FIRST LEGO League Tournament Structure

The FIRST LEGO League tournament structure uses an advancement format. After a build season that begins on August 1 of each year, teams attend a qualifying tournament. The top performing teams from a qualifier event advance to a regional tournament and then potentially to the state championship. The ultimate goal is to participate either at the FIRST World Festival or an Open Invitational.


A Challenge Academy is a mid-season event in which teams come together, share ideas, and network with each other. During a Challenge Academy, the host venue runs simulated Robot Game matches using nearly the same standards as an official FIRST LEGO League tournament event. The host venue also provides opportunities for teams to receive feedback on the various judging areas. Challenge Academies are designed for teams to demonstrate Gracious Professionalism and Coopertition prior to an official qualifier event by sharing their mid-season accomplishments and learning from their future competition.

A team’s performance at a Challenge Academy is not incorporated into award or advancement considerations at a qualifying or state championship event.


lego-moneyOn the first Saturday of October teams self register for qualifying event of their choice by first going to the event webpage linked to on the Event Calendar. As part of the registration process the team must pay the $125 tournament fee. This fee is separate from the FIRST registration fee and is paid directly to South Carolina FIRST LEGO League & Robotics Education, Inc.  Approximately three weeks ahead of the event tournament directors will contact participating teams with specific event details.

In South Carolina all qualifying events take place in November and are completed before Thanksgiving. Teams should set their practice schedule such that they’re ready to compete by the time of the first qualifier in the state.


There are approximately twelve qualifying events in any given season. The qualifiers are split into two geographical regions, West and East. The top performing teams at each qualifier are invited to participate in one of two regional tournaments. The top performing teams from each regional are then invited to participate in the state championship.

The regional tournaments are scheduled for mid December of each year.

The qualifying event tournament directors report to the FIRST LEGO League Program Delivery Partner a list of teams that advanced from their event. Within a week of the qualifying event teams should receive an email stating that they have been confirmed for their regional tournament.


To be eligible to advance from a event onto the next level they must:

  • Satisfy the FIRST LEGO League Participation Rules
  • Have between 2 and 10 members all of which are between the ages of 9 and 14
  • Be competing at their first official FIRST LEGO League event during the season
  • Have no disqualifying Core Values behaviors
  • Perform well in all three judging areas (Core Values, Project, and Robot Design) along with performing well in the Robot Game.

In South Carolina the top 30% of the teams scheduled to compete at a qualifying or regional event advance to the next level. This means advancement numbers vary from tournament to tournament, and are based on the number of teams planning to compete, not the number that actually show up to the event. A 24 team event advances more teams than a 12 team event.

The exact number of advancing teams is based on standard round-off rules. For example, if 34 teams are scheduled to participate at a particular qualifying or regional event, then the top 10 overall teams will advance to the state championship (0.30×34 = 10.2, rounded down to 10).

Just because a team may have won an award at a qualifying or regional event does not entail automatic advancement to the next level. It’s possible to win an award in a single category, such as scoring the most points in the Robot Game, and not advance. Only well rounded teams—teams that are significantly ranked in all areas of the competition—advance to compete another day.

All team members are required to attend the entire event and compete in all four categories (Robot Game, along with Core Values, Project, and Robot Design judging). If a team does not compete in every category, then they are not eligible for Champions Award or advancement. All team members must participate in all four areas. Teams are not allowed to send in their “experts” into specific judging categories.

To be considered for a Champions Award, a team must meet the advancement criteria given above in addition to scoring in the top 40% in the Robot Game.


LEGO TrophySouth Carolina hosts a single State Championship. Please watch for date announcements via the Event Calendar and newsletter emails. Typically the State Championship occurs in January of each year.

The regional event tournament directors report to the FIRST LEGO League Program Delivery Partner a list of teams that advanced from their event. Within a week of the regional event teams should receive an email stating that they have been confirmed for the State Championship.

The Championship tournament director will provide a Coaches Packet prior to the event and will maintain updated communications and details via the Championship webpages. All pertinent details for the event will be included, such as event day general agenda (this does not include teams’ individual competition schedule), what to bring, what not to bring, amenities that will be available during the event, where to load in and load out, parking, etc…


In years that South Carolina receives a bid to the FIRST Championship, also referred to as the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, the overall state champion will represent the region at the event. With a single South Carolina state championship the representative team will the first place Champions Award from that event. In the event that South Carolina receives two bids to the World Festival, the second place Champions Award will also be invited to represent the state at the World Festival.


Open Invitational Championships are invitational events in which the hosts invite specific regions to send a team. “Open” refers to inviting teams from outside the host region’s borders. Opens are hosted by FIRST LEGO League Partners and abide by Championship standards. They represent another great way for FIRST LEGO League teams to get together and showcase their achievements.

Open Invitationals are special championship level events. Regional champions, along with other top performing teams, are invited to compete in these extremely competitive tournaments. The quality of teams rivals those at the FIRST World Festival.

Invitation to participate in an Open Invitational comes from the host tournament director working in conjunction with the local Affiliate Partner. The list of Open Invitational events changes from year to year.

In years that South Carolina receives a single bid to the FIRST World Festival the South Carolina FIRST LEGO League Program Delivery Partner tries to secure a bid to an Open Invitational for the state champion not invited to the FIRST World Festival.