What is a League?
First, let's briefly define what a league even is. A league is a group of teams (generally less than 24) in a geographic area that compete with and against each other during a league season.
How Long is a League Season?
Each league is required to hold 3 meets consisting of at least 5 qualification matches for each team and then an end-of-season tournament similar to a qualifier. These 4 events are stretched out from after the game reveal to mid-January.
In the case of the El Dorado League, we hold our first meet in mid-November. Our second meet is in mid-December. Our third meet is in early-January with our tournament in mid-January.
How is a League Managed?
Each league is managed by the teams who comprise that league. Typically, one of those teams will take a leadership role in managing the operations of the league. In the case of the El Dorado League, that is Ferris High School.
Each league operates differently in how to set their season schedule and selecting hosts for the various events of the season.
What are the Benefits of League Play?
Cost per Drive
Looking at simple number of times each robot is driven during the season, in a league you are guaranteed to drive in 20 qualification matches during the season assuming you pass inspection at each meet and at the tournament. In contrast, you are guaranteed to drive in only 5 qualification matches at a qualifier.
So, at a cost of $150 for a qualifier, you are going to pay $30 for each of the 5 qualification matches you drive in. At a cost of $200 for a league season, you are going to pay $10 for each of the 20 qualification matches you drive in.
Since the league season is broken-up across several months, your teams have the chance to evaluate, revise, and improve their design between meets during the season. We see major changes in the evolution of the design of all robots through the season from direct experiences gained at the league meets through the season.
Since you will be working with the same group of teams through a multi-month / multi-event season, your team members will get to know members from other teams and you will get to know other coaches.
This opens the doors for collaboration opportunities that may typically not be available in a single-day qualifier.
Are There Any Negatives of League Play?
A single-day qualifier is just that, a single-day of time. In contrast, a league season has 3 meets that are typically done in under 4 hours and then an end-of season tournament that typically takes a full-day. That means league play requires a commitment of at least 4 days spread through the season.
Higher Up-Front Costs
A qualifier costs around $150 to $175. This cost covers the expenses of providing food for all participants and volunteers at the event. In contrast, a league may charge around $200 to $250 for the season. Just like a qualifier, this covers the expenses of providing food for all participants and volunteers all events.
Fewer Advancement Slots
Since a league typically consists of less than 24 teams, there are fewer advancement slots than compared to a larger qualifier event.
Let's say a qualifier has 36 teams competing. They may advance 7 teams on to the regional tournament. Now, let's say a league has 18 teams competing. Since it is half the size, it will have only have the number of possible advancement slots.
With the addition of the "Super Qualifier" this season, this should help to alleviate some of this concern.