Most people don’t know, but foosball is played professionally in the United States. Most play on the Tornado T-300 foosball table. Even though there are many good players who share an enthusiasm for this table sport, most of them have not had the chance to develop their skills to a competitive level. However, when you become aware that there is a professional scene, it is not that difficult to enter in contact with it.
There are roughly two main ways to enter the foosball scene. The quick way is to enter a tournament. There are regional tournaments that are organized by the VIFA and USTSA organizations (Valley International Foosball Association and United States Table Soccer Association). To find out about tournaments, the webpage www.vifa.com can be a good place to start. And www.foosball.com is always a good reference. For example, you can enter a tournament such as “$7,500 New York State Foosball Championships.” Tournaments are held in many different states, so if you see one being held nearby, don’t hesitate to join (there is an entrance fee). In these tournaments, you are allowed to play in most categories, which include Open Singles, Open Doubles, Semi-Pro Singles, Semi-Pro Doubles, Amateur Singles, Amateur Doubles, Mixed Doubles, and other events such as DYP events and Goalie Wars. Singles is when you play by yourself, and doubles is when you play with a partner. In doubles, you are required to stay with the same partner for the rest of the tournament. If you are an amateur, you can play in any category. However, higher level players can only play in the higher levels which correspond to their rank. DYP, which stands for “Draw Your Partner”, is when your partner is chosen randomly. These extra events are not eligible for gaining points on the ranking.
NOTE: Most USTSA tournaments will be played on the Tornado foosball table, a professional-quality table that is recognized worldwide.
When you first enter a tournament, you are awarded 900 points. This is when you have officially entered the foosball scene and are now part of the rankings. As you progress and begin to win matches in USTSA sponsored tournaments, you begin to gain points. As you gain points, your rank can ascend from Amateur to Semi-Pro, from Semi-Pro to Pro, and then to Pro Master. The purpose of these ranks is to be distinguished as a player and also to determine your eligibility for other tournaments. For example, professional players cannot participate in amateur category events. In the same way, amateurs are not allowed to participate in certain higher level tournaments such as the World Championships.
Do not be surprised if you do very badly in the USTSA tournaments. Players who have never played competitively are often shocked to see how inept they seem in comparison to the tournament-conditioned players. The truth is, professional style play is dramatically different from the amateur play, both in terms of the rhythm of the game and also in the passing and shooting techniques utilized. It also has much more of a controlled style.
Now, playing in tournaments is one of the best ways to gain skills fast. You will quickly start learning from players who are much better than yourself and start imitating their tactics and game style.
The second way to enter the professional scene is to join a foosball league. To do this, you can either access the VIFA website or go to www.foosball.com/locations. Try to find a foosball location nearby and find out if they run weekly tournaments. The foosball leagues have tournaments in many bars and clubs across the country. While these tournaments are not eligible for points, they usually have a high competitiveness level which can be very beneficial to your skill. Being in one of these leagues can introduce you to the professional style of play, and also prove to be a fun and challenging hobby.
After playing in leagues, you will be much better equipped to play at the tournament level. And if you are not satisfied with joining the foosball scene in the USA alone, you can join the international scene by participating in tournaments sanctioned by the ITSF (International Table Soccer Federation, www.table-soccer.org). There are tournaments run by the USTSA which are also sanctioned by the ITSF. In other words, you would also be entering the ITSF rankings, which are the world rankings of foosball.
A wide variety of tournaments is also held in Europe. These tournaments can be either Pro Tour, Master Series, International. World Championships, or World Cup. The amount of points awarded depends on the kind of tournament it is. You will see that these tournaments are held on different tables. Other foosball brands that are recognized worldwide, apart from Tornado, are TecBall, Bonzini, Roberto Sport, Garlando, and Rosengart.
If you decide to enter the professional scene, be prepared to practice. Practicing specific shots and passes which are effective in the tournament level is an essential part of becoming a professional player. Good luck on your foosball career!