USA Curling relaxes the World Team Qualification Process for 2018

Aug. 17, 2017, 11:17 a.m. (ET)

First bullet revised, 3:30 p.m. CT, 8/17

USA Curling relaxes the World Team Qualification Process (WTQP) for 2018

For the 2017-18 season only, USA Curling has decided to relax the world team qualifying process as follows:

 

  • Any eligible team within the Top 75 in the WCT Order of Merit (OOM, two-year period) on Jan. 31, 2018, can qualify to represent USA at the 2018 Men’s/Women’s World Championships by winning the 2018 U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Championships.
  • Any eligible team that has earned 40 points in the WCT OOM Year-To-Date rankings by or on Jan. 31, 2018, can qualify to represent USA at the 2018 Men’s/Women’s World Championships by winning the 2018 U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Championships.

Every year since the USA Curling World Team Qualification Process (WTQP) was adopted for the 2013-14 season, a High Performance Advisory Group has reviewed the process and suggested adjustments to the system to be considered by the USCA staff charged with achieving the objectives of the High Performance Program.

The Advisory Group is not a voting body — the responsibility for final decisions on WTQP rests with the HPP Director and the CEO of USA Curling — but it is in place to provide input from USA Curling Athlete Advisory Council (AAC) athletes, USA Curling Board and committee members, High Performance Program staff and other valued voices in the curling community, many of whom have been a part of this group since its inception. The Advisory Group also reviews Word Curling Tour (WCT) Order of Merit (OOM) data from previous seasons, provided by CurlingZone.

Some of the reasons behind the decision to move to a points based system in season 2013-14 were as follows:

  • Encourage more USA teams to compete internationally
  • Improve USA teams’ standings on the WCT OOM
  • Improve USA’s World Ranking
  • Reward teams for consistency throughout the entire season
  • Improve USA’s World Championships results

The process also had to incorporate the following strategic directives from the USCA Board:

  • Pursuit of “sustained competitive excellence”
  • “Two-track system” (program and self-formed teams)
  • Open to all (Ted Stevens Act, “athlete’s right to compete”)
  • Our World representatives will be decided “on the ice”
  • The U.S. Nationals remain a significant part of the process

At the end of the 2012-13 season, USA was ranked 8th for both men and women in the World Rankings, and the top three WCT ranked teams for USA were at 19, 33 and 46 for the women and 34, 36 and 41 for the men. Currently, USA women are ranked 6th in the world, with USA men ranked 5th. Our top WCT ranked teams going into season 2017-18 are 18, 19 and 37 for women and 14, 15 and 23 for men.  Having five USA teams in the Top 25 on the OOM is unprecedented, and all five teams have earned invitations to the first Grand Slam of the season, with two men’s teams in the Tier 1 event (Top 15) and the other three teams in the Tier 2 event (16-25). Competing at this level on world-class ice against the best teams in the world is essential for continued international success.

The system used in 2016-17, which allowed teams to count their six best World Curling Tour (WCT) Order of Merit (OOM) prior to Nationals, also allowed for any team in the top 25 of the OOM year-to-date to win the Nationals and qualify for worlds regardless of points. The WTQP advisory group considered many options for 2017-18 and beyond, including an AAC proposal that recommended no points or ranking limitations in the WTQP for 2017-18  (winner of 2018 Nationals goes to Worlds), with some kind of points system returning in 2018-19 and through the remaining years leading to the 2022 Winter Olympics. 

The premise of the AAC proposal was that the 2018 World Championships are less important since they do not factor into the 2022 Olympic qualifying process; the current world team qualifying standards discourage some competitive teams from participating in the Nationals process since they don’t believe they can be Team USA at the World Championships, and that USA Curling should be encouraging more up-and-coming teams to compete as we look toward the 2022 Games.   

The group also considered the fact that the U.S. Olympic Committee is instituting a new tiered funding approach for high performance programs that includes the opportunity for National Governing Bodies to qualify for multi-year funding commitments based upon several factors, including world championship medal success.

The final decision was made by Director of High Performance Derek Brown and approved by USA Curling CEO Rick Patzke. Brown carefully considered all of the input from the advisory group and believes this outcome is in the best interest of USA Curling’s strategic goals of both growing the sport and continuing to sustain international competitive excellence. It is also important to note that this decision is more about relaxing the standards to a level at which dedicated teams can make an additional push to be able to qualify versus lowering the standards to where anybody can just show up and qualify for the World Championships.

Bill Stopera, Chair of the AAC, said: “Our proposal — the winners of the 2018 USA Men’s and Women’s Nationals would represent Team USA at the 2018 World Championships, regardless of OOM ranking or WCT points totals —  had 100% support among the members of the AAC. While this proposal was not implemented, I am encouraged by the compromise that the threshold necessary to be Team USA has changed from Top 25 to Top 75 in 2018. We are hopeful this will encourage more teams to compete actively on the World Curling Tour as they pursue their goals of representing their country at the World Championships and the 2022 Olympic Games.”

A full review of the process will take place again in the summer of 2018, with the intention that the qualifying criteria will be tightened up once again as USA Curling looks ahead to preparing teams for future world championships and the 2022 Olympic Games.