Swimming Scoring Rules

Swimming Scoring Rules

When scoring during a swim meet, individual swimmers earn points for the team as a whole. Scoring varies from meet to meet as well as from race to race; scoring can even vary based on how many lanes there are in the pool at which the race is being held. The USA Swimming rulebook has an extensive but complex explanation of how scoring works at each meet, and here is a breakdown of how scoring works at swim meets.

Swim Meet Types

There are three main types of meets, but only two of them are common: the dual meet and the triangular meet. A dual meet is a meet between two swim teams, and a triangular meet is between three swim teams. Scoring methods at these meets vary between individual and relay events.

Dual Meet Scoring

At dual meets, individual events are scored for the top three swimmers, with the top swimmer earning five points, the runner-up earning three points, the third-place finisher earning one point, and subsequent swimmers earning no points. In the case of relays, only the winner earns points, and they will earn seven points for winning that race.

Triangular Meet Scoring

For triangular meets, individual events are scored for the top five swimmers, with the first place swimmer earning six points, the runner-up earning four points, the third place earns three points, fourth place earns two points, and the fifth place swimmer earns one point with all subsequent swimmers earning no points. Relay events in these meets are scored for the top two teams, with the winning team earning eight points and the runner-up earning four. All subsequent teams earn no points.

Multi-Team Meet Scoring

For all other meets, individual point values are doubled for relays and are based on the number of lanes in the competition pool. These other meets typically have more than three teams competing, and therefore, the number of places scored depends on the number of lanes in the competition pool.

Here is the multi-team meet point-scoring breakdown for different sizes of competition pools:

  • 4 Lanes: 5-3-2-1
  • 5 Lanes: 6-4-3-2-1
  • 6 Lanes: 7-5-4-3-2-1
  • 7 Lanes: 8-6-5-4-3-2-1
  • 8 Lanes: 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
  • 9 Lanes: 10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
  • 10 Lanes: 11-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1

Championship Meet Scoring

During championship meets, there are consolation and championship heats, and in that case, the scoring will be spread across the two heats. The championship heats will earn more points than the consolation heats are usually scored for double the number of lanes there are.

If a pool has six lanes, the scoring will be spread across 12 places and the two heats. The scoring in this case would be: 16-13-12-11-10-9 for the championship heat and 7-5-4-3-2-1 for the consolation heat. When there are more lanes, the highest number of points that can be earned are two more than the points of a smaller pool.

For example, if a pool had seven lanes with championship and consolation heats, 14 places would be scored, and the scoring would be as such: 18-15-14-13-12-11-10 for the championship heats and 8-6-5-4-3-2-1 for the consolation heat. This pattern will continue all the way up to a 10-lane pool which is typically the largest competition pool size.

Mixed Meet Scoring

For mixed meets with a bonus heat or when there is only a single championship final heat in some or all of the events, the Local Swimming Committee that is sanctioning the meet should adapt the scoring point values to the format of the meet. The change in point values must be announced prior to the meet.

Tiebreaker Scoring

In the case of a tie, the points credited to such places are equally divided between the swimmers. For example, if two swimmers tie for first place, the first place points and the second place points will be added and divided one-half and one-half. This will continue for all ties, adding and splitting the points equally between the swimmers that tied. The same is true for those tying at any place.


In the case of disqualifications, the subsequent places will move up, and the points will be awarded to the new places. Consolation finalists and alternates don’t earn final championship placing.