The road from qualifier to millionaire is a tough one at RFD-TV’s The American, but each and every year, competitors with enough talent, grit and a little bit of luck always make it happen in one of rodeo’s most exciting formats. We're sneaking up on the finals now, so we wanted to tell you just how those competitors are working their way from point A to point B.
Step One: Qualify
Qualifiers are hosted all year long in conjunction with many events that already exist. Contestants pay an extra entry fee on top of their regular fees to enter The American side pot, and the top competitors that entered the side pot will have a chance to earn a qualification.
Step Two: Slack
Before the semifinals officially begins, the events with a large number of contestants (steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping, breakaway roping and barrel racing) will have to begin their runs and rides early with slack.
The top 22 competitors will advance to the semifinals in all events, except breakaway roping and barrel racing. In the breakaway roping, the top 40 will be split between the four semifinals performances and only make one run, while the barrel racing will take the top 35.
Step Three: Buyback Option
As an added opportunity, competitors in tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, breakaway roping and barrel racing will have a buyback option if things don’t go the way they hoped in the slack.
For every 50 entries in the buyback, one spot will be awarded to the semifinals with a maximum of three buybacks moving into the semifinals.
Step Four: Semifinals Long Round
At this point the roughstock events will join the action—because of their lower qualifier numbers, the competitors in these events will not have to go through slack before the semifinals, but rather a quick slack during the semifinals that all counts as the “long round.”
In every event except the breakaway roping and barrel racing, the top 22 contestants (plus buybacks) will be split into two pools, with Pool A competing on Feb. 27 and Pool B on Feb. 28. After two days, the top 16 from the combined pools will move on to the shoot out performances of the semifinals with three exceptions:
- The barrel racing is a straight one-run competition with the top 35 from the slack (plus buybacks) split over the four performances with the top 10 moving straight into the finals at AT&T Stadium.
- The breakaway will have the top 40 from the slack (plus buybacks) split between the four performances also competing in a one-head competition with the top 16 breakaway ropers advancing to the finals at AT&T Stadium.
- The bull riding is also a one-head competition with all of those that qualified taking their rides between the four performances plus the slack on Thursday morning. The top 16 will advance to the finals.
Step Five: Semifinals Shoot-Out
The shoot-out will see the top 16 contestants in all events except breakaway roping and barrel racing earning one more shot to break through to the finals of The American. Those 16 will be split between two performances on March 1.
In the timed events (minus the barrel racing and breakaway), the fastest six runs between the two shoot-out performances will earn spots in the finals at AT&T Stadium. In the bareback and saddle bronc, the highest six scores in the average from the semifinals long round and shoot-out will advance.
As stated above, the breakaway roping, barrel racing and bull riding is a one-head competition with the top competitors advancing to AT&T.
The Junior Element
For the first time, a junior element is being introduced into The American's semifinals. The top two competitors in the breakaway roping and barrel racing from The Junior American Finals on Friday will immediately turn around and make a run with the "big boys" in The American semifinals.
Those junior competitors are then treated as equals and have just as much of an opportunity to win their way into the million-dollar race at AT&T Stadium as any other competitor.
Step Six: Finals Day One
The invites arrive.
Qualifiers that had to earn their way in through the semis, along with the top 10 contestants in the 2018 PRCA standings after the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, will now come together to each take one run or ride on March 2.
Step Seven: Finals Day Two
The top eight competitors from the first day of the finals at AT&T Stadium will advance to the second day of the finals. After those eight take their runs and rides, the top four will advance to the final shoot-out round of The American.
Step Eight: The American Shoot-Out
One last step, win The American.
Everyone has a chance to win the $100,000 offered in each event ($50,000 for the breakaway), but only qualifiers and exemptions that battled through the semis are eligible for the $1 million side pot. At the shoot-out it all comes down to one sudden death run or ride where it doesn’t matter if you’ve competed twice to get there or you are making your eighth or ninth (or more) run in just a few days.
The leaderboard is wiped clean and the only thing left to do is win that money.