March 4, 2013 by Charlie Eisenhood in News with 8 comments
Late Friday night, USA Ultimate announced the teams committed to this year’s Triple Crown Tour. Despite an off-season filled with ups-and-downs, thoughts of different leagues, and late structural changes, just a single Pro/Elite flight team passed on joining the TCT: Overhaul, a mixed team from Ann Arbor, Michigan. They will be replaced by Washington, D.C.’s Ambiguously Grey.
All three divisions will send the semifinalist finishers to the US Open to compete against top international competition in early July in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Men’s and Women’s divisions will also both feature a Pro Flight finale with all eight Pro Flight teams. Originally a required tournament, USA Ultimate relaxed that and only “strongly encouraged” teams to attend.
The Mixed Pro Flight finale will feature six of the eight Pro Flight teams, along with Slow White (Boston) and American BBQ (San Francisco), both Elite Flight teams.
The Pro-Elite Flight challenge — the other required tournament — is filled up in every division. Many teams also elected to go to the Elite-Select Challenge tournaments, although there wasn’t full participation in any of the divisions.
“We are thrilled with the line-up for this inaugural Triple Crown Tour,” said USA Ultimate CEO Tom Crawford in a statement. “To have the season set this early with a bunch of great match-ups, and to be able to build excitement around what will be a series of excellent events is just what we were envisioning as club restructuring and the Triple Crown Tour evolved from concept to reality. We now have a compelling and rich story to tell about our sport as we go from a dynamite college season and championships right into the flights of the Triple Crown Tour!”
Ben Slade, a USAU board member, added in an email to Ultiworld, “This is a big deal as it will allow the Triple Crown Tour to showcase the best players and teams in the sport, and will be a ‘first pass’ at a tournament driven, structured regular season for the sport where the schedule is set well in advance of the season.”
Despite concerns, teams have largely embraced the new structure, which, in reality, mirrors last year’s club season more than the original vision for the Triple Crown Tour (with far more required tournaments). But knowing now which teams will be participating at which tournaments does allow for a better story arc throughout the season. In particular, the Elite-Select challenge should be an exciting opportunity for Nationals bubble teams to shine. Often in the past, those teams were relegated to qualifier tournaments and didn’t get a shot at the Pro and Elite flight teams during the regular season.
All things considered, this is a big success for USA Ultimate, who weathered the threat of losing men’s teams to an upstart NexGen league and were responsive to teams’ criticism in the last three months. It should be an exciting first step towards a more structured regular season of the most competitive club ultimate league in the world.