Ultiworld subscribers offer their opinions on some 2022 WUCC features, including the number of pickup players on rosters and the role of game advisors.
December 6, 2022 by Ultiworld in Opinion with 0 comments
We at Ultiworld are always up for a good-natured debate, which these days takes place in our Discord server, where all of our contributors and Full and Plus subscribers have a chance to weigh in and share their thoughts. Now, we’ve decided to pull back the curtain on some of those debates as a bonus for all readers. What follows is a lightly edited version of a few recent internal discussions sparked by the World Ultimate Club Championships this summer.
WUCC 2022 may seem like ancient history by now, but the questions raised by international competition remain as timeless as ever. The success of the Dominican team Meclao caused some to question if WFDF should impose restrictions on who can play for teams at WUCC, while divisive resolutions to pick calls in bracket play in the open division renewed conversation over whether USA Ultimate should adopt WFDF rules. And finally, everyone’s favorite: the role of an objective third party in ultimate. Did viewers prefer WUCC’s Game Advisors over the North American observer system? Read on to find out.
Should WFDF regulate international pickups for future WUCC tournaments? If so, how? If not, why not?
Quick answer: No
Longer answer: international pickups increase competitive balance at world clubs and clubs should be able to self govern their roster construction.
Question: Does WFDF have regulations around out of country players similar to USAU with out of region players?
Ravi Vasudevan (European Editor)
WFDF’S only regulations for club teams are that the players have to be a member of the team’s national federation in good standing and the roster has to get approved by the national federation.
Different national federations are free to be as strict or loose as they want with approving rosters. Switzerland has a limit of I think three pickups of people who don’t live in Switzerland or the very nearby bordering areas. I know other countries have almost no restrictions.
In theory there should be a way to avoid teams like Meclao1 from forming but still have some limit on pickups. With the EUF they are trying to eventually incorporate more of a regular season with the EUC series. There, a person can only be on a single team and there is still consideration of whether they are required to play a sanctioned tournament before EUCF or not — and even that is tricky. There are no sanctioned WFDF club regular season events so you would have to do something like say that the team can only take X number of players outside of the roster that played in the qualifying event (usually a national championships).
Maybe that kinda works, but the problem is that with a sport where no one is paid and WFDF can’t help with visa issues, if you start limiting this you won’t be able to fill 128 teams and WFDF will lose money and the event won’t seem as cool.
Does anyone know how the Olympics handle international pickups? I know every games there are people who live in the US but compete with other countries.
Scott Dollen (Subscriber)
As far as I know, IOC requires athletes to prove their nationality (not necessarily citizenship) through demonstrating proof of residency, or a personal link to that country.
Interesting. I personally think that is too strict for ultimate, but that no restrictions may be too lax.
Be careful in conflating national teams (Olympic equivalent) and WUCC which is a club championship. WFDF has much stricter requirements for national teams for WUGC, World Games, WJUC, etc.
Good point. So I suppose the more appropriate question would be: what rules does the Champions League have about roster additions? Champions League feels like an apt comparison? I’m thinking I stole that from Deep Look.
I’m not sure of the rules there but it’s a bit more complicated since it’s based on the same season, whereas because of logistical issues WUCC is based on the previous year. I think this makes it so you have to be a bit more lenient with roster rules since people move, etc.
Also a lot of people can afford to play nationals but can’t afford WUCC; that also makes it tough to impose too many restrictions on rosters of the qualifying team compared to the team that eventually goes.
Some but not all soccer federations limit the number of international players their clubs can sign.
No more than 17 of a squad’s 25 players can be ‘non-homegrown’ in the Premier League. Effectively the clubs need 8 UK players.
I don’t think there’s need for a change right now. If we really felt the need a fix a Meclao situation, it would be cool to see a max of five players from a single country that is not the home base of the team. So Meclao (or whoever the next Meclao is) would need to recruit a few US players, a few Canadians, a few players from Caribbean countries, etc.
I would agree with Joaq that the increased competition is a good thing. I think this would be a lot less of an issue if seeding was handled better. A committee that has more leniency to review rosters, team input, etc. and seed based on expected results vs. leaning on tournament results from events four years prior would result in less screwy brackets. Also on a formatting note, I don’t know if there is a good solution (maybe power pools helps) but if a 1 or 2 seed is upset early, in almost every format we play under, almost inevitably we end up with the 1v2 game happening in quarters or earlier (round of 16 this year in mixed).
I think one thing clouding this topic is that most spectators don’t have background info on which players are “true pickups” (i.e. only joined the club at WUCC or immediately prior for pre-tour) vs those who moved overseas to the club’s city for the season/qualification process (say three+ months) vs “legacy” players (i.e. someone who was part of the club for a number of years but has been in another country for the past few years and rejoins the club just for WUCC). These three pickup types all have varying levels of “legitimacy” and I think it would be very tough for WFDF to [introduce] regulation to account for each of them.
There’s also a lot more focus on US pickups compared to other countries. If the number one player from somewhere small like New Zealand plays with another team out of the blue nobody really cares, but a mid-tier US player will get the attention of spectators/media, even if the non-US is better or more impactful for the team.
It seemed like the pickups that got a lot of attention were either World Games players (the non-Colombian players on Revo) or players that could make a US WUGC team. (Though maybe you’re not implying Paul Arters and Johnny Bansfield are mid-tier US players)
I was referring to WUCC generally rather than this year specifically. Not calling out any particular club/players.
Keith Raynor (Senior Editor)
The spirit of the thing, with clubs serving as representatives of their countries, governing bodies, and communities, makes me want to have some sort of limitations, but I agree that it would harm competitive balance (in the short term) and be difficult to litigate.
I would love the perspective of teams that have had these pickup players. Was it a great experience? Do they think it helped their club and team’s development?
Although maybe it is better to encourage “pickups” to invest more by being there more.
Scion “Brummie” Scone (Staff Writer)
No one has made the point that pickups hurt youth players. A club team that picks up a few ringers is giving up spots that could have been taken by younger players gaining valuable experience at a major event.
I think unless you are actually in contention for medals, adding ringers doesn’t actually do much for you. Does it really matter if (for example) CUSB finish fifth or eighth or tenth? Two young players missed out on the experience because of their ringers.
Did CUSB not think they were in contention for medals? And how does playing with experienced players from other cultures help the team?
CUSB were certainly in contention for medals. They are not that much worse than Clapham [who earned bronze at WUCC 2022] and can certainly beat them on the right day.
Well I didn’t see much of CUSB at WUCC, but I agree they have beaten Clapham in the past and the 3-5 placements could have come in another order if matchups fell differently. My comments about medals are intended across the board. In CUSB’s case, it could be argued that they could have done better without Goose [Helton] and Kurt [Gibson].
I think adding a ringer to a fairly inexperienced team can provide a lot of value. This CUSB side has been there and played at the top already. Many of them have played European finals or U24 world finals or previous WUCC.
Should USAU just adopt the same WFDF rules everyone else uses to get everyone on the same page?
No, USAU rules are better.
Regardless of which rules are “better” I do think USAU should adopt the WFDF rules.
I actually see it as more of a good faith acceptance that ultimate isn’t just an American sport anymore and USAU should consider itself part of the global community and not its own separate thing, even if it’s still the biggest player.
WFDF should change their rules to be better, and then USAU should adopt them.
Joking aside there isn’t an issue with different rulesets, NBA and international play have them, AUDL/USAU have them, and there aren’t issues.
Yes I agree. Pro leagues like AUDL, PUL, etc. all should have their own rulesets. But USAU is a WFDF member and it’s the only one that has its own ruleset (aside from Canada and maybe some Central American countries who also use the USAU ruleset over WFDF’s).
Michael Aguilar (Contributor)
I’d be interested to see how this is handled across sports. Here are the ones I’m most familiar with:
Events hosted by USA Basketball are played according to FIBA [International Basketball Federation] rules. However, the vast majority of basketball played in the US is played according to or at least in some facsimile of NBA/WNBA rules. USA Basketball also modifies its events if changes are too difficult to accommodate FIBA rules (e.g. they don’t change the 3-point line distance).
In beach volleyball it appears that USA Volleyball makes specific accommodations in its rule set for where its competitions differ from FIVB [Fédération Internationale de Volleyball] rule sets. Those differences seem to often hedge towards AVP [Association of Volleyball Professionals] rules which is the rule set the vast majority of American beach volleyball is played according to. That being said, USA Volleyball does claim its intent to follow FIVB rules and standards.
Doesn’t really help further the debate very much but maybe just some food for thought for everyone.
Generally I agree that WFDF rules have some holes in them that I’d prefer to see shored up before USAU adopts the rules entirely. However the fact that the rulesets are so different does appear to be an anomaly in the international sports universe.
The continuation rules for USAU are much clearer. Under WFDF there are significantly more do-overs. As execution increases with skills, turnovers become more and more valuable. Re-dos are a huge advantage to the offense and especially painful in situations where the defense felt they earned a turnover.
@ravi “good faith acceptance that ultimate isn’t just an American sport anymore”:
I don’t think USAU should be required to accept all WFDF rules as “good faith” anymore than I think WFDF should have to accept USAU rules because it remains the biggest player (a true but shrinking distinction in any case). I do believe the rules should be reconciled, but it should be a collaborative effort. By being honestly collaborative, USAU can and should still commit to the idea that it is part of the global ultimate community.
Given that rules do and should continue to evolve, I don’t think we should have to ignore which rule might be “better” (to the level that can be determined) to come to a good determination.
But USAU can still be collaborative if they played under the WFDF ruleset. USAU members are free to join the WFDF rules committee and help try to shape those rules they way they would want. USAU is part of WFDF not the other way around. Why should they keep playing under their own ruleset? The equivalence of “WFDF shouldn’t have to accept the USAU ruleset…” makes no sense to me.
Again, all other national federations use the WFDF ruleset. USA is the only country that doesn’t. (Or at least the vast majority of national federations use it, I won’t claim to know what every federation in the world does).
If every country in Europe had their own ruleset than the EUCF would feel very weird. Everyone playing under the same rules makes the sport feel more cohesive internationally and makes the transition to international play smoother.
I assume that part of the reason it would feel particularly weird in Europe is that there is more cross-border competition, while most US competition is under USAU rules. My only real points were that I think USAU can be collaborative through engaging in discussion to create the best consolidated set of rules. Doing that doesn’t require blanket adoption of WFDF rules without discussion.
Right now, there are some fundamental areas of disagreement (e.g. the other thread about GAs) which would make it difficult to just pull a switch and make that change. If it helps recognize an area of agreement, and even if I’m not ready to do it right now (not that I have any influence), I do think that having one common set is ideal.
WFDF rules have a little lightbulb on rules they’ve identified as different to USAU:
- 1.11. Players and captains are solely responsible for making and resolving all calls.
This is regarding observers, the battle lines are firmly drawn on this one so my comment is irrelevant.
- 7.12. If the disc contacts the out-of-bounds area without first touching the playing field or an offensive player, the thrower may establish a pivot point either at the brick mark closest to their defending end zone, or at the location on the central zone closest to where the disc went out-of-bounds (Section 11.8). The binding brick option must be signaled before the disc is picked up, by any offensive player fully extending one arm overhead and calling “brick”.
This refers to the ability to call middle in USAU. A very marginal difference, as a WFDF player I don’t feel we need middle, but as a USAU player I’m sure there’s not much desire to get rid of it. I’m marginally against it to keep the rules simpler but both rulesets could and should find agreement on this, why not?
- 8.1.2. Play is dead when the disc must be carried to the pivot location after the pull or after a turnover, until a pivot point is established.
So dropping the disc when walking to your post pull/turnover location is a turn in USAU, but isn’t a turn in WFDF. I think the WFDF is better, seems pretty harsh to penalize a player in this situation. Not that important though.
- 9.5.3. After a contested stall-out the stall count restarts at “Stalling eight (8)”.
In USAU the second contested stall due to a fast count gets the offense back the disc back at 6 instead of 8. I’ve never seen players get into a stallout-stunlock more than two or perhaps three contested stalls. I think getting the disc back at eight is fine so I think I’d get rid of this.
- 10.1. Whenever play stops during a point for a foul, violation, contested turnover, specified turnover, contested goal, stoppage, discussion, or at the completion of a time-out, play must restart as quickly as possible with a check. The check may only be delayed for the discussion of a call.
In USAU you need a ground check when walking the disc back to the correct pivot point. Hate this, your pivot point is your ground check, I care about this more than all the other previous ones combined.
- 12.1. A “catch” occurs when a player has a non-spinning disc trapped between at least two body parts. A catch can enable a player to establish possession of the disc.
- 12.1.1. If the player fails to maintain the catch due to subsequent ground contact related to the catch, or contact related to the catch with a team-mate or a legitimately positioned opposition player, possession is deemed to have not occurred.
There’s 2 differences here: in USAU there’s no difference between a catch and establishing possession; in WFDF you catch the disc, then if you survive ground contact, etc. you establish possession. Secondly, a WFDF catch is a trapped, non-spinning disc, and USAU is sustained contact of and control of a non-spinning disc.
For me WFDF is so much better here, the catch -> establish possession thing makes so much more sense than the continuation of initial possession in USAU. And the definition is MILES better, trapped and non-spinning are unambiguous, whereas for WFDF ‘control of’ and ‘sustained contact with’ are up for a lot of interpretation. In the WUCC women’s final the leg catch is clearly a WFDF catch but ambiguous in USAU – probably why Lepler thought it was down. USAU should take this.
- 13.6. If the player in possession after a turnover, or after a pull that has already hit the ground, intentionally drops the disc, places the disc on the ground, or transfers possession of the disc, they must re-establish possession and restart play with a check.
In USAU this is a turn. WFDF again better IMO, this is only really gonna happen in a inexperienced game, and in that setting no turn is a better outcome.
- 15.5.1. However any offensive player may call a double team, and any defensive player may call a travel infraction
In USAU only the thrower can call double team. I think the WFDF is better because sometimes the thrower can’t see the double team.
- 16.1. Whenever a foul or violation call is made, or a player attempts to stop play in any way, play stops immediately and no turn over is possible (unless in situations specified in 15.9, 16.2, and 16.3).
USAU peeps probably wont like this rule, but I wouldn’t say it’s not clear. This will be one of the hardest rules to resolve the differences between.
- 17.2.1. A Receiving Foul occurs when a player initiates non-minor contact with an opponent before, while, or directly after, either player makes a play on the disc.
In USAU you can cause contact after the play as long as it’s not dangerous. Another big fundamental difference, more contact is accepted in USAU play. I think the WFDF rules is better because the ‘I got the disc first’ arguments don’t fly (and I think they shouldn’t).
- 17.3.1. A Strip Foul occurs when an opponent fouls a player and that causes the player to drop a disc they caught or to lose possession of the disc.
Strip stuff again, I don’t actually think there’s a difference here, only in so much that ‘catching’ the disc is different in USAU and WFDF. WFDF is much more clear.
- 18.1.5. Instead of calling a marking infraction, the thrower may call a marking violation and stop play if;
- 18.104.22.168. the stall count is not corrected,
- 22.214.171.124. there is no stall count,
- 126.96.36.199. there is an egregious marking infraction, or
- 188.8.131.52. there is a pattern of repeated marking infractions.
Repeated marking infractions can stop the play in USAU if the thrower chooses. Pretty much the same, both rules are fine.
- 184.108.40.206. A team-mate, coach, or designated official, should actively alert players to any condition that endangers players.
In USAU someone else can call injury for a bleeding wound, in WFDF it’s a technical stoppage. Same difference.
So in conclusion:
- About 13 differences in total depending on how you count it.
- Two that I strongly think USAU should adopt ASAP – the WFDF catching definitions and rules (plus their implications on strips), and getting rid of the ground tap. Throw in the double team thing here as well if you want.
- Three pretty crucial differences which will be difficult to resolve: observers, playing stopping immediately after a call is made, and contact after a play on the disc.
- And a handful of minor changes that USAU and WFDF should just sit down and flip a coin on (like middle, turns on walking to somewhere, fast count contested stalls, etc.).
In more conclusion, bring the differences down to three total: observers, continuation, and fouls.
Ryan Turner (Subscriber)
If USAU gets rid of the ground tap, I’m happy.
Some people loooooove the ground tap and want to marry it (I’m not misrepresenting people at all).
I’m fine with the ground tap for restarting play after a stoppage if there isn’t a defender course enough to tap-in. But in the course of play, like ground tapping on the sideline, or goal line, or after a travel, or etc., is just wasted motion/time.
What’s not clear usually is when the call was made. After the throw? During the throwing motion? Just before? USAU treats these as all the same generally for determining whether or not a resulting turnover stands so you don’t need to know the answer and you get a clear result. WFDF’s ruling results in longer discussions with more re-dos (often in situations where the call didn’t have much of an effect on the outcome). As the sport advances and turnovers become harder to earn, re-dos are a significant advantage to the offense who already has a leg up. Definitely advantage USAU on this rule. Otherwise I think your summary is pretty fair.
As offenses get better and turnovers get harder sure an unjust redo gets more frustrating for the defense, but so does an an unjust turnover get frustrating for the offense. Leaning towards the unjust re-dos disincentivizes marginal calls, especially the worst kind of call, a pick call.
Yes offense has it too easy, let’s take the obvious step and cut the stall count to alleviate the problem.
Also, USAU should take the WFDF rule that players get three seconds to call pick to see if it will actually effect play.
Playing at WUCC, there were at least four turnovers in our 10 games that came back under the WUCC rules. Of those, maybe one would have felt “unjust” had it stood as a turnover. I say maybe because I think the throw was too far to be caught, but I agree the player definitely stopped when he heard a pick call so we can’t say for sure. The other three turns all felt either earned by the defense or at least that the call did not affect the outcome (bread basket drops for instance). Under USAU’s rules, the solution is to just teach players to play until the thrower recognizes, so in that case where the throw was maybe too far, we would have seen the outcome had the cutter kept going.
I do like the delayed pick call, but it would need a bit of a PR campaign so people understand it and don’t get upset when players use the delayed call.
Should WFDF change anything about the Game Advisor system and how it handles dangerous plays, disputes, etc.?
This certainly doesn’t always happen but from what I heard there was instances of people blatantly disregarding what the game advisor had to say – I definitely prefer having players come to the observer for the final judgement if that has the ability to happen, as it makes those with bad spirit feel unchecked outside of spirit scores?
Max H (Subscriber)
They seemed completely toothless and it felt like athletes used the replay board instead of what they said.
In/out, especially in terms of if a person was in the end zone. Too many jump in scores that weren’t goals and at least one instance of a player thinking they were in the end zone while their opponent was stalling leading to an annoying discussion.
Charlie Eisenhood (Editor-in-Chief)
I think that game advisors should quickly converge towards observers. At a minimum, they should be making line calls, up/down rulings, and using a card system. I think it’s clear that the games would feel more fair and get to quicker call resolutions with a third party that’s able to make binding calls.
There were far too many instances of getting to the wrong outcome, even when the GA explicitly told the wrong player that they were wrong.
I know Mitch said something about it on Twitter having to do with positioning (not being allowed on the field during play) but GAs seemed to not have perspective on a significantly higher number of calls compared to observers. Moving towards observers (with four per game on big games) that can be closer to the play also seems valuable.
As a viewer, game advisors seem to do pretty little to speed up the game/make it more watchable. Having them be able to be on the field during play seems like an obvious change.
Yeah – I was gonna say that from my experience at World Games and WUCC, the main issue with GAs over observers is the amount of time it takes to resolve a call. I personally don’t know if observers are better in terms of making calls over GAs or whatnot but if watchability is high on the list of making ultimate an Olympic sport, observers win this by a landslide. Pretty much any stoppage that required a GA took twice as long as a similar one would have with an observer.
Agree with Charlie (don’t tell him) about line calls, up/down, and cards.
As GAs they often don’t get to offer any perspective, let alone any ruling, but they still are always trying to speed up conversations. As a result, they seem often to be on the field just to encourage people who haven’t agreed about a resolution yet to send it back. If people aren’t going to agree, they aren’t going to agree and conversations can’t extend, but there’s this extra push to “accept” sending it back quickly as if that doesn’t favor one side of the discussion. (And yes, I saw multiple cases of people taking advantage of this and all but refusing to have even the briefest conversation, which isn’t directly the GAs fault but which they could still be helpful with.)
People definitely ignored GAs sometimes even when they were clear and confident about a situation, on the rare occasions when they were asked. I think the general toothlessness of GAs makes this more likely.
(And much more… but I’ve wittered on already.)
I’m probably alone here and I will admit that this WUCC wasn’t a great argument for it, but I’m going to say that WFDF should get rid of GAs and go back to pure self-officiation.
I think they hurt more than they helped. I don’t like observers because it totally changes the self-officiated nature of the game (I see way too much just going to the observer rather than having the discussion and then they are basically refs).
As everyone has said, the GAs rarely have a perspective (which I vastly prefer to the observers getting things wrong because they are pressured to have one even if they don’t). And pretty much their only function was to pressure people to contest and send it back quickly. In international play I still feel like they are pressuring that too quickly and not allowing the players to actually consider their opposition.
I get that a lot of times there are long discussions that just end up in a contest and making those shorter is good. But there are also times when people do consider the opposition and change their mind, which I also think is good. GAs just make every close call a contest and I don’t see the same thing at the elite level in Europe where we just use self-officiation.
How much experience do you actually have with observers though? I’ve observed a few games in my day and the majority to vast majority of my games have all calls resolved by players (the dream). We get those friendly conversations that end up with someone changing their mind at the end in observed games also.
Thinking that only self-officiation gets you there is disingenuous.
I’ve played a few observed games when I played college in the US but most of my experience comes from watching observed games. It’s not universal but it’s very common to just go to the observer pretty immediately on a lot of foul calls from what I’ve seen.
I honestly don’t mind it – I doubt ultimate has statistics on how well observers do but from my vantage point it seems like they do well. I also don’t mind them coming to the observer quickly to keep the game flowing, I feel like some of the worst parts of a broadcast is hearing two players try and debate a call for 1-2 minutes and it going nowhere.
It heavily depends on the team and division, just like I imagine the poor spirit/discussions we saw at WUCC might be able to be linked to certain regions/teams/divisions. Again, I’ve found that the majority to vast majority of calls are settled by players before ever going to an observer. If the idea that going to observers right away is the prevailing issue, it doesn’t happen all the time. it certainly does happen in highly contentious moments where teams feel that the other team isn’t being very spirited, but how is that different from a team just contesting every time in WFDF play? At least with observers, you have a chance of getting it right rather than just constantly benefiting the offense.
I’d agree generally that most calls are resolved without going to the observer, though there are definitely some players, teams, and maybe types of calls that quickly go there. The impression of observer involvement is surely magnified by the calls they do make actively. Some of those calls – in/out – result in discussions or do-overs under the GA system. Those seem particularly funny to me when e.g. there’s an in/out call at the end zone and everyone looks at a perfectly positioned GA who … doesn’t say anything.
I think it’s possible to balance the spirit of self-officiating and the value of having impartial observers. Empowering the GAs to do some of the same things observers do would arguably speed up the games even better without taking control from players, while committing to getting things right wherever possible.
Liam Grant (Staff Writer)
There’s no doubt in my mind that having observers would lead to fairer decisions and results overall. However once you bring in a third party official you sacrifice self-refereeing and Spirit of the Game as a whole. Which I think is the cornerstone of our sport and a beautiful concept. I honestly think Spirit of the Game works really well in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. If the rest of the world could match that I would be satisfied.
If everyone knew how much game advisors cost there would probably be more people on your side. I think they help a bit but not sure if they justify the massive cost of flying everyone in.
There is a lot of confusion about the role of GAs. They are not meant to replace observers. They are only there to help with rules and application of SOTG. If people actually knew the rules there would be no need for GAs. I would agree that I think they don’t really help in the majority of games, but WFDF have been criticized for not having any way to deal with lengthy discussions, fouling, etc. I’d be happy to see GAs removed entirely, particularly at the highest level where players tend to be reasonable and know the rules better. Although there’s still instances which are embarrassing.
If we’re talking about changes to GAs, I would love them to have the ability to step in proactively where rules are being incorrectly applied or where there’s already a discussion. Just to speed things up.
Observers don’t prevent cheating either.
Observers don’t prevent cheating, but they greatly reduce it. They also provide clarity on plays where the players involved have different perspectives but one of them is wrong.
I understand that GAs and observers are different conceptually; my point is that the GA concept isn’t functioning as well as observers.
Over half of the roster that played at 2022 WUCC for the Dominican team Meclao was based in the US. Due to strict Visa rules, 14 players from the Dominicans’ domestic roster were unable to make the trip. ↩