Buckle up and hold on tight! By the end of this article, the aim is to give you a clear and straightforward understanding of how the USA Climbing Team Trials work. Reading through the USA Climbing 2023 Guidelines can be confusing even for climbers familiar with the competitive scene. But don’t fear! After closely reading, diligent note-taking, and planning, we’ve curated as simple and complete an explanation as possible. So, keep reading to learn everything you need about the USA Climbing Team Trials!

USA Climbing Team Qualification vs. National Team Trials

USA climbing team trials

First, the USA Climbing Team Qualification Guidelines discuss how athletes can make the National Climbing Team. They include various competitions and qualification systems, one of which is the specific national team trials event (not to confuse this with the overall team qualification process). In summary, there are a few ways for elite athletes to earn a national team spot, with the national team trials event as a contributing component. 

How the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Rankings Impact the USA Team Selection

Before diving into the USA Climbing selection process, certain elite athletes may be preselected based on their International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) Continuously Updated World Ranking (CUWR) at the start of the year. Any athlete with a CUWR deemed exceptional by the USA Climbing Committee (usually ranked in the top ten) automatically earns a national team spot. While these preselected athletes will still compete in team selection events, including the national championships, their performance doesn’t impact the chances of other climbers earning a spot on the national team.

National Team Selection Process

Overall, there are three team selection events that all operate on a point-based system. Points the climbers earn across all three contribute to their national team ranking. The three events are: 

  1. National Championships (NCH)
  2. National Team Trials
  3. Bonus Points 

Points earned via participation in World Cups, World Championships, Pan American Championships, North American Cup series, and the previous year’s National Championships and team trials.

So these are the three ways athletes can earn national team ranking points. Based on total points, the top 5 men and women in each discipline (boulder, lead, speed) make the national team. But, we must backtrack to selection events 1 and 2, the National Championships and National Team trials. Both of these events, unlike other pro competitions, are invitation-only events. For a climber to receive an invite to the NCH, they must have earned enough bonus points from other matches, and their performance at the NCH then determines whether they receive an invite to the National Team Trials. Excluding preselected athletes, up to 60-speed competitors and between 40 and 60 boulder/lead competitors are invited to the national team trials. Additionally, for speed discipline, athletes wishing to compete for a team spot at the national team trials must have a time that meets or is below the benchmark of 9.0 seconds for women or 6.2 seconds for men. 

While the following may be self-explanatory, there are general eligibility requirements each athlete must meet before entering the USA National Climbing Team selection pool.

These include:

  1. Having an active USA Climbing Competitor Membership
  2. Having physical evidence of U.S. citizenship
  3. Having a U.S. passport with an expiration date of at least one year after the upcoming National Championships. 


That was a lot of information thrown at you, including many organization and competition names to keep up with. To help tie things up nicely, here is a summary of everything. 

The selection process for making the United States National Climbing team is a point-based system. Climbers who have reached world-class status automatically make it onto the team but can still compete in USA selection events. However, their scores don’t factor into the selection pool as the other athletes vy for a team spot. For climbers relying on points to make it onto the national team, they can earn points at the US National Championships, US Team Trials event, and other competitions throughout the year (see list above). Each athlete must receive an invitation for the US National Championships and US Team trials. The USA Climbing Committee will invite up to 60 speed climbers and 60 combined boulder and lead climbers. At the end of all national team selection events, the top 5 male and female climbers in each discipline receive a spot on the national team. 

If you’ve made it this far, you are a superstar expert on how the USA National Climbing program chooses its athletes. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, but we hope you understand better now than when you started reading. And, if you still have questions about anything we mentioned or didn’t mention, drop them below!