FIRST is fast approaching team number 10,000. Could we take the opportunity to number teams better?

I foresee a problem in the next ~3 years. First is running out of 4 digit numbers with their current numbering system. FIRST has historically solved this problem by ignoring it, instead opting to keep the status quo of counting. FRC is about to cross 4000 teams, and yet at the same time we are about to cross team number 10,000. 5 digit numbers are a lot harder to remember than 4 digit number[citation needed] and I would prefer a system that was better.

FTC had 7,610 teams in 2020. At the same time, the last team registered in 2020 was team number 19,343. Team 10,001 was founded in 2015, and according to Wikipedia, there were 4,445 teams in that year.

I have a long history of starting controversial conversations on chief, so I want to start a discussion about what a better option could be, and what are the chances that we can get it implemented(if others agree). Hopefully this is a less controversial discussion than my last post. I’m pretty sure most of us would prefer any solution here to trying to remember team number 19,343 during alliance selection(no offense, Alphas)

So here are my proposed solutions, some are better than others:

  1. “The 1 is silent”

What if we officially give them 10,000 numbers, except we skip 10,001, 10,004, 10,005 that are used by active teams. Then everyone could refer to the rookies without even mentioning they have a 1 at the front of their number. No confusion on “which 47?” because there is only one 47 remaining. Over time teams might get brought back, but I think that’s a rare enough occurrence that the chances those 2 teams are ever in the same competition is rare. And one or two instances of “do you mean 47 or 10,047” isn’t the end of the world.

Does anyone have data on how many team numbers that previously died out get brought back each year? I think this has a big impact on what the best solution is.

  1. “Defragment everyone”

Just shift every team to have a number lower than 4000. Maybe teams lower than 4000 can elect to keep their number, or you randomly assign everyone a number in the sake of fairness. I don’t have this one super figured out, but it might be worth an extra 4 years of 4 digit numbers. - This is by far my least favorite option.

  1. “No more reviving your old team number”

Instead of giving rookie teams 10,000 numbers, we just start over at team number 2 and fill in any number not currently claimed by a team. There would be no way of knowing if a team was founded in 2025 or 1992 by their number*** You wouldn’t be able to tell if a team was a rookie or a veteran anymore, but the low number teams have benefitted enough from their low numbers. Lets even the playing field a little bit. This has the side effect that if a team that has disbanded and wants to come back, their number might be taken. I think this is a small price to pay honestly. Those revived teams can’t get rookie funding grants so the cost benefit never really pays out.

***which by the way is already true. Team number 1 was founded in 1997, but team number 191 was founded in 1992. I’ll let someone who was alive at the time tell us why.

  1. “Alpha-Numeric Regional Codes”

What if we added a leading area code to everyone’s number? 4909 becomes N4909 for New England(or something). I think this would be really cool at worlds to know where a team is from based on their number, and everyone in a district would have the same code so you wouldn’t need to display it.

For rookie teams, you would interlace them into the unoccupied numbers similar to idea 3.

If a team transferred districts, I guess they get a rookie number? or maybe they keep their area code? Or we don’t give out duplicate bottom 4 numbers to anyone?

4a. “3 digit team numbers”
This same method might even allow everyone to have a 3 digit team number inside of 1 district. With either a 2 digit numeric code or 1 alpha-numeric code. This sucks because everyone needs to relearn their team number like in defragment everyone, but is kind of nice because then everyone only needs to know 3 digit team numbers while competing in district - unless you are Michigan in 10 years.

  1. “Anything you guys think of”

So I have very strong opinions that FIRST should not keep doing what they’ve done for FLL and FTC. But I might not have figured out the best system. Does anyone else have a better idea? Has this idea been talked about before?


I think that the most scientifically sound solution would be to go from ordinals directly to the complex plane notation.

Where the real part is your current team number and the imaginary part is the number of the team you wish you were and aspire to be. :wink:


Since you are throwing all the ideas out, you were missing the obvious just having no team numbers. I don’t worry about knowing which college basketball team is playing by their number. Now the only thing I could see, is wanting to put things in short form in things like schedules to print, so just have teams make their own abbreviated names (and solve any conflicts at the competition level).

Now that isn’t my answer, but I might be more inclined to that than having a new team number.


Switch from numbers to letters and “number” teams like they are Excel columns.
A → Z → AA → … → ZZZZ.

Then we can have over 475,000 teams. Plus, you can do scouting by giving each team one column in the spreadsheet.




Originally team numbers were not constant and you got a new one each year. The numbers were (I think, this predates me by a few years) assigned based on the alphabetical order of your teams primary sponsor. As new teams and sponsors were added your rank in the team list would change and with it your number. FIRST realized that was confusing and didn’t scale well, and so froze team numbers and made them sequential.


Binary would be hilarious, but hexadecimal gives you ~55,000 more teams in 4 digits, if the 4-ness of the team numbers matters so much.


Regarding the fact that 191 was founded before 1 goes back when numbering was a secondary thing, teams were listed alphabetically by primary sponsor and the numbers assigned each year in that order. Just like in FLL at one point they decided to let existing teams keep their numbers and then start with new teams being assigned in chronological order.

I think you would have a lot of push back if you asked teams to change their number.


Yeah, I agree. My first idea was hexadecimal but then I attempted humor. Also, hexadecimal would please the programmers of FIRST enough while still being readable to the general audience and non-programmers.

Though to be fair saying “team FBC” doesn’t sound as catchy, but teams could get some funny combinations.

Currently, team number is used to assign IP addresses, which will keep working to 25599. Some of the more radical proposals would require changing this scheme.

Such as this one


I know for a fact there was at least one last year.

It should be pretty easy to count with TBA data, if someone doesn’t beat me to it, I’ll give it a go tomorrow.

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I think we would need a better reason than that to make a change, to be honest. Personally, my biggest concern is how they handle bumpers moving forward. The bumper coverage from the corner is, in part, required in order to have enough space for team numbers. If we have to increase that coverage so we can fit an extra digit, that would lead to smaller openings for intakes and have a large impact on robot design, all for the sake of a single extra digit. It helps that the digit is a 1, maybe there wouldn’t need to be additional space… but wait another 10 years until it’s a 2…


I don’t think this is fair. They haven’t solved a problem because there’s no problem to solve. You have no idea what FIRST’s internal plans are. It’s not like existing teams really need to plan for this, so HQ wouldn’t need to share their planning years in advance. Saying HQ has ignored this is unfair.

This works for verbal communication, but not for programmatic things. Fields dealing with a different team number than the colloquial team number is sure to cause confusion – as are things like WPA configuration/radio naming conventions, etc. There are also things like team’s internal systems (scouting, etc.) and API requests. In all these cases, I can see the challenge of “do we enter 10047 or 47?” which seems unnecessarily complicated when we can just…deal with five digit numbers.

Surely this causes more confusion and annoyance than if we just…deal with five digit numbers.

If anything, low team numbers have hurt the teams which posses them. I’ve heard (bad) judges and uninformed spectators suggest things like “Team X should know better, they’ve been around forever” or “Team X has such a low number, you’d think they’d be better at building robots by now.”

Not going to address the rest of these because they are even sillier, and have already been addressed. That, and like I said, we could just…deal with five digit numbers.

P.S. Maybe next time don’t remind us that you’re a contrarian for its own sake. I had no recollection of ever seeing a post from this account, but now that I remember you’re the queuers-don’t-matter guy, I read this with even more skepticism and assumption this is clickbait.


There are a few problems with backfilling:

  • It makes TBA data management a nightmare - they have a lot of historical data. Did you mean defunct XYZ or 2024 rookie XYZ?

  • Teams who re-appear can’t reclaim their old number. I have no idea how common this is especially since reclaiming a number makes one ineligible for rookie grants (3928 could have been team 44, but $$).

  • FIRST reserves some count of numbers each rookie year so that teams can claim additional [similar] numbers if they make two teams (or other, similar situations… looking at you PWNAGE).

That said, it is frustrating that we have numbers way higher than the team count. I had to explain to a new mentor that the rule of thumb on how many teams there are is to take the highest number you’ve seen and divide by 2.


Id think starting to fill in old team numbers if its been X amount of years since they’ve died would be an interesting option. Sure, it makes it so if the team ever comes back they don’t have the same number, or if a sister team is made they won’t have a similar number, but that just feels like a pretty small concern (not saying it isn’t valid, but i think there’s merit for not going into 5 digits). It just feels odd having 9000 numbers and 5000 teams. Maybe officially they could be XXXR for their first two years for rookie so judges and events know which teams are rookies and not? But on the field side they are only referred to by their number. The old team could be XXXD for defunct or XXXV for veteran.


I have a proposed solution as well:

What if we assign number teams sequentially approximately in the order they join FRC? Then, to indicate a clear break from one season’s rookies to the next, start at a recognizable, roundish number. Multiples of 100 or even 1000 are preferred. That leaves a bit of extra space for any of those pesky “not actually a rookie” teams.

It will NEVER reuse an old number, because that will destroy Excel and this entire sport runs on it. Similarly, team numbers are completely locked in: no need to update the branding every year, and many teams craft a brand around their number rather than team nickname or school/sponsor name.

Sure, the numbers will get a bit big after a while, but not significantly more than there are teams, and any related problems will need to be solved eventually regardless.

This seems like the best option as it has the fewest issues; you’re welcome.


Team numbers should be distributed via FIRST Choice (by Andymark) each year.

Pro tip: add more than twice the team numbers to your priority list than you actually want.


I don’t think this will be a problem because I’m fairly certain FRC is about to run into the end of expansionism.


Disagree. FiM still is (somehow) getting new rookies this year despite the feeling that we’d run out years ago, and the Impact award still emphasizes expansionism. Is it sustainable? No. Is it HQ’s strategy? I believe so.


Just throwing it out there that the team number displays on the FRC field currently only support 4 digits. New displays incoming!