USTSF and ITSF Summary

October 29, 2006 (revised November 22, 2006)

From reading the foosball board it is clear that there are a lot of misconceptions about the United States Table Soccer Federation (USTSF) and the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF). This is a fairly long post, but please read it all so you will be aware of what‘s really going on. In order to understand the USTSF you must first understand the ITSF.

The ITSF was established to be an international agency to organize the sport of table soccer worldwide, independent/not an affiliate of manufacturers, towards the ultimate goal of International Olympic Committee recognition for the sport and ultimately, Olympic participation (a long process taking about 15 years). However, whether or not foosball eventually gets into the Olympics or not, IOC "recognition" as a sport is a very obtainable goal. Organizing foosball on a worldwide scale using the Olympic sports structure requirements (e.g., IOC recognition) as the basis has many benefits for foosball overall, and that alone would be a VERY worthwhile accomplishment, critical to the future of worldwide development from grass roots programs on up through sponsored pro tours. Before the ITSF foosball was a game played in many different ways throughout the world, with no structure, and thus no possibility of becoming or receiving recognition as a true “sport”, from a global standpoint.

Take a look at this IOC recognition link, then view the tab that says "Recognised Sports" -- if any (or all) of those put together all the needed documentation and international competition to be recognized as a sport by the IOC, it would be ridiculous if table soccer wasn't able to follow suit. Chess and Billiards are also IOC recognized sports, why not foosball? Not that any of these will actually end up in the Olympics themselves, but having been recognized a few of them are now in the Pan-American, Asian, and other Olympic affiliated games.

The IOC sports structure requires a sport meet certain conditions:. The following list gives some of the major ones, and how the ITSF is complying with them:

1) One is to have enough actively organized and participating countries, which ITSF has been successfully driving towards developing by providing templates for non-profit and sports organization structures to those countries that have expressed an interest/desire to participate. To date, about 40 countries have been organized in such a manner. All of those organizations have as part of their mandate from the ITSF (with help from the ITSF) to build grass-roots development programs such as youth leagues, tournaments, and both charity/sponsorship integration. Towards this end, ITSF has put together a development fund ($$) specifically to donate to the federations of countries with little financial resources in order for them to be able to organize foosball in their country and grow their player bases.

2) Next, they are required to document a certain number of regional and national competitive events in member countries, known as “sanctioned events” which serve as qualification leading to further international events. ITSF has met these requirements for each of the last three years (as evidenced by the ITSF sanctioned tournaments that have been held in the USA recently). As a global sport, there can’t be multiple “world championships” each year. The “World Championships” tournament held in Italy last year, and again upcoming this year, was created by the ITSF to serve as the “World Championships”. This tournament brings together the champions from the 5 ITSF sanctioned foosball tables (along with other top players from all the tables) into a single event utilizing all the tables in order to determine a single foosball World Champion (in both singles and doubles). You’ll notice that what used to be called the “World Championship” on Garlando, Tornado, Bonzini, etc is no longer officially referred to as the “World Championship”, but rather they are “World Championship Series” events, since they feed into the one (Italy) Table Soccer World Championship. In addition, every FOUR years the ITSF runs a “World Cup” competition pitting country against country (as opposed to player against player as in the World Championship), where each country sends a team of 8-10 players to compete against teams from the other countries, to determine the best country (as opposed to the best player and doubles team). The first World Cup was held in Germany in May 2006, and the next one is scheduled to be held in 2010 in South Africa. Incidentally, these are very expensive tournaments to run, with the 2006 World Cup event costing over $300,000 involving things like paid airfare and hotel accommodations for the qualifying players, etc.; and similarly the the trips for the qualifying players for the Italy world championships are reimbursed, just to give you an idea of the ITSF’s capabilities. Note however that the ITSF does not run tournaments per se (nor the USTSF), but rather sanctions them. All reimbursements (and prize money if any, although typically the trips themselves and related reimbursements are considered the real prize, along with a shot at the overall title) are the result of sponsorships obtained by the tournament's organizing Federation (e.g., the Italian Federation for the Italy World Championships), not funds from the ITSF. All funds that ITSF receives via Federation memberships and manufacturer fees etc goes strictly towards ITSF's administration and towards the ITSF development fund.

3) The ITSF is further required to act as a governing body, developing international commission representation from member nations to work on a variety of programs, including development of a single set of standardized rules, equipment standards, commonly accepted competitive structures/formats, ranking systems, member nation and athlete development, anti-doping rules, mass communications/public & media relations, and more. If foosball is to be recognized as a global “sport“, standardization is needed in a lot of areas, just like in all other sports. Consequently ITSF has developed standard rules (which incidentally are 95% based on US rules, whereas other countries are having to adjust to some major changes). The differences between the existing USA rules and the ITSF rules are not significant, and generally only raise discussion because they’re different from the “traditional” rule without actually considering whether the new rule is fundamentally better. Similarly, some standardization in equipment is necessary if players are to play on a global basis. This does NOT mean that all tables will have to be designed the same. What it generally means is that all “official” tables will have to allow all players to be able to play their style successfully (i.e., the playing characteristics of the table must allow for the styles to be executed). This can already be seen in the changes made to the Garlando table in recent years, from a slick glass top table with rectangular block feet that didn’t allow pin/rollover shots, to the current ITSF sanctioned design with rounded feet. Similarly, the Bonzini table has just been redesigned (at the insistence of ITSF) to have the sides of the players feet made flat (instead of the bevel they had) in order to allow consistent tic-tacing between the men. These are only a couple examples among many. Additionally, there is significant effort being put into having the balls roll as true on the other tables as they do on Tornado tables. The ITSF does not intend to have a single table - it just wants all the different tables to have similar playing characteristics for all the world’s players. Similarly, as a “global” sport, there needs to be a ranking system where people can see who the top players in the “world” are, which is not the same thing as the top players on Tornado, or the top players on Bonzini, or on any other specific table. The ITSF currently has a ranking system that ranks all players, regardless of table, worldwide.

This is just a brief overview of the ITSF - there is a lot more. Please visit the ITSF website at to learn more.

Now, on to the USTSF. The USTSF acts as the United States' officially designated liaison between the ITSF and the various USA-based “member” foosball organizations (e.g., the United States Table Soccer Association [USTSA], Bonzini USA, Independent Foosball Promotions [IFP], etc.) as well as all the table manufacturers and the United States Olympic Committee. The USTSF’s objectives are as follows, with a short description of what we’re doing to meet them:

1. To act as the representative agency for the United States in relation to the ITSF, coordinating all affiliated table soccer associations in meeting the ITSF’s requirements for Olympic Sport recognition/status. One of the ways USTSF complies with this is determining which tournaments in the USA will be USTSF (and thus ITSF) “sanctioned”, counting towards ITSF ratings and points races, etc (It also means that certain standards must be adhered to by the tournament organizers/event). Further, ITSF has restrictions on the number of tournaments that can be held on various continents, in order to give all the worlds players an equal/fair shot at qualifying for the ISTF world championships. The number of tournaments allowed varies by the number of different tables tournaments are sanctioned on. For instance, it wouldn’t be fair to have 10 Tornado sanctioned tournaments in the USA while there are only 5 sanctioned Bonzini tournaments and 5 sanctioned Garlando tournaments in all of Europe, as that would give USA Tornado players an unfair advantage in gaining points. Consequently, ITSF allows more tournaments in North America (including more on Tornado) if North America has sanctioned tournaments on multiple table types. Accordingly USTSF has recently worked with the ITSF member organizations in Canada and Mexico to coordinate the tournaments so that we obtain, for the players in North America, the maximum number if ITSF sanctioned tournaments allowed in order to give North American players the most chance at earning points to qualify for the Italy World Championships. Other more mundane things the USTSF has done is a lot of paperwork required to meet ITSF (and thus IOC) requirements (such as our bylaws, which can be found on the USTSF website, and incorporating as a non-profit organization, etc). We try to represent the interests of the majority of the USA players and promoters as best as we can.

2. To establish and or coordinate qualification status of players to represent the United States in international competition. USTSF has done this by organizing the team that went to the World Cup in Germany in May. This was not only the selection process (EZboard voting on the list of candidate players as determined by the USTSF), but also the logistics involved in arranging travel for the players/coach/families, obtaining the team uniforms, etc. There was a lot of work done behind the scenes. Similarly, work was done last year, and is being done this year for the USA players who have qualified for the World Championships in Italy in November (including determining the criteria for what doubles team will be the USA national champion to play in the doubles portion of the Italy event). While ITSF provides funds for the players who qualify for these events, the funds do not cover everything (such as required team uniforms, travel expenses for the “doubles team”, etc). The USTSF decided that as the organization representing the USA players, it would provide for these other expenses in order to ensure that all the USA players who qualified to go actually could go (it wouldn’t be much benefit to USA players if a player who qualified to go couldn‘t afford to go).

3. To extensively promote the sport of table soccer to players and the public alike, from youth to adult, and from grass-roots all the way up to international competition levels. USTSF has been sending out Press Releases worldwide for all USTSF sanctioned tournaments in the USA, and for other big foosball happenings like the German World Cup and the Italy World Championships where USA players will compete. Copies of these press release are on our website, along with some impressive statistics on how many news organizations and media receive them. We have seen and heard of media coverage (newspaper, TV, radio) at USTSF sanctioned tournaments that came about directly as a result of the press releases.

4. To ensure fair and equitable representation of U.S. players and play standards in relation to international competition, rules, disciplinary action, rankings and more. USTSF has worked to place USA players in key positions within ITSF, to ensure that USA foosball is adequately represented on the global stage. Not the least of these is Larry Davis being on the ITSF Executive Commission, but in addition Tom Yore and Adrian Zamora are on the ITSF Rules Committee (Tom is the President), I’m (Bruce Nardoci) on the ITSF Ratings committee, and we have people on the referring committee. In addition, the USTSF is currently in the process of taking over the rating/ranking system and rules/officiating system for USA foosball players (within the USA, in place of the USTSA).

5. To ethically help grow the sport of table soccer independently of manufacturers and without regard to race, religion or nationality. USTSF has plans to grow table soccer at the grass roots and higher levels, but so far not a lot has been accomplished in this area due to the limited staff the USTSF currently has, and the time it’s taken to accomplish the other things noted above. Please see the organizational chart on our website for some of the things we have planned. We are always looking for volunteers…

I’m sorry this is so long, but there was a lot to cover, and there is still a lot I didn’t even try to cover - please visit the USTSF ( and ITSF ( websites to learn more firsthand, instead of working off assumptions and hearsay about what ITSF and USTSF are for/doing. You‘ll notice that both of the websites end in “.org“, signifying non-profit organizations. The ITSF (and obviously the USTSF) is in no way trying to hurt Tornado (or Bonzini) foosball in the USA. The main thing to keep in mind is that ITSF (and USTSF) is trying to make foosball a global “sport”, instead of the localized game it has been. I feel strongly that is a good thing, for all countries including the USA. Once foosball is recognized as an official sport, that opens up all kinds of avenues for major growth, such as corporate sponsorships, etc. All of these efforts are designed to: "enhance the image, recognition, and salability of the sport to the public at large, and to potential sponsors throughout the world, which in the end will benefit everyone -- players, promoters, operators and manufacturers alike."

USTSF is “America’s Foosball Voice.”

Bruce Nardoci
USTSF Board of Directors


Additional/update information from Larry Davis (USTSF Director) 12/15/2006:

There are now 41 member countries of ITSF, with some 50 points-race tournaments currently scheduled worldwide for the 2007 World Tour, varying in size from $2,000 to $100,000. This gives more players from more countries many more opportunities and ways to compete, improve their skills against more people, and more chances to become eligible to play in the ITSF World Championships Series Finals next year in Italy.

Not only that, but as part of ITSF's player development program (initiated two years ago) the ITSF General Assembly and Executive Commissions have approved the inclusion of a Junior World rankings and a Junior World Singles Competition at Italy next year. More details on that to come.

In another part of ITSF's development fund initiative, at the end of this year's tour each member federation in good standing will receive a "kickback" -- a percentage of their annual membership fees to be used by the federations expressly for grass roots player training and development. And of course, the remainder of the ITSF development fund will continue to be used as it has for the last two years to assist new federations in putting together their administrative, structural, promotional, training and development programs in compliance with the Olympic model. 

Last, ITSF is scheduled for a meeting with the International Olympic Committee's credentials commission this coming March, at which the IOC will validate ITSF's progress in conforming with the required standards for IOC recognition as a sport. (Again, please keep in mind that there is a difference between official recognition by the IOC and actual Olympic participation -- recognition is a key preliminary step and in many countries it results in  government funding of player development and training programs and further allows actual participation in Olympic affiliated events such as the Pan-American games, the Asian Games, and more.) While such recognition won't be forthcoming until after another couple of years of validated compliance/performance, it's nice to see that ITSF continues to stay focused on and committed to its original mission.