2016-2017 League Play FAQ

Author: Patrick R. Michaud, pmichaud@pobox.com
Last updated: 2016.10.13

Overview of this document

This page attempts to document what is known (and not known) about League Play in the North Texas FTC Region for the 2016-2017 season.  This page is not an official document; the statements below are simply citations and analysis I’ve obtained from various sources.

Draft league assignments went out to many coaches on September 30.  Coaches in each draft league are to coordinate with each other and Dr. Tiernan at UT-Arlington to determine locations and dates for holding at least three league meets and a League Tournament.

I’m currently aware of five leagues being worked on in North Texas:  Amethyst, Emerald, Garnet, Sapphire, and Topaz.  If you know of other draft leagues, please let me know so I can add them to my list.

The main source of information regarding league play comes from the 2016-2017 FTC League Meet Guide (LMG), available from http://www.firstinspires.org/resource-library/ftc/volunteer-resources .

On October 12th we held a League Play Webinar and the slides from that webinar are available.

Patrick Michaud (Pm) is the primary maintainer for this page.  If you have further questions, suggestions, additions, corrections, or alterations for this page, please send them to pmichaud@pobox.com or post them to the NorthTexasFTC Google Group.

What is League Play?

League play is a different way of organizing FTC competition within a region.  A League is a group of 10 to 16 Teams that compete together in a series of League Meets, followed by a League Tournament (previously known as a “League Championship”).   A League Meet is a one-field competition that is approximately 4-6 hours long [note 1], consisting only of robot inspection, qualifying matches, and perhaps some minimal judging.

A League Tournament is a full day event that includes inspection, qualifying matches, judging, alliance selection, elimination rounds, awards, and advancement to the Regional Championship. Thus a League Tournament is equivalent in length and format as a Qualifying Tournament, except that the results of the League Meet matches are also used in the determination of Team Rankings and thus selection of Alliance Captains for the Elimination Rounds (playoffs).

Patrick Michaud likes to say that a League is akin to a 15-20 round Qualifying Tournament that is conducted as a series of smaller events spread out over several weeks.

What are the advantages of League Play?

League Play offers a more robust competition experience to more teams within the Region.

In a Qualifying Tournament, teams usually play only 5 or so rounds of Qualification Matches, and only a small percentage of teams advance to a Championship.  So for many non-league play teams, a season’s competition experience ends up being a single day event with 5 or 6 matches, and thus little or no opportunity to improve, practice, and compete again.  League play teams play more matches and attend multiple events, meaning they experience the important process of evaluation and redesign for improvement between events.  Teams advancing from league play are thus more likely to be competitive at regional and subsequent championship events.

Additional qualification matches also means that team rankings are less susceptible to random artifacts in match scheduling; team rankings in the league are much more reflective of sustained performance by teams.

What are the disadvantages of League Play?

One of League Play’s advantages (more opportunities to compete and learn) can also be a disadvantage:  League Play requires teams to attend more events, which means increased travel, increased potential conflicts with other scholastic activities, etc.  So, where a team in previous seasons may have budgeted for one or perhaps two Saturday competition events in January, under League Play a team needs to arrange to attend at least four (and possibly more) events during the season.

In order to accommodate the requisite number of League events (3 meets + tournament), competition events have to start occuring much earlier in the season than qualifying tournaments, meaning less preparation time between the season kickoff and the start of competition.  Scheduling issues are likely to require some league competitions to begin in early November or even late October.

Because Leagues are generally much smaller than traditional qualifier events, there may be fewer paths for league teams to advance to the Regional Championship.  For example, in previous seasons teams on a Finalist Alliance and/or receiving Think/Connect Awards have commonly advanced from Qualifying Tournaments to the Regional Championship, but these awards would not have been sufficient to advance from a League Tournament.  See more about team advancement below.

How are Teams assigned to Leagues?

Per the LMG, leagues have a minimum of 10 teams and a maximum of 16 teams.  From a practical perspective, a league really needs at least 12 teams to be viable… fewer than that can lead to oddities in match scheduling.

Dr. Tiernan sent out draft league assignments to many teams on September 30.  Assignments were made largely based on geographic considerations.  The coaches in each group (Amethyst, Emerald, Garnet, Sapphire, Topaz) are then to work together to form a league composed of 10-16 teams that have broad agreement on dates, locations, and resource availability.

How many League competitions will be held?

Page 14 of the LMG: “Each League must provide enough League Meets so that each Team can participate in at least three.”  In addition, a League must hold a League Tournament for all of the teams in the League.

Who determines the times and places for League Events?

Coaches within the league select the dates and locations for League Meets and the League Tournament.  There must be enough League Meets so that each Team can participate in at least three.

The League Tournament must be held after the League Meets, no later than February 4, and must be on a date when all of the teams in the league can attend.

From a practical logistics and calendar perspective, League Meets have to start occurring in late October/early November, and League Tournaments will generally occur in late January or early February.

What resources are required to organize a League?

That’s a question with a very long answer.  For the 3+ League Meets, the league needs at minimum: places to hold each meet, a regulation competition field, a pit area, a scoring computer (laptop + projector), computers and displays for match timing, a sizing box, alliance flags, an official Scorekeeper, a Head Referee, one or two Referees, a Field Technical Advisor, a Robot Inspector, and two Score Trackers.  All of the volunteers listed here except the two Score Trackers need pre-event training and to pass a certification exam prior to the events (LMG page 27).  Sometimes referees can also serve as FTAs or Robot Inspectors by completing the additional training and certifications needed for those positions.

For the League Tournament you need all of the above plus judges, robot inspectors, and rooms or spaces where judging can take place (i.e., like a qualifier event).  It’s also a good idea for the League Tournament to have a second competition field available.

The coaches in each League are responsible for identifying a League Organizer or League Committee to coordinate and execute all of the League’s events, including obtaining competition resources, venues, contest officials, volunteers, team coordination, etc.  FIRST publishes an official League Meet Guide that describes all of the resources needed for League Meets.  For the League Championship, the best resource is the FTC Tournament Guide available via FTC’s Volunteer Resources page.

WIll Leagues have a registration fee?

LMG page 17: “Leagues are responsible for funding League Meets. Most generate their funding through some combination of registration fees and sponsorship;”

From Dr. Tiernan’s message sent to Topaz league participants:  “To participate in the league you will need to pay the league registration fee just like you would pay a registration fee to participate in a qualifier tournament.   It is assumed that teams will play in leagues this season.”

I have no information as to whether there might be financial, technical, or other resource support from our Regional Partners or FIRST in Texas.

In the 2015-2016 season the Emerald League charged its teams a registration fee of $250, which registered a team for five League Meets and the League Tournament.

How do teams advance to a League Tournament?

All teams in a League participate in their League Tournament.  LMG, page 12: “All Teams who participate at League Meets will advance to either a League [Tournament] or Qualifying Tournament depending on the League structure in their Region or State […].”

How do teams advance to the Regional Championship?

A League Tournament is just like a Qualifying Tournament, in that it is a full-day event with inspection, judging, qualification matches, and elimination matches.  The major difference is usually event size (fewer teams) and that League Meet match results determine the team rankings going into the League Tournament.  At the League Tournament, teams then advance to the Regional Championship based on the standard Advancement Criteria given in Game Manual Part I section 4.8.2; i.e., Inspire Winner, Winning Alliance Captain, Inspire 2nd Place, Winning Alliance 1st Pick, Inspire 3rd Place, etc.

How many teams will advance from a League Tournament to the Regional Championship?

There’s no way to precisely know the answer to this question in advance.  The Regional Championship has a fixed number of slots available which are divided among all of the advancing events (League Tournaments and Qualifying Tournaments) in the region.  The allocations are made proportionally, such that an event with more teams competing will receive a larger share of advancement slots than an event with a smaller number of teams.  However, Dr. Tiernan has said that a larger proportion of advancing slots will be given to leagues than qualifiers.

In recent seasons the Regional Championship has had 36 total slots divided among Qualifying Tournaments and League Tournaments.  So, assuming our region ends up with nine roughly equal-sized leagues and qualifiers, that would mean that each League Tournament will advance a total of four teams to the Regional Championship.  But since the sizes of leagues and qualifiers are likely to vary substantially, smaller leagues might advance only three teams while some qualifiers may advance five, six, or even more teams.

From a practical perspective, an event with four advancement slots means that only Inspire Award teams and Winning Alliance teams are able to advance to the Regional Championship (i.e., finalist alliance teams and other awards are extremely unlikely to advance).  An event with three advancement slots means that the Winning Alliance Captain and Inspire 1st/2nd teams are the only teams likely to advance (the Winning Alliance 1st picked team will advance only if the Captain is also Inspire 1st or Inspire 2nd).

Will there be other paths available to advance to the Regional Championship?

As of 9/30 I have no information on qualifier events or other possible paths for advancing to the Regional Championship for teams in League Play.

What if time/distance constraints prevent my team from participating in a League?

Some school district teams have indicated that they are unable to participate in Leagues due to planning/time/financial constraints.  Also, teams where League Play would involve extreme travel times greater than one hour won’t be required to participate in leagues.  Such teams will have an opportunity to compete in Qualifying Tournaments.

As of 9/30 I have no information regarding the dates or availability of Qualifying Tournaments in North Texas.

I still have questions/concerns!  Who do I ask?

Questions requiring official answers or responses need to be directed to Dr. Tiernan at UT-Arlington.  However, if you ask on the NorthTexasFTC Google Group or send email to Patrick Michaud, other coaches and teams will also be quite happy to let you know what answers they’ve been able to find, and we will update this document accordingly.


1.  Dr. Carter Tiernan’s email of 2016.08.22
2.  2016-2017 FIRST Tech Challenge League Meet Guide
3.  2016-2017 FIRST Tech Challenge Game Manual Part I
4.  FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer Resources

Document History

2016.08.24: Created initial document updated from 2015 League Play FAQ
2016.08.29: Improved answers to “What are the advantages of League Play?”
2016.09.03: Updated descriptions to reflect impact of qualifier events on league advancement.  Minor wording updates.
2016.09.23: Updated description to reflect that League Meets are 4-6 hours long.  Add that leagues will receive a larger proportion of advancing slots than qualifiers.
2016.09.25: Add footnote explaining time needed for League Meets.
2016.09.29: Update volunteer resource list to include Score Trackers and quantify Referees needed.
2016.09.30: Revise/update document with latest league play information from email sent to draft Topaz League participants.
2016.10.02: Add note that the League Tournament has to be on a date when all teams in the league can attend.
2016.10.04: Update all remaining instances of “League Championship” to say “League Tournament”.
2016.10.13: Add Amethyst to list of known leagues.  Add links to Oct 12 webinar and slides.


1. Page 14 of the FTC League Meet Guide (and some other sources) says a League Meet is “approximately 3-4 hours long” from setup to tear-down, but all of the example schedules in the guide show at least four hours for a minimal 10-team event.  Furthermore, the sample schedules are themselves abbreviated, based on match cycle times of approximately 10 minutes while simultaneously claiming that 12 minute cycle times should be the minimum (and even longer for early season events).  So a more realistic estimate is at least four hours for a 10-team event, and somewhat longer for a 12-team event or an event taking place earlier in the season.  According to the LMG, a 12-team event with 12-minute match cycle times requires 3 hours just to play the matches (i.e., not including setup, check-in, inspection, drivers’ meeting, tear down, etc.).

1 Comment

  1. Kim

    THANK YOU Patrick. This was a very beneficial article


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