The Minor Regions Make a Major Impact in the RLCS
This past week in esports saw the RLCS Spring Major held at the Copper Box Arena in London, concluding with Moist Esports being crowned champions in what was no doubt one of the most exhilarating and entertaining events in Rocket League’s history.
For good reason too, with the event potentially indicating a shift in the power of the regions competing and with the sole remaining event of the season being the World Championship in Dallas. There is plenty of conversation already stirring about how the upper echelon of the Esport has never been this diverse, and how that could continue to play out in a month’s time on the only stage bigger than this past weekend.
“Landon 2.0”, as it was branded in honour of the Season 5 World Championship four years ago held in the same arena, kicked off this past Wednesday with 16 teams competing from over the globe in a straight double elimination bracket shootout. With 5 teams each from North America and Europe, 2 teams from South America, 2 teams from Oceania, one team from the Middle East and a final team from Asia, the Grand Final for the first time would end up being an EU vs MENA affair between Moist Esports and Team Falcons respectively, who both on Championship Sunday defeated NA’s Version1 who took home bronze.
From the very first day the Spring Major gave us unexpected results the likes of which we had scarcely ever seen before. Notably coming into the events as one of the favourites, Europe’s #1 Seed and Fall Major Champions Team BDS shook the world. Unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons as they were swept out of the upper first by South America’s Team Secret, and then from the Spring Major altogether by OCE’s Pioneers. A capitulation under pressure and expectation it may have seemed, but the hunger and ability shown from the expansion regions was certainly a sign of things to come.
They weren’t the only favourite in danger either. Sweeping APAC’s Gladiators in their inaugural series, Winter Major Champions G2 Esports would then be reverse swept by EU’s Karmine Corp in a thrilling five game series. only for the exact same reverse sweep fate to find them in the lower bracket at the hands of Team Liquid, another European team. With Moist Esports and FaZe Clan also taking losses, notably the latter being knocked down by MENA’s Team Falcons, we found ourselves in the bizarre scenario by the end of the first day – that the Top 4 seeds were all in the Lower Bracket.
The End of EU/NA Domination?
This wasn’t just crazy results and entertainment for the fans because of the fashion in which they happened. There was a complete duopoly that Europe and North America over the elite top spots of Rocket League Esports ever since its inception. The first expansion region added to the RLCS was Oceania (OCE) in Season 3, where they understandably started a long way behind the pack. Over the course of multiple seasons and years they became noticeably more competitive, but the peak was at the Season 6 World Championship in late 2018 where the Chiefs were able to achieve a top 4 finish, losing to eventual Champions Cloud9. Until this past weekend, that stood as the highest ever placement of an expansion region team.
Season 7 would see the addition of South America (SAM), though in their two World Championships before the pandemic they were unable to pull or scrape themselves out of the bottom spots. By the time this current season rolled around though they had had plenty of time to develop next to their major neighbours North America, and with the addition of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) among others, there were plenty of teams for fans to be excited about outside of the two major regions.
SAM and MENA Rising Up
Back to the Spring Major, and I can safely say from on and behind the scenes, there was nobody who truly believed prior to the event, despite promising signs, that an expansion region team would be able to take a major RLCS LAN win. While Moist Esports ultimately held strong for Europe, how close Team Falcons were for MENA in that Game 7 of the Grand Finals’ first series – and frankly the fact they shattered the best finish record for an expansion region team is still groundbreaking.
Not to be forgotten or outshone, South America’s FURIA were also making waves. Swept on the opening day by an in form Karmine Corp, they found themselves in the lower bracket and in the shadow of their fellow compatriots Team Secret who were busy sweeping Team BDS. It began with an expected result, dispatching APAC first-timers Gladiators only to then be met with the NA #2 Seed FaZe Clan in Lower Round 2 of all places.
Rising to the challenge, they beat the North Americans in a high-scoring five game series, securing them a place in front of the London crowd where they would carry on to beat another NA team in Optic Gaming on the Saturday. They would however, be eliminated thanks to a second date with Karmine Corp which this time went the full distance in what was nearly the first ever Best-of-7 reverse sweep on LAN. The Brazilians would have to settle for a consecutive Top 6 finish for now.
Looking at Worlds and the Future
With the World Championship awaiting in the wings to potentially cement and emphasise these results even more, the number of slots for teams automatically through to the Main Event has been finalised thanks to the three majors over the year. Thanks to their strong showings in this Spring Major, FURIA and Team Falcons were Top 8 in total points and will not have to battle through the Wildcard qualifier.
Thanks to these same results however, SAM and MENA have two extra spots each in that 16 team shootout – and all eyes will be on the expansion regions and how many teams from them can beat the undercards from EU and NA to the final 8 spots at Worlds. Notably this will be Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) first ever international appearance, and while expectations for them are far from as high, we’re understandably excited to see how they shape up against Asia’s (APAC) teams and how they could develop over time with the exposure to top level competition.
4th August will be the date to mark down as the day that marks the beginning of the aforementioned World Championship, but the Spring Major here in London certainly seems like it will be remembered as the event where the expansion regions truly earnt their stripes and put their marks on the map.