What’s the best book in any genre? Who’s the best Kardashian? What’s the greatest NBA team of all time? A bracket tournament is a great way to figure it out – with your friends. And if you’re organizing any kind of competition with your friends or foes? A bracket is a terrific way to keep score.
Bracket makers are useful in a variety of social and competitive avenues so it’s not surprising that there are seemingly endless options to choose from. But how do you pick the best one for you? That’s what we’re here to help with.
What are bracket makers?
Tournament bracket makers are software solutions that allow you to plug-in information and turn it into a tournament. Using these tools you can create brackets for various types of tournaments, such as single elimination, double elimination, and round robin.
Software bracket makers come in a variety of shapes, and yes, sizes too, with different features aimed at different applications. Some allow for voting or integration with other platforms. There are web based solutions, while others come in the form of a mobile app. Some are standalone services while others are parts of a larger ecosystem for running tournaments.
How to choose a bracket generator for you
“Best” is a rather subjective description for any single solution. In selecting the bracket generator for you? You need to know what your needs are as an individual or as a group/organization.
With some bracket generators the built-in features are all you get. That means you should make sure they cover everything you need before you commit to using them. Is a voting option important to you? Do you want the built-in ability to share your bracket on social media? What about plugin support? Do you need the brackets embeddable in a website’s HTML or perhaps printed?
Be sure to consider what platform you will be using as some bracket generators are platform specific. Depending on your needs, a generator available exclusively on the Apple iTunes and on the web may be perfect. Or it may be a dealbreaker if you or your bracket’s participants are Android users.
Consider the frequency of use. Some brackets are better suited for one-time use, while others can run over an extended period of time. For example, if you’re tracking a fantasy league over years, short term solutions will not be right for you.
Note that some of the most powerful bracket creation tools are not what you’d call user friendly. Much like the platform, this is very much a choice dictated by you and your target audience. The broader the target audience? The more user friendly you want the interaction and viewing of the bracket to be.
Pricing is an issue both is selecting a bracket generator and in selecting a subscription plan for some of the generators out there. Of course, paid services offer features free services do not, and some services operate on a freemium basis, offering a free version along with a paid one.
Best 11 bracket makers for 2021
This one is laser focused on one type of bracket. However, since it may be the single most popular type of bracket in the US, we couldn’t ignore it.
ESPN Tournament Challenge is ESPN’s app (iOS and Android) and website for tracking NCAA tournaments, with an obvious focus on the king of brackets: The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament known as March Madness.
Make your picks and wait for the results! It’s great for that, and gets all the scores directly from ESPN. It’s not particularly useful for anything else.
2. Common Ninja
Common Ninja’s bracket plugin’s free version is excellent for tracking a friendly tournament or running one where the the voting is done on social media, as users have to input the winners and they’re limited to 2 brackets with up to 16 teams per bracket.
Common Ninja’s bracket plugin supports all the main types of tournaments including:
- Single elimination
- Double elimination
- Round Robin
- March Madness pre-made plugins
For users wanting more, there’s a variety of tiers, from free to $119.9 a month, through the mid-tiers, Basic at $5.59 a month and Pro at $15.99 may be most attractive, depending on use. All of these prices are for annual billing. Those allow voting, more views, predictions, and improved customization.
Pricing: starts at $5.99 / month.
Challenge Place is a web/Android app hybrid that offers a full featured experience tailored to sports fans, with not only brackets but also support for robust match statistics. This service is free but supported through ads, with a premium subscription option that removes the ads and gives access to priority support.
Billed monthly, the subscription is $2.99, with a one week free trial. The brackets support single and double elimination as well as round robin (here called “table”).
Pricing: starts at $2.99
Challonge is a webservice that is optimized for gamers. They support popular tournament styles – single elimination, double elimination, and round robin – and most of their services are available – with ads – on a free account.
A $6.99 monthly membership – billed annually – removes the ads, allows bigger attachment and customized embedding of the brackets, as well as allowing unlimited tournaments, events, and communities. The communities add a social element, and you can follow different communities to track their tournaments.
Pricing: starts at $6.99
If you want a simple, single or double elimination bracket for smaller tournaments, you may consider Bracket HQ. Their ad-supported free version allows themes and basic customization, with brackets of up to 32 participants. Their $3 monthly pro version – billed annually – allows more themes, up to 64 participants, and removes ads. They have apps for Android and iOS, in addition to the web UI.
Pricing: starts at $3 / month
If you want to be able to run your bracket from an iOS app – no Android app – as well as on the web, Tournament Manager’s bracket generator may be for you. This service and app are free, but quite limited in terms of features.
There are no themes or customization options, and single elimination tournaments only are supported. They do allow you to subscribe to brackets, so you can get updates on tournaments run by friends.
ScoreCounter’s bracket maker is simple and intuitive though very barebones. In this bracket generator, you can use a sliding scale to set the number of bracket participants and select basic options easily.
This is another one where only 32 teams are supported which allows for single elimination only. The upside is that it is entirely free and very easy to use, so if just the basics is what you need? It may be just the thing.
If image based and user focused is what you want BracketFights is a fun way to go. This bracket maker is less about tracking a tournament and more about creating one.
BracketFights make it very easy to vote for favorites in any matchup and allow importing or uploading of images. There’s a limit of 128 participants, and the tournaments are single elimination only. BracketFights is currently in beta, and entirely free. They may add pricing tiers once they launch out of beta.
Competize are entirely focused on eSports and their service is geared for that. Here, the bracket is generated by the matchups you plug in. Competize is a fully featured service for eSports organizers, including monetization options and merchandise sales. They support single and double eliminations, as well as round robin tournaments.
A free account allows users to run a single competition, with various limitations. Smaller tournaments can work with their monthly 9 Euro deal (billed monthly), while professionals may be interested in their 39 Euro plan.
They also have a widget add on for any pricing option, which costs 9 Euro monthly (billed annually). They have a web version, as well as apps for iOS and Android.
Pricing: starts at 9 Euros
Tgrids is another simple and free web service for creating basic brackets. Tournaments can be single or double elimination, and can have up to 512 participants. This bracket generator has no design options or themes but does allow giving the option for site users to join your bracket.
Score7 is very focused on sports, as you may guess from the name. This free web service allows up to 64 participants in a wide variety of tournament formats. You can select the sport – esports are included – and the bracket will adjust for the type of scoring relevant to the game or sport you selected.