I know there's been talk of running this thing in three tiers before and I believe expense/staff time have been the two biggest killers of it so far.
I can just see poor Janis face if you tell she now has to find at least 10 more sites of reliable judges.
I'm not following, so enlighten me--why would Janis (and the AHA staff) bear a larger burden if Mark's ideas were implemented? Just delegate it to the comp organizer for each first-round site. Most homebrew clubs have easily managed their annual competitions involving 500 entries (or more). I know mine has. I think it really opens up your available pool of judges.
You could even have 26 sites total.
20 first round sites--none of which also serve as 2nd round sites.
5 second round sites--none of which serve as 1st or final round sites.
1 final round site.
No shortage of judges, IMO. No thorny issues of compensation for judges having to travel long-distances. Most judges would already live near one of these sites. Just be sure to reward them fairly (via BJCP judging points) for their efforts. I dislike judging multiple flights (e.g., 2 or 3 flights of 9-15 beers) and having it only count as one session (0.5 BJCP judging points). If it stays that way, don't be surprised to see more judges saying "one and done" and going to hang out in the hospitality room. It makes it harder to get the comp done.