USA Baseball uses both the Futures Invitational and NTIS Champions Cup as part of the selection process for its Athlete Development Program (ADP) and National Team. Though similar, each has distinctives that stand out. The Futures Invitational is an invitation only tournament of existing teams run by USAB, but not coached by it. Depending on age, it includes either 16 or 24 teams that play 4-5 games or 5-6 games respectively. The Champions Cup is made of twelve teams built by the best individual players from different areas of the country screened by the NTIS selection process. The teams play four games and are coached by USA Baseball staff.
What made the Futures Invitational better?
- A single tournament weekend gives a player the chance to make the final round of the National Team or Athlete Development Program (ADP). The regional based NTIS program requires three stages (state, regional, national) of travel and cost to work through to reach the same point as the Futures Invitational
- Futures’ features five tournament games instead of four (at the 12u level), which provides more opportunities to play for the same travel time and expense
- With existing teams, coaches know their players and can manage them accordingly. For the Champions Cup, the USA coaches are learning on the fly and may not know what pitches a player throws well or other individual strengths or weaknesses
- Nicer gifts including a higher quality backpack and a second hat. Champions Cup included two jerseys, a hat, socks and a belt, which weren’t necessary when playing with your own team. Both included a ball and towel
- Players received free pictures of themselves in three poses and their team picture. At the Champions Cup, the same pictures are taken, but aren’t included in the price. All other pictures from in-game action need to be purchased at both events
- No gate fee to watch vs $30 for Champions Cup tournament access
- It coincided with MLB Combine weekend and all players and their families had free access to watch
- USA Baseball scored the games on Game Changer for friends and family to see. Game Changer wasn’t used in the Cup for some reason, which made it challenging to track players and performance (though there was a live scoreboard)
- Gold and bronze games were streamed live with commentators calling the game
- See the Futures fan guide and Futures program for more details
What makes the NTIS Champions Cup better?
- Any player can register to tryout and work his way through the process compared to the Futures Invitational, which is invitation only for specific top teams in the country with existing rosters. If you’re not on one of those teams, you don’t have access to the Futures event
- All players participated in a combine workout and metrics testing the first day, which were taken into account in selecting players to be considered for ADP. These also contributed to the determination of playing time, which could either help or hurt a player. Futures does not have a broad-based combine or consider player metrics other than throwing velocity for pitchers.
- USA Baseball selected coaches manage the team and teach the players rather than the existing team’s coach provided a different viewpoint with new insight into the game
- Developing new relationships with players from across a region vs continuing to play with an existing team
- Pitch counts were monitored, but not a strictly or visibly as in the Futures. The Futures Invitational follows Pitch Smart to the letter with updates to the counts every inning
- See the NTIS fan guide and NTIS program for more detail
At the 12u level, USA Baseball selects 24 players from Futures and 12 from NTIS to move to the final round for the US National team. With 24 teams of 15 or so each (minimum 13 and maximum 18), there were ~360 boys, so 7% moved to the next level. NTIS carried 16 per team or 192 in total for 12 spots giving players a 6% chance of making it to the ADP. Both tournaments used the same national scouts for evaluation, so players could be fairly compared across both events.
In summary, if your player is on a team that has access to the Futures Invitational, that seems like the better, more straightforward path to take relative to NTIS. The overall experience is a little more polished with one more game, Game Changer and a live broadcast of the championship games.