You may have noticed there’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the final bid allocation for club nationals bids. Certainly part of this is as predictable as rain in October, and as others have noted, someone has to be 17th and they’re not going to be happy about it. Even so, there are some legitimate issues. The major problem is that there wasn’t nearly enough data for the algorithm to function with any kind of confidence. The men’s division in particular didn’t play anywhere near enough games.*
More quietly, the women’s division faces continuing questions about the suitability of the Pro/Elite/Select flight system for the division given how few women’s teams there are. I’m not sure there are enough men’s teams yet for this system to really work like it is supposed to – ideally there will be robust play at all levels so that there is meaningful play for everyone. It isn’t happening yet for the men and they have more than twice the number of teams as the women. The teams at the top are okay and the rag-tag teams are okay. The biggest challenge is for teams that are on the bubble of competitiveness. There aren’t any good options for them right now.
It is unrealistic to expect that a major transition like the Triple Crown could happen without significant issues. It doesn’t matter how good the plan or execution is, there will always be unanticipated problems that need to be dealt with. Theoretically, there’s a really good path to a solution for both of these (and other) problems. As a part of the agreement that set up the Triple Crown, the elite men’s and women’s teams have representation in USA Ultimate. These are the exact type of situations that this representation was set up to address. They are both complicated and involve a number of interested parties with often conflicted concerns. So I’m not advocating any actions in particular, but I am advocating that USA Ultimate step forward and work together with the elite representation to come up with solutions.
ECC led to some pretty shocking results, but I’d be careful reading too much into them. The eight Worlds teams are on a very, very different trajectory from the eight non-Worlds teams. Experience has shown that managing a Worlds year is a very tricky process: Worlds is a long, exhausting tournament with an increasingly significant prize at the end. Going to Worlds is far more involved than preparing for a giant, week-long Potlatch. Essentially, the eight Worlds teams are squeezing two seasons into one. ECC came at the very beginning of the second, following a nearly month long break. I wouldn’t say that those teams were as rusty as they are in early April, but they weren’t sharp by any means as most had only been practicing for a week prior to the tournament. By contrast, the non-Worlds teams are on a single season trajectory with ECC as the last major competition prior to Nationals.
Despite all that, I’m going to go ahead and give the non-Worlds teams credit anyway because they came through and played great. They did what good teams do when they catch another team unprepared – they win. It will be very interesting to see how the teams progress between now and Nationals because whoever can manage to continue moving forward will be in the drivers seat to win. (And everyone should watch this cautionary tale.)
*Data for the top twenty teams in each division. The first number is mean number of games, the second median. Club men (16.1, 13.5) Club women (18.8, 18.5) College men (20.7, 21) College women (21.7, 23)