[Organizers] Which tournament format should you pick? A quick guide

As Toornament offers a vast array of competition structures, here’s a quick and useful guide on what each of them do best. Must read, if you need to pick the format that suits you best!

Single Elimination

Format Details

Pitch: The most used format, where the winner of each match advances forward and meets another winner,until one final victor remains.

Duration: Moderate. Each round is 50% shorter than the previous one.

Capacity: Can accommodate a wide range of participants.

Level: Beginner.

Pros: easy to handle and understand, straightforward.

Cons: no room for error, weaker participants will only play one single match.

Pick Bracket if: you want to rely on a quick, solid format known by everybody. Perfect for a first competition.

Double Elimination

Format Details

Pitch: Variation on the basic Bracket format, the Double Bracket adds a “Loser Bracket” welcoming all the participants who lost a match. You then have to lose twice to be eliminated. Very popular with eSports, less with traditional sports tournaments.

Duration: Average. Be aware that this format more than doubles the time needed for a tournament compared to the Single Elimination.

Capacity: Can accommodate a wide range of participants, but the Loser Bracket can get loaded at times.

Level: Intermediate.

Pros: Greater match variety, possibility for comebacks.

Cons: Hard to understand, leads to confusing situation due to variants (like the Double Grand Finals), timing issues between the two brackets.

Pick Double Bracket if: you want to provide a flexible experience for all your participants, where everyone can lose once and still have a shot at a final victory.

Round Robin Groups

Format Details

Pitch: Dispatches the participants into smaller pools where they will face the other members of their group.

Capacity: Limited. Groups are designed to keep a relatively low number of participants, but you can spawn numerous groups.

Duration : Depends on the group size, but generally quite short.

Level: Beginner.

Pros: Easy to understand and to set up, good to separate seeds, flexibility as each group is independent from the others.

Cons: Doesn’t work well as a standalone structure, better when followed by an Elimination-type structure.

Pick Groups if: you have numerous participants from different skill levels and you want to have several matches played simultaneously.

Bracket Groups

Pitch: Each group is played like a Single or Double Elimination bracket. The most famous competition using this format has been the GSL (4 participants per group in a Double Elimination format), giving its name to this particular setting, the “GSL Groups”. It’s gaining traction over other big tournaments.

Capacity: Usually small, but tournaments like the Vainglory League and March Madness use 64 participants Bracket Groups. More details on how to build a March Madness-like tournament.

Duration: A bit shorter than regular groups, as there is no need for participants to face all their opponents to determine who’s qualified.

Level: Advanced.

Pros: All matches are important, no participant has won or lost until he has played all his matches.

Cons: Weaker participants play very few matches, harder to understand than the regular Groups.

Pick Bracket Group if: the average participants’ skill level is consistent. This will create a lot of hype from the beginning of the competition. Great for high level tournaments.

League

Format Details

Pitch: Same general idea as the Round Robin Groups, except all participants are within the same group (or seeded into different Divisions depending on their skill). The participant with the most points at the end wins.

Capacity: Accommodates with any number of participants, but better for small to medium size.

Duration: Long, as each participant plays the maximum amount of matches possible. Some leagues use the home / away match format, doubling the amount of matches.

Level: Beginner. The League format is straightforward. Its main difficulty lies in the workload involved and its points system.

Pro: flexible schedule, lots of matches for everybody, rewards the most consistent performing participant.

Cons: Stretches over a long duration and can become boring for the weaker participants who already know they can’t win.

Pick League if: you want to create a continuous stream of matches for all your participants. Works well for online competitions, where everyone has different schedules and availability.

Swiss System

Format Details

Pitch: The Swiss system pairs participants with equal or close level, based on their Win/Loss/Draw statistics, getting more and more accurate as rounds go by.

Duration: Quite long, but it depends on the number of rounds you set up. For example, only 8 rounds are enough to determine who is the best among up to 128 participants. This makes the Swiss System way faster than the League format.

Capacity: Works well with any number of participants.

Level: Advanced. The pairing and tiebreaking algorithm are somewhat complicated, but Toornament handles everything on its own!

Pros: Most match-ups are well balanced for everyone.

Cons: Some participants may abandon early as they know they can’t win anymore, but the format allows for drops not to be too impactful, as matches opponents are determined based on results.

Pick Swiss System if: you want to entertain participants with various skill level. The first rounds will be quite random, but participants will ultimately meet their match later on.

Combinations

Pitch: Of course, all the structures explained above can be combined freely: Groups to Bracket, League to Playoffs, Groups to Groups to Bracket etc.

Duration: A little bit tricky but keep this in mind: a complex structure takes more time than the addition of its two sub-structures.

Capacity: Depends on the combination.

Level: Intermediate, Advanced.

Pros: More variety in match ups and match values, can suit any situation (i.e Swiss to start with a lot of participants, then a bracket for the top performing participants)

Cons: There are no real con except the added workload.

Pick a combination of formats if: you want to offer an exhaustive experience to your participants and your audience. Groups and Swiss System are great to accommodate numerous participants, whereas Brackets offer the best way for the best participants to go head-to-head. Try different combos and find the one that suits you best!