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USA Ultimate Considering Club Nationals Format Change, Surveying Players

Photo: Paul Andris -- UltiPhotos.com
Photo: Paul Andris — UltiPhotos.com

USA Ultimate just sent out a survey to players that competed at Club Nationals within the past two seasons asking for feedback on a potential new Club National Championships format.

Here is the proposed new format:

– Pool winners automatically advance to the quarterfinals. Pool winners would have one less game in this format with a bye during pre-quarters and would therefore have an advantage in quarterfinals.

– The 2nd and 3rd place pool finishers advance to pre-quarters as normal.

– The 4th place pool finishers would be eliminated from the championship bracket, although would still compete for a spot in the Pro Flight. Instead of a game against a pool winner in pre-quarters, they would have a game against another 4th place pool finisher, the results of which would help seed the pro flight qualification bracket.

– Note: the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place pool finishers would have the same number of games in this proposed format. The pool winners would have one fewer game.

The survey also gives arguments both for and against the change. Here is the argument in favor of changing the format:

Because the current format advances all teams to pre-quarters, the concern is that pool play doesn’t matter enough.  This dynamic can incentivize gamesmanship, lack of effort, or substitution decisions in pool play which are disrespectful to opponents and fans alike.  The proposed change would make pool play games significantly more relevant.  Furthermore, particularly in years/divisions where Nationals lacks parity across the 16 teams, the proposed change gives the 4th place pool finishers a very competitive game on Friday morning against a similarly situated team.

Though opportunities against the very top teams are good for development, so too are opportunities to prevail against other similarly-situated nationals-level teams (for one thing, more points are played!), and this change provides more balance to those opportunities for the 4th place pool finishers at Nationals.  It should also be noted that this proposal would make the Nationals format more comparable to the other TCT and fall series formats where pool winners earn the right to skip pre-quarters and last-place pool finishers lose the opportunity to win the tournament.  Though it is true that the pool winners’ bye will advantage them in quarterfinals, it is not an insurmountable advantage, and it is also an advantage which all teams in the tournament have the equal opportunity to earn during pool play.

Here is the argument against:

The proposed change would greatly increase the advantage given to pool winners, as not only would they face one less game in which to be eliminated, they would enter the quarters fresh against an opponent that had just played a game. (In other championship formats that include a bye for pool winners, the bye is not the same day as the subsequent game.)

In the current format, doing well in pool play still gives teams a significant advantage: facing easier competition in the prequarters and an easier road through the bracket overall. However the current format also gives bottom teams at Nationals one additional game against the top teams, which is sometimes one of their few chances to play these top teams given the structure of the TCT regular season. It also gives the top teams an additional easier game in which to develop players at the bottom of their roster. The proposed change would serve to further advantage the top teams. Moreover, pool winners could have as few as 5 games overall at Nationals.

The survey goes on to ask about the possibility of different divisions competing under different formats:

USAU is considering allowing different gender divisions to compete under different formats at Nationals, although the downside of this is a lack of consistency at our marquee event (confusing for spectators), and a perceived lack of equity. Would you still be in favor of your preferred format if it meant that your division would be competing under a different format than the other two divisions?

This format was proposed by the Competition Working Group that met last week in Colorado Springs. Player feedback will be accepted through tomorrow at 12 Eastern.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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