Tournament schedule guide
Here are some areas that you should think about to ensure your tournament schedule runs smoothly and the teams taking part get the best experience possible.
Number of matches per team and time per match
Tournament match times vary from minimum 8 minutes per match to maximum 90 minutes per match. It is about finding the right balance for your tournament. Generally speaking, the younger the teams the shorter the match time, but shorter and more frequent matches for older teams are becoming more popular.
We recommend that teams should play a maximum amount of minutes per day based on their ages as follows:
U7 & U8 – 45 mins
For example 3 games per day with match times of 10 to 15 mins each.
U9 & U10 – 60 mins
For example 3 games per day with match times of 20 minutes, or 4 games per day with match times of 15 minutes
U11 & U12 – 80 mins
For example 3 games per day with match times of 25 minutes, or 4 games per day with match times of 20 minutes. Shorter match times are becoming more popular, for example in Germany, and this would mean 6 to 8 short games of 10 mins each.
U13 to U16 – 100 mins
For example 4 games per day with match times of 25 minutes. The shorter match time approach would give options of 6 games of 15 minutes each
How many pitches do I need for the tournament
There are different things to consider here: – Number of teams, Number of matches per team, Time per match, Number of days in the tournament and Playing time per day.
You can play around with those numbers in an Excel file to figure out approximately how many pitches you need.
Or contact us and we can advise you using our software.
Here’s a simple example:
Matches per team: 6
No. of matches: 600 (remember there are two teams in a match!)
Match times: 15 minutes
Playing time in minutes: 9000 minutes
Playing time in hours: 150 hours
Number of days: 2
Required playing time per day: 75 hours
Available playing time per day (hours): 9 (eg. 9am-6pm)
= Number of pitches needed: 8-9
Avoiding fixture clashes
Rule number 1 of tournament scheduling is not to have a team playing two matches at the same time. If you’ve done this you’ll cause yourself a lot of grief on the day!
One way to avoid it is to use good tournament software for scheduling, rather than Microsoft Excel. Another way is to publish the fixtures early and let the teams double check them, which is fine but not very professional.
Make sure to check for these conflicts if you’re making late changes to the schedule due to teams cancelling
Breaks between games - keep it tight
In our experience players, parents and especially coaches don’t want to have long breaks between matches. Generally speaking, we advise that the organiser should keep the breaks as short as possible between matches, especially if the match times are short. Ideally you should schedule something like match–break–match–break–match, with break times equal to the match times. If that’s not possible, back to back matches are normally a better option than games with a long break in between.
Start and finish time
Most tournaments have first kick of times at 9am or 10am in the morning. Anything earlier, especially on day 1 of the tournament and you are risking having teams turn up late. You should schedule local teams early as much as possible, and those travelling from far as late as possible. It is always better to have younger kids play earlier in the day.
If you are creating mini pitches on one full size pitch, try to avoid more than one change per day, as constantly moving goalposts can be a pain and take a lot of time.
If your tournament has older teams (think U16- U18) then matches usually can go to 9pm.
We also advise to have at least one break in the middle of the day to give yourself a buffer against the inevitable delays. 30 mins should do it. This means that teams in the afternoon won’t be as badly effected by delays from the morning.
Knockout stage matches
Generally speaking, most tournaments have a group stage and a final stage. The group stage will be a round-robin / league setup when every team plays each other once. The second stage has more variety. Most common is the straight knockout (think World Cup) where the top teams qualify for the knockout stage and get eliminated when they lose.
If you want all teams to play the second stage you can have additional cups, for example the shield, plate, etc. So that means the top two teams from the group qualifying for the cup competition and the bottom two qualifying for the shield.
Equal amount of games
One issue with straight knockout competitions is that all teams will not play an equal amount of games. We have seen a trend now where tournament organisers want teams (in the interests of fairness!) to play the same or similar amounts of games each. This can be easily achieved with a knockout stage where no teams are actually knocked out. Take for example, a cup competition with 8 teams. Round one has 4 matches, round 2 will see the winners continue and play against each other, while the losers also continue and play against each other. This again continues in the 3rd round, and results in each team playing 3 games each. Every team, except one is guaranteed to win at least one match, which also pleases the modern tournament organiser. A full breakdown of final standings is another advantage of this approach. Warning – building this kind of setup in Excel will result in a headache!
Specific team needs
As a tournament organiser you should decide if you want to give your teams input into the schedule. Any decent tournament management app (like TorneoPal) will let you take scheduling requests from teams, either when they register or later on. This can open up a can of worms however, so our advice is to only ask for their suggestions if you feel confident that you can meet their needs.
We cannot have a guide to scheduling a tournament without plugging our own software. We have worked in this field for over 10 years and therefore we (and our software) can help you a lot when you are organising a tournament. Here you can find our free trial or you can chat to us directly using our live support feature at the bottom right of your screen.