason is more commonly known as spring training.