FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Preference System for Event Registration

Aug 17, 2017 Written by Frank Merrick


Arnie really wants a slot at that Los Angeles Regional.

Last year, as folks know, we had problems with our event registration system. At the time, we said we would be moving away from first-come-first-served to a preference-based event registration system for the 2018 season.

The purpose of this blog is to confirm that we are moving to a preference-based system and to give you a high-level overview. You will likely have many detailed questions that won’t be answered here. More information will be coming out over the next few weeks. Feel free, though, to ask questions in the comments section below, and I’ll work to answer them later.

(EDIT: Some of the questions below have been addressed in this FAQ)

The preference-based system is intended to make event slot distribution fairer and more convenient and to reduce the load on our systems.

Under the new system, all FIRST Robotics Competition teams will have one week to enter their ranked event preferences in the system. They will be able to enter and rank as many or as few eligible events as they like. There will be no advantage or disadvantage to entering preferences early or late, as long as preferences are in by the deadline. Also, teams will be able to change their preferences as often as they like before the deadline.

All FRC teams will be randomly assigned a lottery number. Teams will keep this lottery number throughout the event selection process for the season. After the preference deadline, the system will go through each team in lottery number sequence, assigning the team to the first event with available capacity in the order of the team’s event preference list. If none of the events on a team’s list has open capacity, the team will be waitlisted on the single event they have identified as being their preferred ‘waitlist’ event (or the first event on their list if they do not specifically designate a waitlist event). So, every team that has entered a preference list for this first round will either be placed in an event or waitlisted for an event.

Teams will then be notified of their first round results. A week or two later, another one-week window will open for teams to use in selecting their second event preferences. Again, they can enter as many or as few eligible events on this list they wish, along with selecting a single event on the list as their waitlist preference. They will also once more be able to make any changes they wish before the deadline. After this second preferences deadline, the system will once again assign events, but this time going in reverse lottery number sequence, from the largest lottery number to the smallest. This means teams who were at the bottom of the list for the first round are at the top of the list for the second. Teams are then notified of the results of this second round. Once more, every team that has entered a preference list for this second round will either be placed in an event or waitlisted for an event.

The third period of registration will be ‘open’ registration for events, following similar rules as have been used in the past.

For now, the preliminary schedule looks like this:

  • September 21, 2017 – September 28, 2017 – Team enter their first round of event preferences in the system
  • September 29, 2017 – Teams are notified of the first round event preferences results
  • October 12, 2017 – October 19, 2017 – Team enter their second round of event preferences in the system
  • October 20, 2017 – Teams are notified of the second round event preferences results
  • November 2, 2017 – Unrestricted event registration opens

Please note that right now these dates are preliminary. We don’t expect them to change, but circumstances may lead them to. If these dates do change, we will be sure to notify the community as soon as the new dates are determined.

As I noted above, this is just a high-level overview of the process. We will provide more detailed information in the coming weeks.


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Will teams be told their lottery number before the 2nd round?

Please make closing times midnight... not middle of the afternoon when (we) mentors and teachers anre working and TEACHING>>>>  thank you


If you are a District team, can your first preference be a Regional Event or an Out of District Event? 

Do we need to have the championships as one of our selections?

Why not give preference to in-region teams for their own events? With the current system a team could unnecessarily be forced to travel a good distance just out of sheer bad luck.

I can see a middle lottery number team in the Los Angeles area (my area) getting skunked on first and second rounds of assignments.

Was there any thought to making the first round limited to say the five closest events to a team? 

I second this - for all FIRST deadlines, including Chairman's, etc. Please make closing times midnight... not middle of the afternoon when coaches and mentors are working. Many people who are helping do not do this during their work day. Whether it's a deadline a coach needs to meet, or a student-led effort that needs to be reviewed by a mentor, this is work that often needs to be done after the regular workday is over, and arbitrary, middle-of-the-day deadlines just don't work.

As a busy professional and a committed FIRST mentor, I already spent too much time at work resolving robotics related issues.  My suggestion is to not only move deadlines to midnight, but also move them to  weekends. FIRST needs to make administrating a team easier than it currently is, moving deadlines to weekends will help.  Remember, without mentors teams just fade away........FYI this is my third attempt at posting this.  When I hit preview,  my comments just disappear and I have to start over.  Great system and more time wasted during my work day. 

Hi Frank.

I'm sure you and the rest of FIRST HQ has put some thought into this, but I am concerned for teams that can't really afford to travel too far. For a team like mine in the New England District, the district is pretty big, and can include some very long drives to events. Most teams would stay over at a hotel near the event, but some teams just can't afford to do this. Basically, is there any preference given for proximity to an event?


Instead of allowing teams to buy their way to championships, why not offer more spots to teams from say, the second winning alliance of each regional? 

Keep in mind FIRST is a "global" organization. Midnight to you might be 06:00 to someone else. So if it is going to be midnight or noon or what ever, it probably should be based on "local time" not like Stop Build. I do like stop build being the exact same time for everyone, but again, some teams loose almost a whole day due to timezones for kick-off.

The Ontario District is about as large geographically as any district can be. With drive times from one end of the province to the northern portion being over a 10 hour drive without adverse weather conditions, the lottery system, if not weighted in some way to factor distance into the lottery system will undoubtedly place tremendous burden on team schedules and finances.  Other Canadian areas, not in the district system could now be having to draw into much larger geographies spanning provinces and international borders. This system unless it somehow accommodates weightings for distance and other factors could seriously impair a team's ability to be financially sustainable.  These changes also introduce uncertainly for team mentors, parents and others that must schedule vacation time to support these teams. Many employees who are mentoring and supporting teams must let their employers know in advance of time off requests. This scheduling lottery will likely increase scheduling uncertainty for the mentor support community. 

Preference for the District events should be given to teams based on their proximity to the venue so that travel costs can be kept down. If our team could commute to 2 events instead of having to travel and pay hotels and food, it would be a tremendous help in these days of dwindling support.

So, will all teams be treated equally to include the "legendary teams?" This method will not take into the account of the schools schedule for holidays, exam schedule etc. If the overloading of the systems can not be corrected then I strongly suggest registration by districts on different days then regionals. 

If a team gets selected to compete when exams or when breaks occur it may have a participation consequence on not attending events.




Since you state the is a high level view, please review this decision from the bottom. Has FIRST HQ real taken the time to understand the process of getting School Board approvals 3-months in advance of out of school district trips, approvals the unbudged additional expanses for traveling to another event even in the same state that will require an over night. Does FIRST HQ realize funding for both the FIRST teams registrations and any school trips have to be budgeted a year ahead (ie at end of last years competition). This will significantly impacts all teams, more so with teams with limited resources and funding sources. So do not be surprised if some existing and some expected new teams may be forced to not to participate in a FIRST competition because of the significant expense.




I am extremely dissatisfied with this decision.  Based on your own statement, "and more convenient and to reduce the load on our systems." This is more about what your servers can handle not what is truly in the best interest of the teams.  This system will not be more fair - It puts more of a burden on the mentors/coaches getting approval for "tentative" events that may or may not come to fruition.  It puts more anxiety on the families not knowing if they will have to pay for a hotel/food/travel. It puts more of a strain on fundraising. I only see this benefitting headquarters. In the two short seasons my team has been with FIRST I have become more and more frustrated for the services I am receiving. Especially considering the price tag of each event.  

That's a very complicated solution and random (lottery) solution to a problem nobody was having. What's so hard about signing up for an event and getting wait listed if it's full?

If a team is being sponsored by a hosting venue that team should be allowed to go to that event.

I would like FRC to adopt similar system to our FTC team system. They have separated each division into regions like South, North, and Central. Teams are given preference in their regions, and guaranteed 2 events in those regions. If the team wants to do an inter-district or inter-regional event ,their registration is waitlisted until teams in that region or district have at least 2 events scheduled.

Some schools have more than one FRC team. If each team has a different lottery number, it is likely that a school would have teams playing at different venues simultaneously or at the very least at different venues on different weekends.  This would force us to spread our coaching staff and our travel resources out to an impractical degree. I respectfully suggest that a lottery number be assigned to each school or organization instead of each individual team. If teams originating from the same school can compete together at the same tournaments, we can maintain our program with similar budgets and staffing levels as prior years.  

I'll lean in on this issue as well.  I'm on the hook to get three teams assigned and having them go to different events will be very unpopular.

Please consider the cost of teams needing to travel to regionals close to our schools so as many of our students can experience the FIRST competition.  Even with fundraising and sponsorships, the cost of travel is not always covered and some students cannot afford the cost.  Also, we attempt to travel during our school break to reduce the time away from our classes and with the lottery this might not be a possibility anymore.  We have to get out of state travel approved months in advanced and now we are left up to picking the location without the prior approval.  I understand the system issues, but I know there are other ways to go about fixing the system without going to a lottery system.  This isn't going to be fair for all schools involved, especially those with limited funding.  Can you look at looking into a 150 or 200 mile radius for the first wave to give those schools within driving distance an opportuntity to get to at least one regional?  If not, you might have schools that never get to compete. 

Does this mean that teams will have to pay the registration fee soon after being notified on 9/29?

Our team is on a limited budget and as of today there are only 4 events within a 8 hour drive of our location (San Diego) and there are more than 90 teams in southern California (not counting Arizona and Nevada) now all potentially competing for the same limited spots. I agree with other posts, this is all about making it easier for HQ and did not take into consideration the impact this may have on teams.  At this point our team is seriously considering leaving FIRST as the costs keep skyrocketing.

I want to reiterate what those who have already expressed...that travel costs will be too high for our team to participate if we are unable to stay local. Also, have the First decision makers considered our families and sponsors who also enjoy seeing us compete? They will likely be disappointed as they will not take time off to travel out of town.

Will more slots be added to regionals that fill up in the 1st round for the 2nd round?

If we are waitlisted in the 1st round for Regional A and new slots are added for the second round, do those slots get filled first by previously waitlisted teams?


There aren’t any slots being held back for Round 2, so no, additional slots will not be added as a results of the preference system/assignments (although if an event finds more capacity, they may adjust. This is an unusual situation.).

Are hosts teams automatically assigned to their event? If so, is that considered their first round request or can they place the next event request during the first round?

Host teams are not automatically assigned to an event, but if you end up being waitlisted, you would certainly get priority to be assigned to the event by your Regional Director or District Management. And per this blog (, first round requests are independent of second round requests. The slate is wiped clean.

So there is NOTHING in this new system that helps teams get assign to regionals close to them? There are only two regionals (Silicon Valley and San Francisco) our team can travel to without needing to book hotels. This is our second year competing and we don't have very deep pockets, and if we don't get a regional we can drive to we may not be able to bring all our students. Every team should be able to register for the event closest to them, and any teams that want a second event, or to trade the one closest to them for a different one, should be a separate issue.

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