There are two qualifying roads leading to Akron. Communities all across the world hold local FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby qualifying races. They are held once a year and are licensed by the International Soap Box Derby. These are races for children who reside within or near the community sponsoring the local race. Racers are only permitted to compete in one local race per season and can only become a champ once in each division. The winner of each division of a local race is invited to Akron to represent their race city and compete against other champs from around the world.

The other road to Akron is a well-traveled one. Rally races are held throughout the year on weekends. Participants can race and accumulate points in any International Soap Box Derby-sanctioned rally race anywhere in the world. The rally season ends several weeks prior to the All-American race and begins immediately following the Championship race in Akron.

A driver who accumulates 180 points and meets all criteria will automatically be invited to the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby to compete against other rally champions for the world championship. The United States and Canada are sectioned into 13 rally districts. The Rally champs represent the districts in which they reside.

Both local and rally champs are invited to the All-American race. On race day, Local champs will compete against each other and Rally champs will compete against each other. At the end of race day, there will be three Local World Champs and three Rally World Champs.

The All-American race is a single-elimination competition in which Stock, Super Stock and Masters division champs run in alternate heats until a champion is crowned. Competition in each Division includes heats to determine the top nine finishers.

First-round heats are determined by a drawing by Derby officials. As each car crosses the finish line, an electronic eye beam triggers the finish line camera and timing device. The camera is placed directly over the track finish line with a heat number display visible so the official time is recorded on the photograph. When, in the opinion of the finish line judges, the race is too close to determine a winner, the finish line photograph will be studied and a heat winner will be determined.

Decisions of the judges in all matters involving the interpretation and enforcement of the Soap Box Derby rules are final and binding.