In a bold move that is going to cost the PSP money the league has cemented its position as the preeminent tournament series in the world. There are details still to be finalized and odds are there will be a hiccup or two along the way but the framework is now in place that provides a path to the pinnacle of pro play and that will deliver minute-by-minute, match-to-match excitement. VFTD touched on this very subject back in November 2012 in pro division dilemma and again in early December with pro team dilemma revisited and I am excited to see that the league's solution is closer to those ideas than might have been the case. The other top contender under consideration for modifying the pro bracket was simply to add teams and reduce the prelim round to 3 matches in a move that would have drawn us closer to the Millennium model--a model that to my mind offers the least possible paintball one can still call a real competition.
Instead the PSP will offer a two-tiered pro division called Champions and Challengers that will use the first event in Dallas to launch the necessary changes. As many as fifteen teams may play PSP pro in Dallas in a 4 match prelim that will result--as has been past practice--in 6 teams moving on to Sunday. What will make Dallas different is that the top ten finishers in Dallas will gain spots in the Champions bracket for the next event and the remaining teams will compete in the Challengers bracket where they will be joined by some additional by invitation only teams to create the feeder pro division. Now this is where it gets good. The PSP will likely leave a couple of Challenger div slots open to allow greater flexibility in how they are able to respond to late comers. The end of the season will see the bottom two teams (in season rankings) in the Challenger bracket relegated to D1 and the top two teams in D1 promoted to the Challenger bracket. But here's the best part: Every event will see promotion and relegation between the Champion and Challenger brackets. Two up, two down. The Challenger bracket will have its own field and the PSP will expand the pro ref crew in order to provide the same high level of officiating across all the pro teams.
In the future it means the Challenger bracket becomes the crucible of excellence that creates teams capable of competing in the Champions bracket and a clearly defined by rule and practice pathway to pro play. It also allows for any outstanding individual team to make the jump to Champions quickly via event-to-event promotion/relegation. And imagine a webcast where nearly every match is meaningful. Where the audience can watch the best vie for titles but also thrill to the suspense of teams fighting to stave off relegation from point to point.
Still not clear? At the second event the Champions and Challengers will play self-contained tournaments. Besides their own field and refs the Challengers will be playing the same pro format RT7 and will be awarded prizes, etc. The rankings will carry across both divisions to account for the teams moving up and down event to event. From the second event results the top 2 teams from the Challengers bracket will join the top 8 in the Champions bracket in Chicago--while the 2 relegated Champions teams play the Challengers in Chicago competing to be promoted back up for the following event.
What's not to like? The competition will be brutal and the process will assure that each event the ten best teams in the world are competing against each other. And once the Challengers is fully populated with 10 teams those teams will be battling it out for not only a series title in their division but the opportunity, every event, to make the move to the Champions bracket with the possibility of staying as long as they remain in the top eight. There has never been anything like it and I am convinced it will take our great game to new heights.