Culminating in a three-day live final in Tokyo shortly before the beginning of the Olympic Games in June, the Intel World Open is one of the most exciting events in Rocket League’s five-year history. The IOC-backed tournament’s nation-based teams are set to unleash some exciting squads, with many of them already having fallen into place.
To give you an idea of where each country falls into place, here’s an overview of some of the strongest nations heading into the IWO.
Arguably the most stacked nation on paper, the USA can pick from many of the current NA RLCS rosters. The entire three-man rosters of RLCS sides eUnited, Pittsburgh Knights, Rogue, Afterthought and RBG Esports consists of only American players.
However, this leaves the remaining five RLCS rosters with a spot to fill. Being forced to play without World Championship MVP Pierre "Turbopolsa" Silfver could end up being NRG’s downfall as the struggles of adapting to a new third may pave the way for Justin "jstn" Morales and Garrett "GarrettG" Gordon’s fully-American counterparts to push ahead.
The only country with its spot in Tokyo already booked, the host nation of Japan are looking to impress in the Asian region’s intercontinental debut. The best Japanese roster, having taken home first place in many of Asia’s online tournaments, is presently HANAGUMI. Consisting of Itsuki "Maru" Fukuda, Shun "mikan" Yokota and "Nunki", the Japanese organisation are fierce opposition for many of Asia’s best teams, but they won’t have an easy road to the finals.
The most well-known Japanese player is undoubtedly Shogo 'ReaLize' Ikeyama. Currently playing for Oceanic side Gaming Gamers, ReaLize has proven his worth by going toe-to-toe with OCE’s best despite a disadvantage in ping.
He also has a large pool of potential teammates to choose from, with likely candidates being former teammates Yukito "Kanra" Nishikawa, Takuma "shaolon" Kawajiri and "Tenhow". Although it’s Asia’s first chance, the players will be determined to prove their worth on one of Rocket League’s biggest stages.
In fact, in a recent show match put on to show how the potential Japanese teams stack up, Kanra, ReaLize and Tenhow managed to take down HANAGUMI in a 4-1 series to cement their spot as favourites.
Another country boasting several title-winners in its ranks, Britain is in an interesting situation because all past nation-based tournaments have separated it into England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. GB currently boasts seven players in the RLCS, with last season’s EU MVP Dan "Bluey" Bluett and former World Championship quarterfinalist Euan "Tadpole" Ingram over in the Rival Series.
However, Britain’s chances are hampered in the same way that jstn and GarrettG’s are. Despite having so many top-level players, Kyle "Scrub Killa" Robertson and Jack "Speed" Packwood-Clarke are reportedly the only RLCS players currently on a team together.
Questions will be raised over potential synergy issues regardless of who their third is, but it’s likely to be either AS Monaco’s Jordan "EyeIgnite" Stellon or Veloce’s Jack "FlamE" Pearton.
Although the USA has the highest number of RLCS players, enjoying two world-class teams with seven major titles and four World Championships (as well as a further fourteen grand final appearances!) adds France to the list of early frontrunners for the finals in Tokyo.
Renault Vitality announced the addition of Yanis "Alpha54" Champenois to the championship-winning duo of Victor "Fairy Peak" Locquet and Alexandre "Kaydop" Courant, creating what has been described as one of Rocket League’s deadliest rosters.
Their main competition from home comes in the form of Reciprocity duo Victor "Ferra" Francal and Thibault "Chausette" Grzesiak. They’ll be joined by Veloce’s Andy "Kassio" Landais for what promises to be another powerful trio. With questions still being raised about what the format will entail, it may well be that only one of these powerhouse rosters is able to make it, most likely resulting in the two of them facing off for the coveted spot.
The best of the rest
It’s not just the four countries who we’ve already talked about heading to Tokyo, with 7 teams joining Japan for the finals. Oceania and South America’s RLCS rosters are dominated by Australian and Brazillian players respectively, with the former Lowkey Esports in a strong position to cause some damage after they claimed South America’s first World Championship series back in December.
In Europe, there are an additional two countries able to field a full RLCS roster in the Netherlands and Germany, accompanied by Finland and Denmark with two players in Rocket League’s top division.
While Canada will also have a large pool of RLCS talent to choose from, there isn’t a single RLCS side with at least two Canadians among their ranks.
The Intel World Open is set to be an exciting series of events and with these rosters all competing for one victorious spot, time will tell which proves to be the strongest.