Top 10 College Softball Tournaments
Every year, the sport of college softball attracts more and more fans to its exciting game. There are plenty of talented players and teams to go around to make fans want to watch. Additionally, there are lots of great tournaments that create great competition that is entertaining to see. The remainder of this piece will discuss some of those tournaments and invitationals that make college softball so great.
What Are the Biggest College Softball Tournaments in the World?
- College Softball World Series
- NCAA Softball Division I Tournament
- SEC Conference Tournament
- Pac-12 Conference Tournament
- Big 12 Conference Tournament
- ACC Conference Tournament
- Big Ten Conference Tournament
- Clearwater Elite Invitational
- Mary Nutter Classic
- National Invitational Softball Championship
1. College Softball World Series
While there are a lot of great college softball tournaments, the Women’s College World Series is certainly the greatest one. Since 1982, at the conclusion of every Division I college softball tournament, this final tournament has taken place. Eight teams advance to this double-elimination tournament, and eventually, the two remaining teams advance to a best two-out-of-three series to determine the national champion. As for the team with the most championships, UCLA leads the way with 13 titles, followed by Arizona with eight and Oklahoma with six.
2. NCAA Division I Softball Tournament
In order for a team to make it to the College Softball World Series, a team must first make it to the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament, which has also taken place since 1982. The World Series is the final stage of the three-stage tournament that determines the national champion for that season. First, 64 teams make the field, and they are broken up into 16 regionals of four teams each. Each region plays a double-elimination tournament, and the 16 regional winners advance to the super regionals. At each of the eight super regionals, two teams play a best-of-three series, and the eight winners are the participants who advance to the College Softball World Series.
3. SEC Conference Tournament
The first of many conference tournaments to make this list, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) tournament includes several of the top teams in the country. The SEC has produced multiple top 10 teams over the years, including teams like Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, and Arkansas, showing just how talented this league is. The tournament is a 10-team, single-elimination tournament, and the winner receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The school with the most championships is Alabama, with six titles since it began in 1997.
4. Pac-12 Conference Tournament
After the SEC, the Pacific-12 (Pac-12) Conference is another talented league in the world of college softball. The conference is home to one of the best and most successful teams in the country, UCLA, and also boasts other teams ranked in the top 25. Unlike other conferences, however, the Pac-12 has never hosted a conference tournament before; rather, their regular season champion clinched the automatic spot in the NCAA tournament. Starting in 2023, the tournament will begin, and with all of the talented teams, it should be a great event.
5. Big 12 Conference Tournament
The conference with the defending national champions, the Big 12 has lots of successful programs of its own. Currently, the tournament is a single-elimination tournament. Oklahoma leads the way with seven titles won since the first one in 1996, followed by Texas with four and Nebraska (now in the Big Ten) with three. Every year, the tournament is held at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The winner of the Big 12 Conference Tournament automatically qualifies for the NCAA Division I softball tournament.
6. ACC Conference Tournament
The fourth of five conference tournaments on this list is the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Tournament. Among the ACC’s biggest teams are Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. Like the other tournaments, the ACC tournament is a single-elimination tournament where the winner earns a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Since it began in 1992, the event has been dominated by Florida State, which has won 18 times. Georgia Tech has five titles to its name, and no other school has more than two.
7. Big Ten Conference Tournament
The final conference tournament, and the final of the Power 5 conferences, is the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten hosts many successful teams, including Northwestern and Maryland. The first Big Ten tournament took place in 1982, but the event was stopped for 13 years before being picked up again in 1995. Again, this conference tournament has the format of a single-elimination event. The University of Michigan leads the way with 10 conference titles won, with Minnesota coming in behind them with five titles.
8. Clearwater Elite Invitational
Towards the beginning of every college softball season, events are held to bring some of the most talented teams from different leagues together and play some competitive, early-season games. One of those events is the Clearwater Elite Invitational. Held since 2019, this event is the biggest of these early-season events and brings together some of the best teams in the country. For the 2023 event, 10 of the 16 teams were ranked in the top 25 at the time of the event, and five of them were in the top 10. While there is not an official winner of this event, teams who have success are primed to have a great season to follow.
9. Mary Nutter Classic
After the Clearwater Invitational, another great early-season tournament is the Mary Nutter Classic. While not quite the level of the Clearwater event, this event brings even more teams to it, with 30 squads participating. The event started in 2022, and some of the 2023 teams include UCLA, Florida, and Northwestern, all of whom are ranked teams. Like the previous invitational, teams who have success at an event with a talented field like this one are set up to have a great season.
10. National Invitational Softball Tournament
Returning to postseason events, the final tournament on this list is the National Invitational Softball Tournament (NISC). Started in 2017, the tournament was created to invite teams from around the country who did not make the NCAA Tournament, but were still looking for some postseason play. In the four editions of the tournament (it did not take place in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic), four different teams took home the championship. Those teams are Baylor (2022), the University of Texas at Arlington (2019), Loyola Marymount (2018), and Liberty (2017).
While the tournaments and invitationals listed below did not quite make the top 10, they still deserve some recognition as honorable mentions. They are listed in alphabetical order.
- American Athletic Conference Tournament
- Bevo Classic
- Conference USA Conference Tournament
- Cowgirl Invitational
- Lone Star State Invitational
- Mountain West Tournament
- OSU Mizuno Classic
- Omni Hall of Fame Classic
- Red and Black Showcase
- Sun Belt Conference Tournament
What is the biggest college softball tournament in the world?
While there are plenty of great tournaments in the world of college softball, the greatest tournament has to be the Women’s College World Series. The tournament is an eight-team event, and it is the final stage of the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament, and it crowns that season’s national champion. The team with the most titles since the event began in 1982 is UCLA with 13, followed by Arizona with eight and Oklahoma (the defending national champions) with six.