Rules and Organizations

Major League Pickleball Rally Scoring

Currently, Pickleball uses what is known as “side out scoring”; only the serving team scores points.

MLP (Major League Pickleball) recently announced that they are switching to “rally scoring”.  Similar to tennis, badminton and some other sports, in rally scoring, a point is scored on every rally, regardless of who serves the pickleball.  

USA Pickleball has not adopted rally scoring at this point, but they are considering it.   The Bellingham PB Club will continue to teach side out scoring, but as players, you can choose either scoring method in your games. You can learn more about rally scoring at this link.

Here is the information from the MLP 



For 2023, each Game will be played with rally scoring to 21 points (win by 2). Players will change ends when one team reaches the score of 11. This format and order are subject to change. Rally scoring will be played until a team reaches 20, at which time the team reaching 20 is subject to a freeze on rally scoring and must score all future points while serving. If the trailing team reaches 18, that team too will be subject to a freeze on rally scoring and must score all future points while serving. If both teams are tied 19-19, then both teams are immediately frozen when it becomes 20-19. All Games must be won by 2 points. 


During rally scoring players do not switch sides after winning points. Player A for each team serves and receives on the right side when the score is even, and Player B serves and receives on the left side when the score is odd. A team may choose to switch player sides during a time-out or end change, and they must inform the referee of the switch before play resumes. The referee is not required to inform the opposing team of the change but must do so if asked. 

To resume play after an end change, the referee must first check with the receiving player to ask if their team is in their desired positions. Once they have confirmed, their positions are set and they can only switch again if another timeout is called. The referee must then validate with the serving team that they are in their desired positions before calling the score to resume play. 

To resume play after a time-out, the referee will first ask the team that did NOT call the time-out if they are in their desired positions. The referee should ask “Are you in the correct position?” Once that teams’ positions are confirmed, they are set and the referee will then ask the team that called the timeout to declare if they are in their desired positions. The referee should also ONLY ask “Are you in the correct position?” If the time-out team decides to switch positions, the only way the other team may now switch is by calling a time-out. The same process above will be repeated. If that team doesn’t have a time out left, they may not switch positions. 

If an incorrect player/position error is not detected before the serve occurs; 

  1. If a player or referee stops a live rally to notate the error, the rally will be replayed. 
  2. If the rally concludes naturally and then the error is mentioned, the rally will stand. All players played the rally in good faith and played to win. The referee will ensure proper player alignment for the next serve. 

PLAYER INITIATED TIME-OUTS :Teams will each be allotted 1 time-out per Game (up to 1 minute per time-out). 

USAPA Rules Update January 1, 2023


  • You may no longer intentionally spin the ball with your hand as you release the ball. You are to release the ball with one hand. 
  • Both the traditional volley serve and the newer drop serve are allowed. The volley serve requires an upward motion, contact below the waist, and the highest part of the paddle head not above the highest part of the wrist at contact. 
  • In the drop serve the ball bounces at least once before contact. The ball must be dropped by one hand simply by releasing the ball, no downward thrust allowed, or you may use the paddle to drop the ball. But there are no rules regarding where you contact the ball or requirement of an upward motion. 
  • Both feet must be positioned behind the baseline of the court (and not outside the imaginary extensions of the sideline or centerline) at contact. For wheelchair players, the placement only refers to the back wheels. 
  • Let serves, balls touching the top of the net but still landing in the proper service area, are allowed. 
  • Do not return the serve if you are calling a serve fault, but you can only call spins or the release not being visible, not faults based on the motion. 
  • You may ask the referee (or opponent if no referee) a question like “Am I Good?” to make sure you and your team are in the correct position and the correctly serving or receiving. The referee or opponent must provide the correct answer. (This reverses last year’s rule that you could only ask if you are the right server / returner, as you should be able to determine the correct position by the score. )
  • For some people, the wrong score can distract the player, so you can speak up and stop play BEFORE the serve is returned or after the rally. But if you stop play and the score was correct, you lose the point. 


  • Don’t challenge or even comment on your opponent’s calls. But in officiated games you may still ask the referee if they saw a rally-ending play. 
  • Don’t wear clothes that match the ball color. 
  • Call faults on yourself immediately, even in officiated matches. 
  • Each year the USAPA Rules committee accepts and evaluates suggested rule changes from any USAPA Pickleball member. This year the suggestion window is open until June 15 and the comments window until June 30. 

Retrieved 1/7/23 from