FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Double Elimination 2023 Data and Updates

Aug 08, 2023 Written by Fiona Hanlon, FIRST Robotics Competition Team Experience Specialist




As we round out the end of summer, we wanted to share some information & updates on the Double Elimination playoff structure that we implemented for the 2023 season. When we announced that we would be using this model for the 2023 season, we noted that it was a pilot, and we would be soliciting feedback to understand how it went and if any changes were needed. We want to share some of that feedback and some of the changes we are making for the 2024 season.

In the weekly event surveys, we asked teams “Did you enjoy having awards between final matches more, the same, or less than having all awards after the final matches?” The responses were 66.4% positive, 20.7% neutral, and 12.9% negative overall. The chart below shows the responses week-by-week.



In the end of season survey, we also asked teams how they felt about the new tournament structure: “Did you enjoy the new Double Elimination tournament style more, the same, or less than the previous best 2 out of 3 style?” 80% of mentors and 70% of students responded positively to this question, compared to 7% of mentors and 9% of students that responded negatively.

We also solicited feedback from our Program Delivery Partners on the new tournament type as well as awards between matches, and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Based on all of this feedback, I am happy to share that we will be continuing with the Double Elimination Playoff Tournament and will be keeping awards between matches.

We also took a look at the free-response feedback from our surveys as well as data from events to see what improvements (if any) could be made. Our findings are below:

  • We noticed that for most events, playoffs took on average 3 hours and 45 minutes when we intended for playoffs to take just over 3 hours. In looking at the data, this is likely due to a few factors, including the format being new for everyone.
    • One of the main causes of this was that we had scheduled playoffs to do 7-minute cycles when on average, events were doing 8-minute cycles.
    • We also noticed that the breaks took longer than planned.
  • Additionally, in some of the survey responses, people noted that they felt that the breaks without awards were long and not very engaging. Some wish we had explicitly noted what awards were being given out during each break.

So, taking all of the above into consideration, we are mapping out a new schedule. This schedule should help events better stick to the ~3-hour tournament while still guaranteeing that teams have at least 15 minutes between matches. The new schedule makes the following modifications:

  • Increases the cycle time to 9-minutes
  • Removes the first two breaks entirely
  • Shrinks the 3rd break to be only 5 minutes

We are also working on ways to make it clearer to event attendees when awards will be handed out.

I wanted to end this blog with my favorite piece of data from the 2023 season that shows that Double Elims worked as intended. One of the things that many people liked about this new playoff style was that it would better showcase which alliances were the best at the event as it was possible that Alliance 8 was the second-best alliance at the event. For example, in the old model, it was not possible for Alliance 1 & 8 to be the winners and finalists. The chart below gives data on which alliance ended up as a winner or finalist at events in 2022 (using the old playoff style) and in 2023 (using Double Eliminations). It’s important to note that while it is likely that Double Eliminations had some correlation to these changes, it is not the only factor at play.



Finally, we want to again thank those who helped us with implementing the Double Elimination tournament for the 2023 season and to everyone who helped provide feedback on their experiences. Looking forward to the 2024 season!

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In looking at your data presented, it is obvious that alliances 7 & 8 have little chance of winning and alliances 1 & 2 have the best chance of winning, as expected. If you really want to level the playoff field, so 7 & 8 have as good a chance to win as 1 & 2, don't allow the top 8 seeds to choose each other in the pairings. This was done at the South Carolina SCRAP off season event this summer. Because of limited number of entries, there were only 6 alliances in the double elimination playoffs. The playoffs ended up with alliances 5 & 6 being the last two in the winners bracket, with 6 beating 5. Then 6 beating 1 in the championship finals 2 out of 3 matches. Spreading the talent made this the most competitive playoffs I have been a part of in 21 years of competing. I recommend that FIRST adopt this format for all events in the future.

Hi Jack, 

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the Double Elimination Tournament. At this time, we’re not planning to make this changes, but we will continue to keep this feedback in mind as we look at what other improvements to consider for future seasons. Thanks again and good luck to your team this season!

- Fiona Hanlon
FRC Team Experience Specialist

Double Elimination is a very popular tournament structure in many competitions, but in most of them, there's a rule that if the loser finalist wins in grand finals, they must play an extra round. This is referred to as a "bracket reset," as all the remaining teams are now even on losses. The philosophy here is that the winners finalist hasn't lost yet so they haven't been "double eliminated" yet. So it's a little unfair currently as the team which wins the winners bracket isn't really rewarded for doing so relatively. For example, imagine it's winners semifinals. Team A bears team B. Team B drops to losers finals and beats team C. They'll come back to grand finals and face team A again. They beat team A 2 games to 1, but in total they've gone 2 to 2 including the earlier bracket game. The proper way to handle this would be to include the earlier loss somehow. Either by requiring a second beat of 3 is played in the event A is eliminated for the first time, OR just start team A with a "win" already in the best of 3 so that B needs 2 wins and A only needs 1. Could even increase this to a best of 5 giving A a starting win. I would understand the hesitancy towards this system due to slight confusion but I would argue the situation I laid out with teams A and B is pretty simple to understand the unfairness. It's also just a standard aspect of "double elimination" brackets I thought you should consider. Food for thought!

Hi Eric,

Thank you for the suggestion. At this time, we’re not planning to make a change to the finals, but we will continue to keep this feedback in mind as we go through the season and look at what other improvements to consider for future seasons.

- Fiona Hanlon
FRC Team Experience Specialist

I have to agree with Jack Roach's feedback on this same topic,  (Tue, 08/08/2023) with not allowing the top 8 seeds to choose each other alliance partner to help ensure a "Leveling of the Payoff Field". I get the idea behind the process however, the current method more often than not favors the two top seeds. If FIRST continues with having teams pick their alliance partners, consider having the 8th seed pick first. In addition, an "invited" team is only allowed one "reaction"/"not accept" an invitation. 

Hi John,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. As I replied to Jack, we're not looking to make a change to the alliance selection process at this time but will continue to evaluate if a change is needed. 

-Fiona Hanlon
FRC Team Experience Specialist

I agree with John and Jack. It would be a nice change of pace if the top 8 seeds weren't allowed to pick each other. The finals can get really boring to watch (or compete in) when seed 1 and 2 are power houses and decide to team up. Especially at smaller district competitions with less teams. I know you replied to a previous message saying that you are not considering this at this time, but it might be worth it to include this topic in the 2024 season survey. I think it would be an interesting metric to look into.

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