These days, I'm doing a little extra-curricular reading on statistical methods with regards to ranking. So if you know of any academic studies of sports ranking systems, or any good non-sports-specific academic papers such as this one titled "On Minimum Violations Ranking in Paired Comparisons" that seem like they might be fruitful, leave me a comment with a link. If it is from a journal that isn't publicy accessible online, leave me the reference and I can probably get access to it. I'm not a statistics expert, but I learn fast so don't worry if they seem overly technical.
The idea behind all this is I've been interested for a while in developing an alternative to the FIFA rankings that might do a slightly better job. Again, I'm not a statistician, so this might seem a little presumptuous (well, it is definitely presumptuous), but it seems like fun.
And, for the heck of it, some search terms so that statisticians of the right sort will stumble upon this post: ranking, paired comparison, incomplete tournament, rank correlation, probability.
Upon further reading, the minimum violations ranking as described in the article cited above seems better suited to single-season competitions such as NCAA football. The international football calendar is ongoing and fluid and better suited to a system where points are accrued over time. It was a good read, though.