Seeding, Brackets Revealed for 2015 WFTDA Playoffs

The two division tournaments bring with them a few changes. Includes an expanded look at the new WFTDA seeding policy in Division 1.

WFTDA Logo LargeIt’s the most wonderful time of the year!1 The WFTDA has published its rankings for the period ending June 30, which is the milestone that determines who qualifies for the 2015 WFTDA post-season. A total of 60 teams have accepted invites for the Division 1 and Division 2 playoff tournaments and have been seeded into six divisional playoff sites.

There have been a few changes to the tourney format, which we’ll touch on below. Before we dig deep into what’s happened with the Division 1 brackets, let’s jump right in and first look at the teams that will be vying for the Division 2 title.

WFTDA 2015 Division 2 Playoffs

(WFTDA rank in parenthesis)

Division 2 – Cleveland, Ohio
August 21-23
WFTDA Tournament Page and Bracket

  1. (42) Santa Cruz
  2. (45) Kansas City
  3. (46) Columbia
  4. (49) Treasure Valley
  5. (50) Demolition City
  6. (53) Houston
  7. (54) St. Chux
  8. (57) Jet City
  9. (58) Oklahoma
  10. (62) Brandywine

Division 2 – Detroit, Mich.
August 28-30
WFTDA Tournament Page and Bracket

  1. (43) Nashville
  2. (44) Sacred City
  3. (47) Emerald City
  4. (48) Naptown
  5. (51) Wasatch
  6. (52) Chicago Outfit
  7. (55) Boulder County
  8. (56) Sac City
  9. (60) Brewcity
  10. (61) Bear City

There’s been a change to how the Division 2 tournament determines a champion, but the brackets and the seeding distribution that populates them remains unchanged. The field will remain very closely matched from top to bottom, which should continue to create a high concentration of close games.

In the first two years of the division, the two winners of the two brackets played in one game at Champs to determine the champion. The two bridesmaids played for third place.

New for 2015 is the addition of more D2 games at WFTDA Championships. There will still be the divisional final between the last two teams at each playoff site, but now they will play in an additional crossover game at Championships with their opposite numbers in the other bracket before the title contenders are confirmed.

In November, the Cleveland winner will play the Detroit runner-up, and the Detroit winner will play the Cleveland runner-up. These two games will be contested on Friday with the first four games of the Division 1 Championships. Before the Hydra final on Sunday, the winners of the D2 semifinals will play for the gold and the shiny trophy; the losers will fight over who gets to go home with a D2 bronze medal.

Astute bracket-watchers may have noticed that #61 Bear City and #62 Brandywine made it to the playoffs, despite not being among the top 60 teams of the WFTDA. That’s because a few teams above them were not eligible for the postseason. Ranked 59th, and despite making the Division 1 field last year, SoCal Roller Derby hasn’t played a game all year while it is in the midst of restructuring. It was never in the playoff picture.

More noticeable is the continued absence of the 2009 WFTDA Champions, the 37th-ranked Oly Rollers. Last year the team skipped WFTDA tournament play, and this year it will be doing the same. It had only played in three sanctioned games in 2015, one short of the required four. (One of those games was a 219-204 loss to #49 Treasure Valley.) Oly is once again choosing to focus on USARS play, where it has won three straight national titles.2 It will be skating for a fourth USARS championship in Philadelphia on the same weekend the WFTDA motors through Detroit.

WFTDA 2015 Division 1 Playoffs 

The Division 1 tournament in 2015 is much the same as it has been since regional play was eliminated after the 2012 season: The top 40 leagues get S-curved into four brackets, with the three top-placing teams from each advancing to WFTDA Championships, held this year in fabulous Saint Paul, Minn.

But now there’s a twist. With Division 2, the seeding didn’t change but the tournament format did. Division 1 flips the script: The format remains the same, but there’s been a change to the seeding distribution.

Note that some of the teams here are grayed out and crossed out. For the purposes of seeing which teams are playing in which tournament, ignore them and focus on the bolded teams in those particular seeding spots. Don’t worry—it will make sense in a moment.

Division 1 – Tucson, Ariz.
September 4-6
WFTDA Tournament Page and Bracket

  1. (3) Victorian
  2. (6) Bay Area
  3. (11) Arch Rival
  4. (14) Rocky Mountain
  5. (19) Charm City
  6. (22) Team United
  7. (27) Terminal City
  8. (30) Crime City (31) Arizona
  9. (35) Madison
  10. (39) No Coast (40) Tri-City

Division 1 – Dallas, Texas
September 11-13
WFTDA Tournament Page and Bracket

  1. (2) Rose City
  2. (7) Texas
  3. (10) Philly
  4. (15) Rat City
  5. (18) Tampa (17) Stockholm
  6. (23) Boston (24) Dallas
  7. (26) Glasgow (28) Sun State
  8. (31) Arizona (30) Crime City
  9. (34) Ohio
  10. (40) Tri-City (41) Rideau Valley

Division 1 – Jacksonville, Fla.
September 18-20
WFTDA Tournament Page and Bracket

  1. (4) London
  2. (5) Denver
  3. (12) Minnesota (9) Jacksonville
  4. (13) Atlanta
  5. (20) Windy City (18) Tampa
  6. (21) Detroit
  7. (28) Sun State (26) Glasgow
  8. (29) Steel City
  9. (36) Pikes Peak
  10. (38) Charlottesville

Division 1 – Omaha, Neb.
October 2-4
WFTDA Tournament Page and Bracket

  1. (1) Gotham
  2. (8) Angel City
  3. (9) Jacksonville (12) Minnesota
  4. (16) Montreal
  5. (17) Stockholm (20) Windy City
  6. (24) Dallas (23) Boston
  7. (25) Helsinki
  8. (32) Toronto
  9. (33) Queen City
  10. (41) Rideau Valley (39) No Coast

The international presence of the WFTDA is here in full force, with 12 teams from outside of the United States participating in the Division 1 festivities. That includes two each from Australia (Victorian, Sun State) and Sweden (Stockholm, Crime City); and one each from Finland (Helsinki) and Scotland (Glasgow). If you include the usual suspects from London and Canada, and Germany’s Bear City from the Division 2 bracket, that’s eight total countries playing playoff roller derby. Wow!

Right, so about those scratched-off teams in the lists above. Along with the alteration to the Division 2 finals format, the WFTDA also changed the seeding rubric used to populate the Division 1 field, as it explained earlier this week:

WFTDA Membership has approved changes to the WFTDA Playoff seeding process to allow leagues with significant and measurable financial and geographic preferences to request specific Playoff locations. This change allows WFTDA Competitive Play more flexibility in assigning Playoff locations that best fit the needs of members while maintaining competitive matchups.

It took them two years to realize it, but making teams travel great distances across the country to participate in a roller derby tournament is really expensive! Unnecessarily expensive, it turns out, as the WFTDA has introduced a bit of much-needed flexibility to the S-curve seeding schedule.

Scroll back up to the Division 1 lists, but this time focus in on the crossed-off teams. Had the WFTDA stuck to the rigid and unmovable S-curve seeding it used in 2013 and 2014, those teams with those ranks would have been placed into those tournaments, had some not requested relief from the WFTDA in their placement for the 2015 season.

If that relief was not in place, No Coast (Lincoln, Neb.) would have had to fly to Arizona instead of drive to nearby Omaha. Or Tampa to Texas, instead of up the Florida coast to Jacksonville. But now that the WFTDA has allowed these teams (and their fans, and their sponsors) to come to a playoff site that is realistically (and affordably) near them, they can focus on roller derby and not on how to pay for the privilege of playing it in the playoffs.

(Of course, with eight teams flying in from lands abroad likely having to collectively raise upwards of $200,0003—let that number sink in a bit—to come to the playoffs and back, any savings made domestically will be trumped by the expenses incurred by the international community. But that’s a different problem for another time.)

How did the WFTDA manage to shift the seeds this without completely spoiling the competitive balance of the brackets? This is something we explained here at Roller Derby Notes two years ago,4 in an analysis piece that highlighted the problem that the WFTDA has only now just solved—in nearly the exact same way that we proposed it be solved.

The differences among a group of four teams in proximity is, for the most part, negligible. … We can take advantage of this to create some “wiggle room” within each [seed] group of the rankings table and make harmless adjustments to the S-curve, where possible, when it is advantageous to do so. … This is how the S-curve becomes “flexible.” By broadening the curve to four-team ranking chunks, a multitude of placement options open up when it comes time to determine which one of the four X-seeds, regardless of ranking, goes to which playoff site.

Rather than say that a team is exactly a rank that must go into a rigidly seeded bracket no-matter-what, the WFTDA acknowledged that in reality, teams ranked right next to each other—specifically those within the same seed group (like those ranked #21-#24, the 6-seeds)—can be moved around so that the geographical and financial benefit of keeping a team closer to home far, far outweighs the minuscule disruption of competitive balance.

Leagues were given a May 31 deadline to “submit preferences on financial needs,” with the WFTDA having the final say on if a team was to be moved and to where. Teams participating in the tournaments they were hosting (Jacksonville, Dallas) were to be moved regardless, per existing WFTDA policy.

Not everyone nearer to a more convenient playoff location was moved that could have been moved. The WFTDA dumped regionals, and it wasn’t about to re-regionalize its divisions any time soon. The teams that were relocated, as you can also see below in this color-coded table, were generally toward the bottom of the D1 food chain. Which makes sense.

Ignoring the geographical benefits, you can see that some teams were more fortunate than others. Windy City, Boston, and Sun State were a few of the winners in the flexibility sweepstakes.

Minnesota in particular lucked out when it was swapped with Jacksonville, putting it into the Omaha bracket with a weaker 2nd seed (Angel City) and weaker 4th seed (Montreal) than it would have faced in Florida. As it happens, Minnesota is playing Angel City this Saturday in Los Angeles5—the perfect chance to get some valuable intel for their probable and more important meeting in Nebraska a few weeks later.

Say…isn’t Minnesota hosting WFTDA Champs this year? Talk about destiny!6

The big loser appears to be, ironically, Jacksonville. Sure, you get to play at home. But the intra-seed swap is significant here. It played Angel City in May and lost 197-136. Had Gotham’s (and Angel City’s) bracket been assigned to the Florida site, Jax would have probably played them again with a fighting chance to win and advance directly to Championships.

Instead, it has to face Denver in a probable semifinal, which will be a much harder test. If it loses that potential matchup, Jacksonville may face a higher-ranked Atlanta to fight for a Champs spot, instead of the lower-ranked Montreal. If unlucky enough, the team may not even get to Minnesota!

Alas, that’s how the chips can fall in a flexible seeding environment. Some teams come out better, some worse.

But there’s no question that overall, the new format will be of great benefit to the domestic teams of the WFTDA going forward, especially the little guys who are talented on the track but still having a hard time making ends meet in the back office. By the time playoff roller derby begins in earnest, if the action on the track is good, these little ranking deviations will be an afterthought.

Speaking of afterthoughts, don’t forget about us! This August, Roller Derby Notes will have a preview of the Division 2 playoffs, plus a full preview for each of the four Division 1 tournaments in September. It all leads up to the WFTDA Championships, which begin on November 6.