The phrase ‘runners-up‘ refers to a team that has finished in second place in a competition. This may mean that a team has lost a final or has finished second in a league campaign. So, for example, in the 2014 World Cup Argentina were runners-up to Germany (having lost the final 1-0) while Tottenham finished runners-up to Chelsea in the 2016-17 Premier League season. Sometimes you will see the singular form ‘runner-up‘ and this is more often used when referring to individual sportsmen and women, for example, Colombian forward James Rodríguez won the Golden Boot award for being top scorer (he scored 6 goals) at the 2014 World Cup with Germany’s Tomas Müller finishing as runner-up after scoring five times in the tournament. Runners-up.
Example: The eight best runners-up will qualify for a play-off in the European section of the 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign.