Qualifying vs. Non-Qualifying Competitions
In the USFSA competition structure for eligible (amateur) skaters, there are 2 categories of competition. Most of the competitions that you will enter throughout the year are called "non-qualifying" or "local" competitions. "Qualifying" competitions include Regionals and Sectionals which are considered to be the qualifying events or "elimination rounds" preliminary to US National competition.
The local competition is the mainstay of amateur figure skating competitions. Every year, hundreds of non-qualifying competitions are held at USFSA-affiliated clubs throughout the nation. These competitions are created, planned, and implemented solely through the work of the club members in the sponsoring clubs. These events do not lead directly to any National or World competition, but do provide skaters the opportunity for experience in the competitive environment, the chance to earn medals and ribbons, and the opportunity to preview the work of skaters in other clubs.
Qualifying Competition is the broad label which refers to all those competitions which lead to US National and World competitions.
Qualifying Competitions in the USFSA include Regionals, Sectionals, and Nationals.
Qualifying competitions follow the Rulebook format for events and all age and test-level qualification.
Qualifying events at each Regional range from Juvenile through Senior in singles and from Novice through Senior in Dance and Pairs. The top 4 competitors in each division advance to Sectionals. The top 4 competitors from each division at Sectionals advance to Nationals. Juvenile and Intermediate Pairs and Dance skaters enter directly into their appropriate Sectional event, then the top 4 move on to Nationals.
Regionals. There are 9 Regions in the US, each of which holds an annual Regional competition. The location for the Regional competition within each region is established by the USFSA each year on the basis of applications by potential sponsoring clubs, and is usually known about a year in advance. Regional competitions are generally held in early October.
According to the Rulebook, Regionals competition will hold events at levels ranging from Juvenile to Senior. Organizers are permitted to hold additional events if time permits however and often PreJuvenile and other non-qualifying events will be included.
There is no requirement other than test level (and, for some levels, age) for entering into Regional competition. Any eligible USFSA skater of the appropriate test level may enter his or her region's Regional Competition.
Sectionals. There are 3 Sections in the US, each of which holds an annual Sectional competition. The location for the Sectional competition within each section is established by the USFSA each year on the basis of applications by potential sponsoring clubs, and is usually known about a year in advance.
Sectional Competition is the second rung on the road to Nationals; skaters qualify to skate in Sectionals based upon performance at Regionals.
Sectional competitions are generally held in late November or early December.
Nationals. US Nationals is held annually in a city whose location is established by the USFSA each year on the basis of applications by potential sponsoring clubs. The location is generally known about 2-3 years in advance. US Nationals holds events for Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice, Junior, and Senior level skaters.