How to Build a Tournament Bracket System in WordPress




WordPress again shows another new way it can be used creatively.

This March Madness basketball tournament season, we’ve come across a new free plugin that extends WordPress so that it can be used to host a tournament bracket competition.

In this article, we’ll show you how to manage the tournament bracket system from within WordPress. By allowing open registration within WordPress, your tournament bracket site can be open to the public. You can also leave registration turned off in order to keep the system private.

We’ll use the new BracketPress plugin. Scott Hack and Nick Temple created BracketPress to allow people to run tournament bracket sites on WordPress. The Pro upgrade is available as well as additional add-ons. In this article, we’ll be installing only the free BracketPress plugin.

First, we’ll install and activate the plugin. Then, we’ll configure settings and setup teams. Next, we’ll create the menu items on the site so your users can access their brackets. We’ll then look at how to keep the Master Bracket updated during the tournament. Finally, we’ll run scoring once the tournament is over so we can determine an overall bracket tournament winner.

Let’s get started!

Setting Up the Tournament Site with BracketPress

First, we will install the BracketPress Plugin. After logging in as administrator to WordPress, choose Plugins, then click “Add New”. In the search box, enter BracketPress, then click “Search Plugins”. You want the BracketPress plugin by Scott Hack and Nick Temple. To install, simply click “Install Now”.

After installation, you must click the “Activate Plugin” link to enable the plugin and return you to the plugins list page.

After activating the plugin, you will see a new menu section called Brackets. Click on Brackets, then Settings & Scoring to manage your settings.

For the most part, you can leave the settings as they are. I’ll briefly describe the settings here.

Day / Time Brackets close: Your members must finish filling out their brackets before the first tournament game starts. Since this year the first game is on the 21st, closing the bracket on the 20th makes sense – though you could leave it open longer or close it earlier if you would like.

First through Sixth round points: every time a winner is selected correctly during the tournament, the bracket’s receives a certain number of points. By default, the scoring is so that each round is worth 32 points. The first round has 32 winners, so each winner is worth 1 point; the second has round as 16 games giving each game 2 points; on up to the championship round which has only one game worth the full 32 points.

You may leave this scoring as is, or you may use an alternative method. Some pools, for instance, simply assign 1 point per winner or use another method of scoring entirely. If you aren’t sure, the default is the same as many common bracket scoring systems and can be used as-is.

Scoring Bracket: this is the bracket number that is as the “Master Bracket”, against which all other brackets are. It is in automatically for you, so you usually do need to change this.

Template: The bracket display page requires a lot of room. Most templates have a “Full Width” template to be used without side bars. If your template has a similar setting (2012 does), then choose that template. Otherwise, “Let WordPress Choose” is a good option.

Allow Title Change: If you would like users to name and describe their own brackets, then leave this setting to “Allow Frontend Editing”. This is usually a good option for SEO as it brings user generated content for your website. If you would prefer that your users do not create descriptions for their brackets, then you can set this to “Do Not Allow Front End Editing”.

Show BracketPress Logo: If you would like to display a colorful BracketPress Logo, select “Show logo and link”. This benefits the plugin creators by letting people know about the BracketPress plugin with a link to the BracketPress website. If you would prefer not to show the logo, select “Do not show logo”.

After you are with the settings, click “Save Changes”. This is very important to do whether or not you have changed the defaults; otherwise the settings will not be stored in the database.

Team Data

Now that the basic settings are in place, you want to enter some sample team data. Since we won’t know which teams are in the tournament, you can enter pretty much any team names you want to use for testing now. Remember, though, that after the real teams are on Selection Sunday (March 17), you will want to come back to this screen and update the team names.

A nag screen will let you know that if you purchase the Pro Data plugin from the BracketPress site, the 2012 teams will be pre-populated here to save typing. It will also automatically update the teams with the 2013 picks when those are available.

For now, simply type in any team names you like and then click “Submit” at the bottom.

Setting Up the Front End

BracketPress comes with two pre-created pages for you: My Brackets and BracketPress Leaderboard. Both pages are standard WordPress pages with the appropriate shortcode embedded. They have been set to “Pending Review” so that you can change them before use (or not use them at all if you want).

My Brackets gives logged-in members a link to view (and edit) their brackets. The Leaderboard can be configured to display all bracket pages in the system, or just those that have been scored and are winning.

Tip: If you prefer that your Master Bracket does not show up on the Leaderboard page, you can set it to “Pending Review” or draft. This will not affect scoring, but will prevent the bracket from displaying on the leaderboard page.

To use the pages, first click on each page to edit it. You can then add any additional text necessary, change the title, and add a description if you prefer. When you are ready, click the “Publish” button to make the page live.

You will also want to link these pages to your Menu. While many themes differ in their menu systems, most of the time you will have a menu called “Main Menu”. Click on Appearance | Widgets from the left WordPress navigation bar to get to the Menu editor. Select “My Brackets” and “BracketPress Leaderboard” from “Most Recent” pages, then click “Add To Menu”. Move these menus to their proper location, change their titles if you like, then click “Save Menu”

Invite Your Friends!

Your tournament bracket site is now setup and ready. Whenever someone logs into your site, their bracket page is automatically, and they can click on the My Brackets menu item you setup earlier in order to view and edit their brackets.

Tip: If you would like to give people more than one bracket, you can do so: Click on Brackets, then choose “Add New”. Give it a title, enter [bracketpress_display_bracket] as the only content. Make sure to set the Author as the person you want to have the bracket.

Remember that on March 17th you will need to enter all 64 team names. BracketPress can automate the scoring process if you purchase and install the Pro Data plugin.

When the Tournament Starts

After the brackets close, and tournament games begin, you will want to keep your Master Bracket updated. After each game (or whenever is convenient for you), you need to perform the following steps:

1. Login to your BracketPress site as the administrator who owns the Master Bracket

2. Click On Brackets on the left hand side

3. Click on the Master Bracket from the list of all brackets

4. Click on “View Bracket” from within the administrator

5. You see the bracket, on the right hand side, choose “Edit Bracket”

6. Find the games that have been played since your last update, then select the winners of each game.

At this time, you want to go ahead and update scoring. From the WordPress main page, select Brackets, then Settings and Scoring. Scroll to the bottom and click “Process Scoring”. This will compare all brackets with the master, and assign points correctly.

Repeat as necessary.

When the Tournament Ends

After the tournament is over, you will want to find the “winning bracket”. Do this by clicking on “Brackets”, then selecting the “score” at the top. This will sort all brackets by score, and you can choose the highest scoring bracket. If there is a tie, then look at the “combined score” and choose the bracket that was closest to the true score.

This is a cool way to use WordPress, and we are glad that people are showing that WordPress can be used for much more than a blogging platform. We hope that this article will help you to run your 2013 bracket tournament on your own WordPress powered site, rather than sending your bracket tournament traffic to other sites such as ESPN or Yahoo! We are looking forward to your comments: not just about running your own bracket tournament site but also about any other WordPress based application that you have used.

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