Varying Levels of Return to Play across Divisions Reshapes TCT Events as Programs Continue to Emerge from COVID-19 Pandemic; Broadcast Coverage of U.S. Open Shifted to Pro Championships
Colorado Springs, Colo. (July 1, 2021)–As ultimate continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, many of USA Ultimate’s 600+ club division teams are preparing for a return to play, either locally at sanctioned tournaments or at major, national-level Triple Crown Tour (TCT) events.
As expected, the unique club season that lies ahead will look much different this year after USA Ultimate eliminated requirements and relaxed restrictions to provide a more flexible environment for athletes and teams that have different perspectives on how and when to return to the field. As teams take advantage of this high degree of flexibility that was introduced to allow for a comfortable return to play, it is exciting to see teams resume play at the national level.
Teams around country are currently in varying stages of determining leadership, organizing tryouts, solidifying rosters and scheduling tournaments – either local or national – that coincide with varying levels of local guidelines and individual comfort levels. As a result, some of USA Ultimate’s premier TCT events have been impacted in a variety of notable ways.
At some events, the number of teams competing will be different compared to previous years, or uneven across divisions. At others, specific divisions will no longer take place in 2021 or are at risk of being cancelled due to low registration numbers. For some events, Select and Classic flight teams (many of which are newly established teams) are taking advantage of a unique opportunity to compete on a national stage in a premier TCT event.
With the first major TCT event just over a week away, here’s a look at some specific updates and modifications for TCT events that are a result of a highly flexible season and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic:
Pro-Elite Challenge – July 10-11 – Aurora, CO
- The men’s division will include a diverse, 20-team pool from 13 states, spanning the spectrum of defending national champions to first-time Classic Flight squads, creating both a competitive environment and an opportunity for teams to get in some early reps heading into the summer and fall. The field includes a pair of teams from the Pro and Elite Flights (including the last two national champions, Seattle Sockeye and New York PoNY), as well as eight teams from both the Select and Classic Flights.
- The mixed division will feature 14 teams from 11 states, including 2019 national championship attendees Fort Collins shame., Columbus Cocktails, Montana MOONDOG and Durham Toro.
- Due to a lack of teams, there will be no women’s division at the Pro-Elite Challenge in 2021. Based on continued conversations with teams, the expectation is that teams from the women’s division will be competing in late-summer regular season events and the postseason championship series in addition to a variety of local, sanctioned tournaments.
U.S. Open Club Championships – August 7-8 – Blaine, MN
- Due to a lack of teams in some divisions, USA Ultimate has reduced the ICC tournament schedule from three days to two and has significantly condensed the on-site footprint of the event. The stadium and adjacent bowl will not be used this year, and play will be primarily focused on the north side of the complex.
- With teams in some divisions opting to focus more on later season events, it is highly unlikely that the U.S. Open will host a women’s or mixed division in 2021.
- In order to maintain its strong and longstanding commitment to equity – particularly gender equity as it relates to visibility via television partnerships and the distribution of programming – the traditional linear TV and streaming coverage of select semifinals and three championship games will not occur this year. Instead, USA Ultimate has confirmed plans to redirect that coverage to the Pro Championships with a formal and more detailed announcement coming soon about broadcast plans for the year.
- Save for the absence of international teams this year, an expanded men’s division is shaping up to be one of the greatest fields ever assembled at the U.S. Open. Seven Pro Flight teams are scheduled to attend, including the defending national champions, Seattle Sockeye and runners-up, Chicago Machine, plus top-eight nationals finishers New York PoNY, San Francisco Revolver, Portland Rhino Slam!, Minneapolis Sub-Zero, and Washington D.C. Truck Stop. Elite Flight squads Boston DiG, SoCal Condors, Atlanta Chain Lightning and Denver Johnny Bravo have also been confirmed along with several Select and Classic Flight teams.
Other Mid-to Late-Summer TCT Events:
Select Flight Invite (East) – July 24-25 – Columbus, OH
Select Flight Invite (West) – August 14-15 – Norco, CA
Elite-Select Challenge – August 21-22 – Lebanon, OH
Pro Championships – September 4-6 – Boulder, CO
- Fields for these events are continuing to fill out with more competitive teams using these tournaments to prepare for the postseason championship series, which begins with Sectionals September 11. More information regarding these events will be made as soon as it becomes available.