USA Pickleball-Sanctioned Tournaments Guide: Pros and Cons

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There are two significant categories of pickleball tournaments: sanctioned and non-sanctioned. As the governing body of the sport in the United States, USA Pickleball (USAP) sanctions tournaments that comply with the requirements.

As a player, you should know how USA PIckleball-sanctioned events work and their advantages and disadvantages. This comprehensive guide aims to shed light on them, helping you decide whether to play in sanctioned tournaments.

Sanctioned vs Non-Sanctioned Tournaments: What’s the Difference?

The main difference between a sanctioned and non-sanctioned pickleball tournament is that the former offers some benefits that the latter doesn’t. It includes having a UTPR rating and being eligible for many major tournaments across the US. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean sanctioned events are always better than those that are not. 

For instance, if you’re playing pickleball just for fun or to help with charity work, you don’t need to join sanctioned tournaments. Some celebrities and professional players of other sports also play pickleball as a hobby. Unsurprisingly, even veterans like 96-year-old Joe Gaeta teach the sport to seniors but don’t play in sanctioned events.

What is UTPR Pickleball Rating?

UTPR stands for Universal Tournament Player Rating, a rating system implemented by the USA Pickleball. There are other player rating systems, but UTPR appears to be the most common. However,  you should be a member of USA Pickleball to have yours. Otherwise, you can rate yourself as an initial rating. 

After becoming a member, joining USA Pickleball-sanctioned tournaments will affect your UTPR. It may go up or down depending on several factors. It includes the UTPR rating of your opponent and the probability that you will win. Match scores are not a factor, though. For complete details, check out our Pickleball UTPR Rating Guide.

Types of Sanctioned Tournaments

USA Pickleball approves four types of sanctioned tournaments: Standard sanctioning, MMP (Medal Match Plus), No-Referee, and Mini-Singles. Each type has specific requirements and formats for how the matches are played.


As the highest form of sanctioning level, standard sanctioning tournaments should have a referee for each match. Here, all participants will receive 100% UTPR credit. This credit applies to all tournaments held starting April 1, 2021. As mentioned earlier, results in non-sanctioned tournaments will not affect a player’s UTPR rating.

Medal Match Plus

MMP (Medal Match Plus) tournaments require a referee for the winner bracket finals, consolation bracket finals, and the medal matches (Gold, Silver, and Bronze). For the other matches, all involved players should agree on whether to require a referee. If there is one, the TD should list the referee’s name for each match.


As the name implies, these tournaments have no referees. However, a USA Pickleball Certified Referee should be present during the matches. As the head referee, they will answer questions regarding playing issues and will assist the Tournament Director (TD). This format is only for sanctioned tournaments with less than 300 players. 

Below are the sanctioned tournaments that have no no-referee sanctioning format:

  • Any tournament with prize money
  • All USA Pickleball Diamond Regional Championship Tournaments
  • USA Pickleball Diamond Amateur Championships (Pictona)
  • All National Championship Series (NCS) Tournaments
  • USA Pickleball National Championships (Indoor or Outdoor)


USA Pickleball has approved mini-singles as a sanctioned tournament format, effective April 2022. Also called skinny singles, mini-singles is almost the same as the standard singles, except players can only use half of the court. The organization also added the rules to its official rulebook. For more information, read our Pickleball Mini-Singles Rules Guide.

What is a USA Pickleball Golden Ticket Event?

A USA Pickleball golden ticket is a special sanctioned event where the gold medal winner automatically qualifies for the annual USA Pickleball National Championships. Every year, USA Pickleball releases a list of Golden Ticket events based on specific criteria. Here is the complete list of 2024 USA Pickleball Golden Ticket events.

Sanctioned Tournaments Pros and Cons

As mentioned above, the main benefit of joining sanctioned tournaments is that you can qualify for major tournaments once you win. It includes the prestigious 2024 USA Pickleball National Championships, to be held in Mesa, Arizona, from November 10 to 17. But before joining them, you should know their pros and cons.


  • Most matches have referees
  • Various formats to choose from
  • Tournaments are governed by official rules
  • Qualifier events for major tournaments
  • Major event winners receive huge prize money
  • (Almost) accurate bracketing and seeding
  • Offers liability insurance


  • Requires USA Pickleball membership
  • Not free (annual membership fee, etc.)
  • UTPR rating has some issues
  • Fewer events compared to non-sanctioned

Related Post: Pickleball Tournament Formats Guide: Scoring and Tie-Breaker

Are There Major Tournaments But Not Sanctioned?

Yes, there are. There are other major pickleball tournaments not sanctioned by USA Pickleball. It includes the events in the World Pickleball Tour, PPA Tour (most of them), iPickle Nation (IPN), and more. On the other hand, the APP (Association of Pickleball Professionals) is the first pickleball tour sanctioned by USA Pickleball.

Where to Find Sanctioned Tournaments

If you want to join USA Pickleball-sanctioned tournaments, you can find them at the events list page at USAPickleball.com. You can also visit PickleballTournaments.com (the official software of USA Pickleball) and PickleballBrackets.com. If you want to view them according to tour and dates, check our 2024 Pickleball Tournament Calendar.

Final Thoughts

Sanctioned tournaments offer a lot of benefits in promoting pickleball. They also help players be aware of the rules of the sport. But again, such events are not for everyone. So, if ever you’re tempted to join, make sure you are prepared and willing to invest. Otherwise, you can play pickleball to exercise, socialize, and have some fun.

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