What This Year’s Club Championship Results Mean For Next Year

Now that the dust has settled after a windy four days in Florida, it’s already time to start looking ahead to next season. This could prove to be one of the most fascinating offseasons in history, as top players decide what leagues they want to be a part of.

The American Ultimate Disc League is looking to continue to grow. Major League Ultimate, recently announced, will be sharing more details soon. (And with a Seattle Sockeye captain among the top organizers, you have to imagine that the MLU will be looking to absorb top club talent).

Finally, teams will begin to learn details about USA Ultimate’s Triple Crown Tour, which will dramatically change the structure of the Club season. Since the Series has concluded, we now know exactly which flight each team will fall into — and what that means about their opportunity to win prize money, who they’ll play during the year, and who we might see on ESPN.

Pro Flight

Open TeamsMixed TeamsWomen's TeamsRequired Tournaments
DoublewideBlackbirdFuryUS Open, Two Pro Flight Tour Events
RevolverPolar BearsRiotUS Open, Two Pro Flight Tour Events
IronsideDrag'N ThrustShowdownUS Open, Two Pro Flight Tour Events
Ring of FireMischiefScandalUS Open, Two Pro Flight Tour Events
MachineCosa NostraMolly BrownPro-Elite Challenge, Two Pro Flight Tour Events
GOATOdysséeNemesisPro-Elite Challenge, Two Pro Flight Tour Events
Chain LightningChad Larson ExperienceCapitalsPro-Elite Challenge, Two Pro Flight Tour Events
SockeyeThe GhostsOzonePro-Elite Challenge, Two Pro Flight Tour Events

Get used to seeing these teams. This group — the quarterfinalists at the Club Championships — will play in USA Ultimate’s marquee events in 2013 and be vying for prize money in the regular season. The top four teams in each division will play in the US Open (also a prize money event) and will have a chance to win the Triple Crown — a US Open title, a regular season title, and a Club Championship title.

Some of these tournaments, according to USA Ultimate, will be nationally televised. Fans will be able to buy tickets to watch the games and marketing will become a major part of the sport.

The eight teams in each division will play multiple times throughout the season in two tournaments specifically for the Pro Flight. The grudge match opportunities will be plentiful. (We’re already looking forward to Revolver v. Doublewide at the US Open).

One notable occurrence from the Club Championships: a number of the fifth to eight place finishers forfeited games after losing in the Championship bracket. In the past, those placement games mattered, as they helped determine bids to Nationals for the following year. Now, with flights and the strength bid system, the games don’t matter much. USA UItimate may need to look at ways to make them meaningful again.

Elite Flight

Open TeamsMixed TeamsWomen's TeamsRequired Tournaments
Madison ClubBucketTrafficPro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge
RhinoSlow WhiteNightlockPro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge
Furious GeorgeAmerican BBQHeistPro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge
Johnny Bravo7 FiguresBrute SquadPro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge
Sub ZeroOverhaulPhoenixPro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge
Truck StopAMPHot MetalPro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge
Boost MobileWild CardUndergroundPro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge
PoNYMental Toss FlycoonsSchwaPro-Elite Challenge, Elite-Select Challenge

The bottom eight finishers at Nationals fill out the Elite Flight. They will play in two “crossover” events: one against the bottom four of the Pro Flight and one against the top teams in the Select Flight (explained below). According to USA Ultimate, there will also be Elite Flight tournaments, similar to what exists for the Pro Flight but less structured and marketed.

Because teams next year will still be vying for bids through this year’s strength bid system, there will be fierce competition at the crossover tournaments, particularly as Select teams fight to earn a top 16 spot for a coveted extra bid.

These teams will not be able to compete for the Triple Crown, but they can still win prize money by winning the Club Championships. They are also exempt from playing at Sectionals, advancing directly to Regionals.

Select Flight

The Select Flight — comprised of the top four finishers in each Region that don’t make the Club Championships — was determined before this weekend. But some teams that qualify may choose not to commit. Those that do will have a chance, through Select flight tournaments, to make it into the Elite-Select Challenge.

Many of the teams at the Ultimate Invite Championships — names like Cash Crop, Garuda, and Florida United — will fall into this group, looking to grab extra strength bids to work their way into higher flights for the future.

The Select teams will still need to win at Sectionals to move on to Regionals.

Classic Flight

Everybody else. The structure of the Club season won’t change much for these teams, who will go to whatever tournaments they like during the Regular season before heading into Sectionals to start the Series.

One concern is that it might be tough for an upstart team to earn a strength bid, since they may not have opportunities to play against the teams in higher flights.

It will take a season or two to see if that becomes an issue. USA Ultimate wants to make these flight much more flexible than the higher level ones, which each require increasingly more commitment to a schedule.

We will have much more on the new Triple Crown Tour system in the coming weeks, along with in-depth analysis of how teams will be choosing between the increasing options for competitive ultimate.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

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

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