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After the match Dortmund–Bayern München (1:0) of yesterday, I read that this victory has marked a "Vorentscheidung" for the race to the German football championship. But what exactly is meant by "Vorentscheidung"? Do there exist different meaning variants?

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LEO translate it as preliminary decision.

After the defeat of Munich there is now a 6 points difference between Dortmund and Munich and four games are left in this season. That means Dortmund needs two wins and one draw to win this season. And that's very likely. Only if Dortmund looses two of their games Munich get a chance.

So Vorentscheidung means that we believe to know the final result.

You can hear Vorentscheidung also during a game. Let's say in the 70th minute a team shoots the 2-0. Then you are pretty sure that they will win this game.

Vorentscheidung can happen anywhere. The only condition is that the final outcome isn't clear yet but it seems to be obviously who will be the winner.

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Vorentscheidung is also used for a contest where the contestants have to qualify (e.g. Vorentscheidung zur Eurovision Teilnahme) –  dgw Apr 12 '12 at 14:16
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@dgw I believe this would more often be called Vorentscheid. –  Eugene Seidel Apr 13 '12 at 11:18
    
For the soccer match in which one team goes ahead 2-0 in the 70th minute, you wouldn't use "preliminary decision". You can write something like, "Any hopes for a comeback that Spurs had were dashed when Rooney put ahead United 2-0 in the 70th minute." Or, "The game had seesawed back and forth for the longest time but when Nowitzki sunk a fallaway jumpshot in the 4th quarter, drawing a foul to make it a three-point play, you could stick a fork in Miami: they were done." Disassemble the anodyne German compound noun and turn it into a colorful verbal phrase in English. –  Eugene Seidel Apr 13 '12 at 11:30
    
@EugeneSeidel I agree with you, but I have seen the other as well. –  dgw Apr 13 '12 at 12:20
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In regards to your last question: yes, different meanings exist. The Duden has this to say about it:

a. vorbereitender Beschluss, erste [richtungweisende] Entscheidung

b. (besonders Sport) Stand eines Wettkampfes, Zwischenergebnis, mit dem sich die endgültige Entscheidung bereits abzeichnet

b was already explained to you in another answer. a is different in that it actually is a definite decision (there are no more chances for a different outcome), but it is a decision which was made in preparation of another one, which will be made based on the preliminary decision (and probably others).

An example for a would be (as has been mentioned): winning a national contest to qualify for an international one.

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