USA Ultimate Triple Crown Tour
Beginning with the 2013 season, the USA Ultimate Triple Crown Tour provides something for everyone and represents the next step in the evolution of the sport.
The elements that have long made Ultimate so popular among players of all levels are the same ones that are propelling it to even greater interest within the sports community.
The sport of Ultimate is growing and garnering new fans and players every day - the time for the USA Ultimate Triple Crown Tour has come, and everyone is invited!
Follow the 2013 Triple Crown Tour
The following brochure is a special insert into the Fall 2013 issue of USA Ultimate magazine.
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From the Competition & Athlete Programs Department
Will Deaver (USA Ultimate Managing Director of Competition & Athlete Programs) provides background on the Triple Crown Tour in his article in the Fall 2012 issue of USA Ultimate magazine (pg 6-7).
Click on these images for additional perspective (opens image in new window).
The current year issues of USA Ultimate Magazine are only available to current USA Ultimate members who log into their member account.
A few additional issues are available in our Magazine Archives.
Triple Crown Tour - Flights
USA Ultimate Triple Crown Tour teams are slotted into four Flights based on competitive performance. The structure allows for the promotion and relegation of teams between Flights from one season to the next based on results. The beauty of the USA Ultimate Triple Crown Tour is that anyone can form a team and compete within this structure. The excitement of the Tour is that the best of the best get to compete for the Triple Crown, and everyone will get to watch them take their effect.
TEAMS: Top 8 teams in North America
QUALIFICATION: Regular Season Pro Flight Champion, plus the next seven teams based on results from the previous season's National Championships*
* The 2013 Pro Flight will consist of the top eight teams from the 2012 USA Ultimate Club Championships
TEAMS: 9th-16th best teams in North America
QUALIFICATION: Teams placing 9th-16th at the previous season's National Championships
TEAMS: Up to 4 teams per geographic region, 32 teams maximum
QUALIFICATION: Based on Regional Playoff results, in order of top teams that do not qualify for the National Championships
QUALIFICATION: Any USA Ultimate registered team eligible to compete in the Regular Season or the Post Season Championship Series
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Triple Crown Tour - Initial Framework (Fall 2012)
The framework Triple Crown Tour was announced in the fall of 2012. Although the final plan for the 2013 season has since been scaled back, here was the initial framework for the TCT:
- Communication with qualifying teams (Pro, Elite, Select, Classic) -- Q&A, 2013 season opportunities/requirements
- Communication with event organizers -- Event bid requirements, bid documents
- Events and season guidelines announced
- Triple Crown Tour Regular Season
- Postseason Championship Series
Regular Season Dates:
- Early June through September.
Regular Season Event/Game Requirements:
- Teams will be required to play a minimum number of games to be ranked (likely 10, as in 2012).
- Only games at sanctioned events will count towards rankings.
- Pro, Elite, and some Select Flight teams will attend several specific Tour event(s).
- Event competition formats will be pre-determined for required Pro, Elite, and Elite-Select Challenge events.
- Event competition formats for other sanctioned events will remain flexible.
Regular Season Registration and Rostering:
- Pro, Elite, and top Select Flight teams will be announced following the 2012 USA Ultimate Club Championships.
- Qualifying Select Flight teams will register into the Select Flight prior to the start of the 2013 season.
- Classic Flight teams, including new teams, will be able to register for the season as they register to participate in Regular Season sanctioned events.
- Rostering deadlines will exist for all teams, including preliminary and final deadlines.
- USA Ultimate rankings algorithm.
- Only results from sanctioned events will be factored into rankings.
- Only teams that meet minimum game requirement (likely 10) will be eligible for final regular season rankings and strength bid allocations.
Pro Flight Standings:
- Pro Flight teams will compete for the Pro Flight Regular Season title by earning Pro Flight points, based on Pro Flight tournament performance.
- Pro Flight teams can earn Pro Flight points at the U.S. Open, Pro-Elite Challenge, and two Pro Flight events.
- The Pro Flight Regular Season Champion will receive an automatic bid into the next season’s Pro Flight, regardless of Postseason Championship Series performance.
Postseason Championship Series Dates:
- Sectionals – 2-3 weeks in mid-September
- Regionals – 2 weeks in late September-early October
- Nationals – last weekend in October
Postseason Championship Series Registration and Rostering:
- Regular season-participating teams will be automatically registered for the Postseason Championship Series in their respective section or region
- New teams will be required to pre-register for Sectionals
- All Select, Classic, and new teams must begin competing in the Series at Sectionals
- Sectional tournaments are not size-limited
- Bids from Sectionals to Regionals will be awarded through a combination of geographic and strength (rankings) based factors.
- Pro and Elite Flight teams begin competing in the Series at Regionals
- Regional tournament sizes will be scaled (8-16 teams per division) based on the number or teams registered in the region for the Series
- Bids from Regionals to National Championships
- 1 automatic bid per region
- 8 strength wildcards
- A region may earn up to 8 strength wildcards.
- Pro Flight wildcards – If a region has more than one team in the Pro Flight, that region will receive a Nationals wildcard bid for each additional team. 0-7 wildcards could be awarded this way.
- Regular Season wildcards – Based on regular season rankings and the number of Pro Flight wildcards awarded. Remaining wildcards will go to the region with the next highest ranked team, after automatic regional bids and Pro Flight wildcards have been awarded. 1-8 wildcards could be awarded this way.
- Qualification for the next season’s Select Flight will be based on placement of top 4 teams that do not qualify for Nationals
- Teams from any Flight may qualify for Nationals, based on their performance at Regionals
- Nationals will consist of 16 teams per division in the Men’s, Mixed, and Women’s Divisions.
- Qualification for the next season’s Pro and Elite Flights will be based on placement at Nationals
- Top 8* qualify for the next season’s Pro Flight
- *If the Pro Flight Regular Season Champion does not make the top 8 at Nationals, then only the top 7 finishers will qualify for the Pro Flight
- Next 8* qualify for the next season’s Elite Flight
- *If the Pro Flight Regular Season Champion does not make Nationals, then the teams finishing 8-15 at Nationals will qualify for the Elite Flight
Rules and Officiating
Team Name and Uniform Requirements:
- Requirements will be in place for teams participating in showcase events, including Pro, Elite, and top Select Flight teams, as well as any team competing at Regionals or Nationals.
- Requirements will be set to ensure the sport is presented in a positive light and in a manner that enhances media coverage and the spectator experience.
- USA Ultimate Official Rules, including any experimental modifications that have gone through the official approval process.
- Players are the primary officials for all games in the Triple Crown Tour. Self-officiating, guided by the principles of Spirit of the Game, will serve as the default mechanism for officiating at Triple Crown Tour events.
- USA Ultimate-certified observers will be the only officials, other than players, authorized to work Triple Crown Tour events and games.
- Observers will be utilized at showcase events, and others as available, to help manage games fairly and efficiently in order to enhance both the player and spectator experience.
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We anticipate that there will be a number of questions about the new structure. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. In some cases, similar questions have been merged for simpility.
USA Ultimate took part in a live chat with Ultiworld regarding the Triple Crown Tour.
Q) Will the sections remain the same geographically?
A) The sections and regions are not changing with the implementation of the Triple Crown Tour. The 2012 redraw will remain in effect for 2013. Section-specific issues, particularly in places like Alaska, will continue to be handled on a case by case basis both to encourage participation and keep the competition structure fair. Please contact your division’s national director if you have questions about your specific area of the country.
Q) How long in advance will each section's bid allocations to the Regional Playoffs be known?
A) Since bid allocations to the Regional Playoffs are determined in part by regular season rankings, bid allocations aren’t finalized until after the last weekend of the regular season. Coordinators will know this the week before their sectional event, which usually take place 2 weeks before Regionals. If bids to Regionals are turned down, coordinators will fill those vacancies as quickly as possible between Sectionals and Regionals.
Q) How does the regular season work for "Classic Flight" teams?
A) Classic teams will be able to set their own regular season schedule, just like they did in 2012. In order to get ranked and influence bid allocations to the Postseason Championship Series, a team must play in sanctioned events to get the minimum number of sanctioned games (10). Teams should encourage tournament organizers to apply for USA Ultimate sanctioning in order to get in official regular season games. Classic teams are not required to get ranked or participate in the regular season in order to participate in the Postseason Championship Series.
Q) Several teams each year fall apart (especially common in mixed). How will you make up the Pro/Elite Flights in the event that national championship teams do not compete in the series the following year? Will the bid go to the next highest USAU ranked team that did not make nationals?
A) If Pro or Elite Flight teams cease to exist the following year, their vacant spots will be filled through a combination of prior year’s series finish and final regular season rankings.
Q) It says teams will attend several specific tour events. What happens if these Tour events are too costly for the teams to attend? Will USAU be compensating them?
A) As part of the planning process, we looked carefully at the travel tendencies of top teams, specifically the teams that compete at nationals and will make up the Pro and Elite Flights. Most of these teams already travel at least as much as they will be required to in the Triple Crown Tour (3 events for Pro and 2 for Elite). We were careful to try to stay within that range, knowing that teams are still paying their own expenses. One of the primary goals of the Tour is to create a showcase-level product that will attract spectators, media, and sponsors. Over time, revenue generated by these sources will be used in part to help reduce team costs. We are starting by offering prize money at several events and plan to expand that, and other means of support in the future. By helping establish top teams’ identities within their local and national communities, the Tour will provide other opportunities for teams to fundraise locally and through team sponsorships. Another advantage of the Tour is the ability for teams to plan further in advance. By knowing early in the year which events each team will be attending, those teams can make financial plans for their season accordingly.
Q) What if Pro/Elite Flights want to play in the Sectional Playoffs? Can they do so?
A) No. Sectionals will be a tournament where Select, Classic, and new teams can compete exclusively with each other for bids to regionals.
Q) Will the specific Tour events be at already existing tournaments (ECC, Labor Day, Chesapeake, etc.), or will the Tour events be added in addition to these tourneys?
A) We are actively communicating with existing event organizers about their role in the Tour. The Tour is very much based on the idea of existing events making up the fabric of the season and providing accessible opportunities for teams at all levels to play meaningful games. Any existing event will be able to bid to host one of the required, top-level Tour events, and we anticipate using existing tournaments to host at least some of those events. We are also open to exploring the potential for new events, and will be focused on finding great venues and working with great local partners to host our top events.
Q) The Triple Crown page barely mentions the U.S. Open Championships & Convention, but isn't that considered the first leg of the Triple Crown? Does the winner of the U.S. Open not get anything, like a bid to nationals?
A) Yes, the U.S. Open is the first leg of the Triple Crown. The winner of the U.S. Open will earn prize money. It is also considered part of the regular season, and so teams at the U.S. Open will earn points that will count towards the Pro Flight regular season standings. They will also be part of a unique experience where they will compete against the top teams in the world, in a showcase environment, where the global Ultimate community will come together to learn about and celebrate the sport.
Q) Suppose a team qualifies for the Pro or Elite flights, but declines because they cannot afford the travel or for another reason. Upon declining an invitation to one of the top flights, does a team have its choice of which of the lower flights to be assigned to, or are they automatically dropped all the way down to Classic? If a team declines a particular flight status, how is the vacant spot assigned?
A) Pro and Elite Flight-qualifying teams are required to participate in their regular season Flight-specific events in order to be eligible to compete in the post-season championship series.
Vacant spots will be filled through a combination of prior year’s series finish and final regular season rankings.
Q) How is the "top Select team per region" chosen for the Elite/Select crossover? Is it based on current regular season standings? Previous year's final standings? All select teams from the region submit bids and USAU or event organizer chooses subjectively?
A) Teams that make the "game to go" at the previous year’s regional will qualify for the Elite-Select Challenge. This provides a tangible reward for teams within the Select Flight to shoot for and provides a playing experience that will continue to help these teams become more competitive as they strive to reach higher Flights.
Q) How are the Canadian teams going to fit into this system? This past year none of the Canadian teams played more than 2 sanctioned games during the regular season making it very difficult to award nationals bids accurately (which is why Bent is not going to Nationals even though they earned a strength bid and beat Hot Metal in the regular season). Capitals took Bent's bid out of NE region, I'm pretty sure we all saw that coming seeing as they tied for 3rd at Nationals last year. Anyway, how are you going to fix things like this from happening?
A) Canadian teams will be treated like U.S. teams in whichever Flight they compete. We will definitely need to address the issue of teams not competing in the regular season, whether Canadian or U.S., then entering the Postseason Championship Series without having participated in the bid allocation system. This is not specifically a "Canadian" issue. Rules to help mitigate this problem will be included in the guidelines, released in early 2013. The goal will be to strike a balance between fairness and accessibility, with an emphasis on encouraging participation in the Tour.
Q) Are you going to scale the number of teams for the Select flight based on rank or is it just set to 4 teams per region?
A) The Select Flight will not be scaled by region or gender division for 2013. We will evaluate the need for this in the future based on participation at the 4 team per region level.
Q) As an event organizer, I have some questions about hosting regular season and post season events. I see that communication with event organizers is scheduled for November, but hopefully some of these questions can be answered prior to that communication. What is the bid process for bidding to host events? What are the criteria for awarding bids? When will decisions about bids be made, and when will the regular season schedule be set? Will bids have to be submitted every year or will multi-year arrangements be an option? Will there be any changes to the current process of selecting hosts for Sectional and Regional events, or will Sectional and Regional Coordinators be in charge of that process? Are there any other changes planned for the bid process, hosting requirements, or management of Sectional and Regional events?
A) There will be a Request for Proposals (RFP) sent out for event organizers to fill out to submit bids to host specific events. For 2013, this will happen between November and December 2012. Decisions will be made and announced in January 2013. For Select Flight and other non-flight-specific events, organizers can apply for sanctioning through the sanctioning program, similar to the process for hosting regular season events in 2012.
The criteria for selection will vary depending on the specific event, both in terms of field/venue requirements, as well as personnel. For the top-Flight events, showcasing the event will be a primary consideration. Venue, location, and community support will be considered in this respect. Beyond that, meeting our high quality standards for running USA Ultimate sanctioned events will be a requirement.
We have done multi-year deals in the past for some national tournaments, so that is a possibility, although it will also be important to keep the process competitive to ensure the highest quality events and maximize exposure across the national community.
We just recently implemented a more formalized bidding process for sectional and regional events, which we will continue to use and improve upon. However, we don’t anticipate any major changes to how the process worked in 2012.
We will continue to work to improve our sectional and regional events by soliciting bids, evaluating them carefully, and following up with event organizers to ensure compliance with event standards.
Q) How do you select the international teams that participate in the US Open? Will you contact National Ultimate organization and have them endorse their team? Will you take applications from teams? What if the best teams from Japan, Australia, GB, Sweden, Germany and Colombia all wanted to come? How would you choose which four? Also, I noticed that you carefully used "North America" when referring to your Pro and Elite flights. Does this mean that Canadian teams have two paths to qualify for the US Open (top four in Pro Flight or International team)?
A) We will work with WFDF and the national federations of other countries to determine which teams are invited to the US Open. We will accept and evaluate bids from teams. A team’s bid will need to be endorsed by its national federation. We will evaluate those bids and make choices consistent with the goals of the event, which will almost certainly involve some tough choices between highly competitive teams from around the world.
As part of the Triple Crown Tour, Canadian teams will have only that path to qualify for the US Open. Since they have the opportunity to compete in the Tour structure against the top Tour teams, and will also presumably be committed to other Tour events, the 4 international slots will be allocated to non-North American teams.
Q) Can a team who does not play in the "Regular Season" still participate in the "Post-Season" and qualify for Nationals?
A) For Pro and Elite teams, no. See above. There will be more flexibility for Select and Classic teams to enter the post-season at sectionals without having participated in a structured regular season.
Q) How does not having the top teams at Sectional Playoffs help the rest of the teams get better?
A) Allowing top teams to enter the series at the Regional Playoffs is an incentive for those teams, who often do not find that event very competitive. Where that is not the case, skipping the Sectional Playoffs is an incentive because it allows teams that have "earned" the bye the opportunity to better prepare for regionals. These are also the teams that have the most regular season event requirements, which is somewhat mitigated by not requiring them to attend the Sectional Playoffs.
While there may be less cross-flight competition with the top flight teams at sectionals, that crossover play has been built in to the regular season, both with structured challenge events and through sanctioned events where teams across flights can compete for rankings points. Teams in the Select Flight will compete with one another to become the top Select team in the region, which will then lead to opportunities to play against Elite Flight teams. The system rewards achievement, while also providing cross-flight opportunities to help team development and create parity.
Q) I had some comments regarding the Triple Crown that I wanted to share. On a fundamental level, my broad criticism would be that USAU seems to be moving too quickly in implementing this. Before complicating the regular season, it would be nice for USAU to put in some ground work. For example, run the US Open for a few years and prove you can attract top quality international teams before making it a required event. Sort out the myriad problems with the ranking algorithm and bid allocation system before deciding who can attending which tournaments based on it. Prove you can effectively promote the current USAU Club Championships, before adding other tournaments you want to promote. I understand that you are working on some of this, but why not give it a few years to build a solid foundation before expanding. What is the rush? Especially since the current system dramatically reduces competitive opportunities for some teams.
A) Given the amount of time and effort from the organization and the community, we don’t believe these changes are being "rushed". The club restructure was originally part of the 2008-2012 strategic plan. It has been in the planning phase for over 2 years, starting with surveys and focus groups in early 2010. Requests for changes from players and the community have been on the table for several years. Those have now been incorporated into a structure that has also been created to be in line with our new strategic plan, which was developed over 18 months of work and community involvement. Some of the changes for 2012, including regional redrawing, regular season games, US Open, rankings and current-season bid allocations, were made in order to phase in and set the stage for more comprehensive changes for 2013.
Q) This will likely significantly increase the cost of playing on an elite team, but increasing the number of flights they take and reducing flexibility on where/when to fly. It seems like you are asking elite teams to pay more now, and promising the uncertain benefit of increased exposure (and perhaps decreased costs) years and years into the future. That seems unfair to the current generation of elite players.
A) See above regarding increased costs for a few teams.
Additionally, top teams will be provided with a very high quality competitive season experience, including many of the changes they specifically asked for, while also helping set the stage for bigger more exciting changes for the sport in the future.
Q) This plan completely discourages the formation of new teams by reducing their access to tournaments at every level of competitions, which seems in contrast with USAU's goal of increased playing opportunities. This seems like a huge problem especially in the mixed division where relatively new teams make up a very large percentage of national qualifiers each year.
A) Playing opportunities are not being reduced by requiring a few events for a cross-section of the very top teams. At the highest levels, playing opportunities are simply being more structured, but in a way that very much mirrors the playing opportunities these teams were already engaged in. Teams at other levels will continue to have access to as many events at they had previously, while also being provided with a clear path for goal-setting and advancement through intra- and inter-Flight competition.
The system is specifically designed to allow for new teams to form and become part of the system. However, the system is definitely designed to discourage the rampant disbanding, reforming, and rebranding of teams from year to year. This kind of team behavior, while perhaps desirable for a handful of individuals, is not necessarily good for the sport. It certainly makes promoting the sport more difficult and also makes it more difficult for local players to plug into structured playing opportunities with consistent, organized traveling teams. We believe that the system will encourage consistency in team identity from year to year, which helps develop identity and community support, while still providing plenty of playing opportunities for individual players and teams, including new teams (not just reformed, renamed versions of prior teams).
Q) Related, this plan makes it much harder for teams just below flight qualification thresholds (ie, losers of the game to go) to continue to be competitive, because they are locked out of so many opportunities to play team one tiers, and especially 2 tiers above them. The current structure seems to try to help 2012 Nationals teams remain 2013 Nationals team an makes it harder for anyone else to join the club.
A) That is certainly not the intent of the system. In fact, cross-flight playing opportunities were specifically built into the system to provide these important development opportunities and experiences. Now, every "game to go" team will get a chance to play an event that includes the other game to go teams and the 9-16 teams from nationals. This is a guaranteed opportunity that did not previously exist. Similarly, 9-16 nationals teams will get a chance to play teams 5-8 from nationals, and 5-8 will get lots of opportunities to play 1-4. At lower levels, Select teams will be given preferred access to events where they can play each other in highly competitive games. The system specifically provides these development opportunities, where they weren’t specifically provided before. Teams will have to follow a path that may require advancement over more than one season. But that is part of the excitement of having a variety of goals built into the system, other than simply "making nationals".
Q) USAU seems to be moving away from its core competency as an organizational body, to a league. There are already several attempts to form leagues in the works with varying levels of success. It seems like a mistake for USAU to get into this business.
A) Again, this is and has been part of USA Ultimate’s previous and current strategic plan, and it consistent with the organization’s management and oversight of the college season and youth seasons and events. USA Ultimate is well positioned to use its top level teams, events, and competitive structure to promote the sport and help it grow.
Q) What happens if a team splits into two, who gets the slot in a flight they may have earned?
A) The specific definition of a team, including name, location, and associated roster requirements will be included in the 2013 competition guidelines, to be released in January.
Q) How are new teams integrated into the system prior to the Sectional Playoffs?
A) New teams will either register to participate in sanctioned events before sectionals or register directly for sectionals, as they have in the past.
Q) How will these flights work in a Worlds year?
A) We’re working with WFDF to align calendars and help achieve the goals of both organizations.
Q) Will budgets be published for USAU tournaments?
A) Sanctioned event budgets are subject to review by USA Ultimate staff. USA Ultimate event budgets are not made public, but members and event participants are welcome to ask specific questions about the use of their dues or event fees.
Q) Why weren't more concrete details announced when the plan was?
A) We released information at the level where we felt it was appropriate at the time, leading up to club nationals. The high level structure, including a general calendar, description of flights, and relationship between regular and post-season were the most important concepts to convey initially. Additional information will be communicate directly with teams, as needed for each flight, as well as published publicly in line with our usual publication of detailed competition guidelines.
Q) My team missed out making the select flight by one spot. I was told by a player on a team that finished ahead of us that their team wouldn't be around next season. Will we be getting an offer to play in the Select flight if this happens since we are the next highest ranked team in the division?
A) Yes. Offers to participate in the Select Flight will trickle down within the region based on series finish.
Q) Given the new travel "requirements" for the top tiers, will roster size limits be changing for 2013? When will this be confirmed? What is the timeline for determining the location of next season's Nationals and US Open?
A) Roster limits and any deadlines associated with final rosters will be release with the season competition guidelines in January.
The goals is to announce event sites and dates in January 2013.
Q) Will non-US teams be eligible to win prize money?
A) Yes. Canadian teams in the Triple Crown Tour will be eligible, as will non-US teams competing in the US Open.
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