The American Rodeo is now the official sponsor of the Ariat World Series of Team Roping’s Open division, setting up a new, tournament-style qualification structure for famed $2-million rodeo and kicking off a partnership that will open new doors for team roping, already the highest-paying event in all of Western sports.
“Teton Ridge is committed to working with the very best in the Western Sports industry to elevate the sport, so when seeking a partner to bring more team ropers to The American Contender Tournament it made perfect sense to turn to the WSTR to bring more ropers from across the country to our contender events,” Joe Loverro, President of Teton Ridge Sports, said. “It makes sense to work with those who are already the best at what they do. Over the last few years, the number of team ropers participating in American qualifiers has declined. I think that team ropers are gambler by spirit, and if they think they can’t win, they’re not going to play. We realized we needed to reimagine the format and the path to the American and the payouts as we go. We don’t want the perception that there’s no way to advance, that you can’t win. With the new format, there’s more opportunities and more reasons to play. The idea is to take contender events to the contestants. If you are a roper on the East Coast, out in North Carolina or Florida, there had been a long to haul for the Qualifier events in Texas and Oklahoma.”
American Rodeo Qualifier Changes
The new partnership between the organization that produces the richest cowboy event in the world and the richest one-day rodeo in the world will set a series of six, $10,000-added American Rodeo qualifiers at major Ariat World Series Team Roping Open American Rodeo events across the country, sending two teams each into the new American Rodeo Contender Tournament, beginning at JX2’s The Daddy in Cheyenne, Wyoming July 21. All qualifiers will stream live on wstroping.com, with footage archived for re-watching on roping.com.
Nine teams will also advance to the tournament from the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale, where there will be $50,000 in added money up for grabs.
“The World Series qualifiers will more than double the contestant pool for the American Rodeo and at the same time give our members and unbelievable shot on a large stage,” Tom Winsor, CEO of WSTR [Equine Network], said. “This is a one-of-a-kind rodeo, and we are happy to be a small part of it.”
American Rodeo Contender Regional Finals
The top five contestants at the end of the year’s PRCA world standings will automatically qualify to the final day at AT&T Stadium. In previous years, the top 10 in the world standings got the bye to The American’s big show, bypassing the qualification tournament all together.
“That was my decision,” Loverro, who’d previously worked for former owners RFD-TV and The Cowboy Channel on The American, said. “It’s something I’ve talked about for years. I think that it’s two-fold: one, it condenses the rodeo. In the first few years, we saw a six-plus hour rodeo. With the round of 15, the championship round and entertainment, that’s a large ask for your fans and your athletes. So by cutting five, you’ve reduced the show by 33%.”
Those who finish the ProRodeo season in No. 6 to No. 20 in the 2022 PRCA world standings will then be seeded into the new qualification tournament alongside the Contender and Finale qualifiers, roping at the regional, $40,000-added one-head Contender Regional Finals.
“The second reason for taking the top five in the World is that it adds a lot of intrigue for the next athletes up,” Loverro said. “We’ve automatically seeded the No. 6 through 20 in regional semifinals, and that adds some star-power in those regions. There will be big names in those regions. We want them to be broadcast-worthy. We want there to be star power.”
The American Rodeo Regional Finals
The three $40,000-added, one-head Contender Regional Finals, pits the 12 teams who advanced from the six qualifiers against the nine teams advancing from the Finale, as well as the No. 6 to No. 20 team ropers in the 2022 PRCA world standings.
The dates and locations for the Contender Regional Finals will be announced at a later date, but qualifiers at the six lead-up events will compete at the regional finals nearest to where they won their spot. The top nine from the Finale will get to select the region in which they compete, with first-place in the roping selecting their region first, second place selecting their region second, and continuing on from there. Sixth through 20th in the PRCA world standings will also get to select their regional qualifier in the same manner.
Four teams will advance from each of the three regional finals to the Contender Finals on March 8, 2023. Those 12 teams will compete for $80,000 in this one-head match. The top five will go head-to-head with the top five in the PRCA world standings at The American Rodeo itself on March 11.
As always, the top four will advance from there to the final round at The American, with a total round payoff of $280,000—including the $100,000 to the winners. If a qualifying team happens to make it through the entire tournament and into the final four, they will be eligible for the $1 million Contender Bonus. (See next page for the full tournament breakdown and payout structure.)
Will The American Count Toward the 2023 PRCA World Standings?
In late June 2022, the team at The American is talking regularly with PRCA CEO Tom Glause about this subject.
“Our intention is for it to be PRCA sanctioned,” Loverro said. “It wasn’t last year as the first year of Teton Ridge, and there were complications with media rights. But it’s our hope that it will be in 2023.”