Match Play Format


FSPA Match Play Format

Last updated: 5/19/2024

Index: OverviewStructureScoringPlayer GroupingMachine SelectionPlayoffsAbsencesRevision Log

These are the comprehensive format details for the Match Play Format. If you’re a player just trying to become familiar with the league, our Players Guide summarizes the most important things you need to know.

1. Overview

The brand new Match Play format of FSPA is a new format that eliminates the traditional ladder system, which focused on players moving up a ladder when they win, and moving down the ladder when they lose. This new match play format will have players qualifying for divisions over the first 4 weeks, followed by divisional play for the last 4 week. Then finals take place with the top 8 players from each division.

Credit goes to the Pints and Pinball league for experience and collaboration with FSPA on this new format.

2. Structure

League takes place over 8 weeks, and finals take place after week 8 is completed.

For week 1, players are randomly assigned to a group of 3 or 4 players. Weeks 2 through 4 will group players using a Swiss system, which places players of similar point totals together. This mostly results in players of similar skill levels playing each other during weeks 2-4.

After week 4 is completed, players are assigned to a division based on their best 3 of 4 scores for weeks 1 through 4. This starts the divisional play starting week 5 through week 8. Players are grouped together using a “balanced” method that mostly avoids players playing the same opponents more than once. Players only play other players within their division during week 5 through 8.

After week 8 concludes, each player’s final score is determined by their best 3 of 4 scores during weeks 5 through 8. The top 8 players in each division will play for their division title.

3. Scoring

It is each player’s responsibility to be sure that their machine scores are recorded correctly in the scoring software as each game is finished. Any possible scoring errors should be brought to the attention of the SLO as soon as possible. Once notified of a possible error, the SLO shall contact all the players in the affected group to determine their recollection of the scoring. If all players are in agreement, then the scoring will be corrected. However, if all players in the group do not concur with the reported error, then the scores as entered into the scoring software shall stand.

3.1 Game Points

For two-player games, the first-place player of the game is awarded seven (7) points, and the second-place player is awarded one (1) point.

For three-player games, the first-place player is awarded seven (7) points, the second-place player is awarded four (4) points, and the third-place player is awarded one (1) point.

For four-player games, the first-place player is awarded seven (7) points, the second-place player is awarded four (5) points, the third-place player is awarded three (3) points, and the fourth-place player is awarded one (1) point.

Any ties in machine score will be resolved by a one ball playoff between the affected players on the same machine. If this does not resolve the tie, the playoff game continues, one ball at a time, until the tie is broken. All extra balls are unallowable and must be plunged during the tiebreaker playoff; points earned on the plunged ball count. In the event that two or more players with tied machine scores are not present for live league play (i.e. using pre-plays), the tie will be resolved by coin flip or similar random choice.

4. Player Grouping – Non-Playoff Matches

Players are arranged into groups of three or four, so that players of similar ability are playing against each other during any given match. A match consists of four games, played on four different machines (if possible) during a single meet. All games are played in multiplayer mode (players alternate turns and scores are displayed simultaneously on the machine).

4.1 Qualifying Play

Weeks 1 through 4 are qualifying rounds to break into divisions. Players are randomly grouped during week 1 and weeks 2 through 4 use a Swiss method to group players with similar total points. Players not present for league during a week or simply marked as Deactivated in the scoring software and not included in the league groups that week. That player will simply receive a 0 score for the week.

4.2 Divisional Play

Weeks 5 through 8 are divisional rounds to determine finalists in the playoffs. Players are grouped in a “balanced” method that avoids grouping players with previous opponents, if possible. This may not be a perfect grouping method and could result in some repeat opponents. Players not present for league during a week or simply marked as Deactivated in the scoring software and not included in the league groups that week. That player will simply receive a 0 score for the week.

4.3 Mid-Season Dropouts

If a player drops out of the league, groupings will continue as if the player were simply absent.

5. Machine Selection and Play Order

Some leagues do not permit machine selection due to constraints of the league and/or location.

Upon completion of that week’s roster of players, the top player in the first group in the scoring software will get to pick their first game. The SLO will then enter the game selected for that group, which will then populate the remaining games for that group. This will continue for each group in order of groups shown in the scoring software until all groups have selected their games. Depending on the size of the league and number of machines on location, some games may be selected more than once.

Selected machines are distributed among all the groups by the SLO, according to a well-defined scheme.

5.1 Machine Play Order

After machines are selected, each group begins play on the machines assigned to it in the order listed in the scoring software. When a group finishes a game they move to the next machine assigned to their group. If another group is playing the next scheduled machine, the moving group must wait for the other group to finish. Groups may not skip machines. Groups should not cut ahead of other groups. There are exceptions to this if a group consults with the SLO and they agree to allow the group to skip a game. This rarely occurs but based on backups or slow moving games, the SLO may take this action.

5.2 Machine Replacement Selection

If a machine should become unplayable during league play, a replacement machine must be designated by the SLO, subject to as many of the following constraints as possible.

The replacement machine:

  • Should be in good working order.
  • Should not be already scheduled for play by the affected group.
  • Should not be scheduled to be played by another group in the affected round.
  • Should be chosen to minimize group backlogs.

5.3 Individual Play Order

Order of play in a game is determined by player selection. For the first game, players sequentially select their play order in the reverse order of their group in the scoring software. For subsequent games, choices for order of play are made in the reverse order of their scores on the previous game (i.e. the lowest-scoring player in a game receives first choice of play order in the subsequent game). If a player joins their group late (e.g. due to tardiness), they will get first choice of order for the first game they play.

6. Playoffs

6.1 Playoff Divisions

To provide a fair chance for players of all skill levels to participate in the playoffs, the league is separated into playoff divisions based on league size, as documented in section 6.2. Division sizes are determined by dividing the number of players into equal-sized groups, with any extras being allocated to the higher division. For example, an 11-player league will have a 6-player A Division and a 5-player B Division, and a 26-player league will have 9 players in both A and B Division, and 8 players in C Division.

Division qualification is determined by each player’s best 3 of 4 scores during weeks 5 trough 8. Ties in qualification are resolved by playing a tiebreaker either after conclusion of week 8 if all players are present, or before finals begin.

Division determination is finalized at the end week 4 based on best 3 of 4 scores during weeks 1 through 4.

6.2 Awarding Playoff Spots

Within each division, the top 8 players with the highest league point totals for the season qualify for playoff competition.

The winner of each final match is named Division Champion for the season. Results of the finals impacts the final results submitted to IFPA for World Pinball Player Rating (WPPR) points.

6.3 Format

The format consists of semi-finals and finals. Semifinals comprise two groups of 4 players competing against each other in 3 games. The top two players from each group will advance to the finals. Finals comprises one group of 4 players.

The points awarded to each player in the finals differs from the qualifying / regular season. For finals, the first-place player is awarded four (4) points, the second-place player is awarded two (2) points, the third-place player is awarded one (1) point, and the fourth-place players is awarded zero (0) points.

6.4 Seeding

Players will be seeded for semifinals based on their final score, which is best 3 of 4 scores during divisional play. Ties will be decided by the player with the highest score during divisional play. If tied, they will go to the second highest, then third highest score. If still tied, the tie-breaker will go to the highest score in qualifying, then second and third. If the tie is still not broken, their total points for all 4 weeks in divisional play, then all 4 weeks in qualifying play. If still tied, they will flip a coin for seed.

Semifinals Seed Positions
Group 1 Group 2
Seeds 1, 4, 5, 8 Seeds 2, 3, 6, 7

Players will be seeded for finals based on their semifinals scores. If ties exist, the tiebreaker will use the original player seed in semifinals.

6.5 Tiebreakers

Tie-breakers will occur for players tied in the semifinals to advance to finals, and if a tie exists in the finals between any of the 1st through 3rd places. The tie-breaker game or choice or order will go to the highest seed, and the other choice to the next highest seeded player. The game must be a game not played during that round.

6.6 Game Picks

The highest seed in both semifinals and finals has the choice of game pick for all 3 games or order for all 3 games. The second highest seed then gets the next choice, then third player, and fourth player gets the last option.
For game 1, the player that chose game will select a game. Then the first player to choose order gets to select their order, and so on.
The player that chose game will then select the game for games 2 and 3. Order for games 2 and 3 will occur before the game is played, starting with the player that first chose order, then second and then third player.

6.7 Game Pick Restrictions

Players may only pick a game once during the entire playoffs, including tiebreakers.

6.8 Game Malfunction

If a machine is declared unplayable by the SLO due to malfunction, the player who chose that machine may select a replacement machine, subject to the restrictions listed above, unless that player has no permissible options, or the SLO determines that operational issues (e.g. location closing times) preclude the alternate selection. In these events, the SLO shall randomly select a replacement machine.

6.9 Tardy or Missing from Playoffs

Tardy players may request a 15 minute delay in their match start time per section Comprehensive Rules – Attendance and Tardiness, though this does not prevent any drop in seeding, as described in section 6.4. If a player is not present for their match start time, they are immediately disqualified from the match, all lower-seeded players advance one spot, and the next highest ranked player from the division becomes the lowest-ranked playoff player.

For all divisions, the highest ranked player present that did not make finals for that division may take the missing players spot (last seed).

For A-division only, if not enough players are available to meet the minimum of 10% of the total number of league players, the highest ranked B-division player present may move up to play in the A-player’s spot (last).  All lower divisions may follow suit by moving the highest qualified player in each division up on division to the last spot.  The last division will then have one less player unless a another player from that division is present.

7. Absences

League formats allow for player absences to diminish impact to their overall scores for the season. There are multiple methods such as dropping lowest scores for the season, allowing players to pre-play games and record their scores for use during an absence, and hybrid versions that combine these two methods. These formats to handle absences are discussed in the Absence Rules.

Appendix A – Revision Log

This section lists summaries of changes made to this document.

May 2024

  • Created separate page for new Match Play format.