After one and a half years of the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) being virtual, Psyonix, the makers of Rocket League, held their first in-person event since the start of the pandemic. The RLCS Fall Split Major, held in Sweden from December 8-12, was a local area network (LAN) tournament, which means it was held in person and broadcast to an audience on YouTube and Twitch. The event featured funny back-and-forth banter between players, but fans were not allowed in the arena due to COVID precautions. As such, the event was not a true LAN event, but many fans still rejoiced at seeing their favorite players come together once again.
Rocket League is a physics-based video game in which cars hit around a soccer ball into the opponent’s goal. The skill ceiling is very high, with less than 0.01% of players being good enough to compete in the RLCS, which features three-on-three professional matches. The first RLCS was held in 2016, featuring a World Championship in Los Angeles. Eight more RLCS seasons followed until COVID hit in early 2020. The RLCS Season 9 World Championship had to be canceled, and the esport shifted to a new format that would allow teams to earn more money. Rather than having two RLCS seasons each year, there is now one season sectioned off into three splits: Fall, Winter, and Spring. Each split features several events per region, at which teams earn points based on their performance. The original RLCS regions were North America and Europe, but now there is also Oceania, South America, Middle East and North Africa, and Asia-Pacific. There is an international event at the end of each split, three in total, with the year-long season culminating in an RLCS World Championship. In total, each year-long season has three events per region (18 total), three international majors, and one World Championship. The recent tournament in Sweden was the international major at the end of the Fall Split. The RLCS is now moving into the winter split.
The five-day tournament in Sweden featured a $300,000 prize pool, with the first three days (“Swiss Stage”) being 16 teams competing in five rounds of best of five matches, and the final two days being the top eight competing in best of seven Playoff matches (the Playoffs were the final two days). European favorite Team BDS took down North American behemoth NRG in the Grand Finals. BDS won back-to-back best of seven matches against NRG (4-1 and 4-3), who won the RLCS Season 8 World Championship. Spanish player Marc “MaRc_By_8” Domingo was named most valuable player. Team BDS racked up enough points to automatically qualify for the season’s World Championship in 2022, which is expected to be a North American LAN event.
While BDS handily swept through the competition at the event, there were many other interesting storylines and matchups. This was the first major Psyonix-sponsored event to host the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions, and the newcomers did not disappoint eager fans. The third-place spot was captured by Middle Eastern team Sandrock Gaming (SRG), previously referred to as the “best team to never compete in the RLCS.” Due to personal issues, star player Khalid “oKhaliD” Qasim was unable to attend the tournament, so substitute player Ahmed “Senzo” Ayed joined “Ahmad” and “trk511” at the event. Despite playing with a substitute, SRG dominated the early stages of the tournament. Their record was 3-1 for the first three days. They were eventually eliminated by NRG on the final day, but they swept G2 Esports in their opening match, proving that they are one of the best teams in the world.
Another major story was the triumph of BDS, who for the past year have been dominating Europe but have now proven themselves on the world stage against the best North American teams. Despite being Europe’s third seed, they tore through the Swiss Stage, going 3-1, with one loss against FaZe Clan, who placed third and fourth along with SMPR Esports. In the Playoffs, BDS beat Complexity and SMPR to qualify for the Grand Finals against NRG, who beat FaZe to face BDS. NRG, featuring “jstn,” “GarrettG,” and “Squishy,” have dominated major tournaments for the past two years, and they have been fan favorites for their team camaraderie and entertaining YouTube videos. BDS, however, managed to secure the win against North America’s first seed and make Europe proud. NRG actually lost to BDS in the Swiss Stage, a sign of what was to come in the Grand Finals. Meanwhile, FaZe Clan, a North American team, went 3-0 in the Swiss Stage, beat Endpoint in the Playoffs, then lost to NRG in the Semi-Finals. SMPR Esports, formerly known as Top Blokes, is a European team made up of many of Europe’s most popular players such as “Chausette45.” SMPR went 3-2 in the Swiss Stage, narrowly beat Digintas in the Playoffs, then went on to lose to BDS in the Semi-Finals.
An Australian player for Renegades, Cameron “CJCJ” Johns has not competed in the RLCS for over three years, but he returned for the Sweden Fall Major to compete. He is a fan favorite known for his funny moments and his famous RLCS Season 6 walkout. Renegades ended up placing 9th-11th (exact rankings are not determined past fourth for these events), along with fellow Oceania team Ground Zero Gaming.
Many fans were disappointed in the performance of Team Vitality, a European team of three veterans, all of whom have won multiple major events. Vitality, the RLCS Season 7 World Champions, placed 12th-14th in Sweden, being eliminated by NRG before the Playoffs.
The tournament featured plenty of fancy goals that showed the improvement of all the players. In the fourth match of the tournament, Allushin hit a perfect pass to AyyJayy to score FaZe Clan the series win against Vitality. FaZe would go on to hit another game-winning passing play in round 3 against BDS. Also in the Swiss Stage’s first round of matches, SRG Ahmad pulled off an incredible goal-line save followed minutes later by an impossible redirect with zero seconds left against G2 to secure the sweep. In round 2 of the Swiss Stage, Yanxnz bumped JKnaps out of position to allow CaioTG1 to secure the win for South American team Furia Esports against G2. In round 3, Archie scored a game-winning zero second goal against Dignitas. SMPR would go on to lose that series, going 3-2 in the Swiss Stage. In round 4, Chicago scored a series-winning redirect for G2 against Envy. In game six of the Quarter-Finals between SMPR and Dignitas, Joreuz scored a pinch to double touch to send the series to game seven, where SMPR would go on to win. Keeping with their specialty of passing plays, FaZe scored another passing play, this time an aerial play between Allushin and Firstkiller against Endpoint in the playoffs. As he always does, jstn (NRG) had a strong showing, scoring a flip reset against FaZe in game two of the Semi-Finals. AyyJayy (FaZe) responded with a flip reset ground pinch in the same series. Later in the series, Squishy scored a double tap in game five to secure NRG a spot in the Grand Finals. In the first series of the two best-of-seven matches in the Grand Finals, jstn won game one for NRG in overtime with a classy redirect. In game two of the second match, Monkey M00n (BDS) scored a flip reset that would ultimately lead to BDS’s victory in that game. In game three, jstn scored a monster of a double tap. In game four, GarrettG (NRG) hit a ridiculously fast redirect to tie up the game. However, BDS won the series in game five to secure the Fall Major victory. The event also featured incredible mechanical plays from Dreaz (G2), Chicago (G2), Joreuz (Dignitas), Allushin (FaZe), Fever (Renegades), Reysbull (Complexity), RelatingWave (Endpoint). Seikoo (Endpoint) and Squishy (NRG) scored multiple highlight reel goals throughout the tournament. Full matches can be found here and highlights from the event can be found here.
Overall, the RLCS Fall Major in Sweden was a big success. Live viewership peaked on Twitch at 280,000 viewers, and one Reddit user called it “everything we’ve waited for so long and we so desperately needed.” The commentary team featured some of the best Rocket league casters, including John “JohnnyBoi_i” MacDonald, Callum “Shogun” Keir, and James “Jamesbot” Villar. The Rocket League community can rejoice that events are being held in-person again, and can hold out hope that 2022 may bring live audiences back to the LAN events. With in-person events often having meet-and-greets, casual conversations with popular Rocket League content creators, and great environments filled with like-minded people, the community has a lot to look forward to if COVID numbers decrease.