Team Dignitas returns to the the Rocket League World Championship in Las Vegas this weekend to defend its crown after a commanding performance during the grand finals in London last year. While other teams have earned a spot among the best squads in the world, the European powerhouse is the team to beat.
The action kicks off Friday with teams representing Europe, North America and Oceania facing off in best-of-five matchups. Teams include Evil Geniuses, G2 Esports, Cloud9 and NRG eSports from North America, PSG Esports, FlipSid3 Tactics, We Dem Girlz and Team Dignitas from Europe, and Tainted Minds and Chiefs Esports Club representing Oceania.
"What's most interesting to me is that more than last season, Dignitas comes in with a big bullseye on them," Rocket League caster Sean "Stax" Stackhouse told ESPN. "Everyone has been thinking about how to beat them but only a few teams will actually get to play them. Makes all those other matchups ripe for upsets."
The weekend begins with Evil Geniuses taking on Tainted Minds, PSG Esports versus Chiefs Esports Club, G2 Esports facing off against Flipside Tactics, We Dem Girls vs. Cloud9 and Team Dignitas and NRG eSports matching up against the winners of the first two games.
Here are some of the biggest storylines heading into Vegas.
The Dignitas dynasty
To most, the defending world champions are still the most dominant squad in Rocket League. They head into the tournament with an undefeated record in European league play and have stomped other teams in their regional championships. The two-time world champs -- their first win came under the Gale Force Esports banner before they were acquired by Dignitas -- are looking for a third title.
"It's all about Dignitas again, the defending world champions -- but more more importantly, it's the dominating season they had," Rocket League caster Jack "Corelli" Collier said. "They are absolutely the best team in Rocket League at the moment and there isn't really much of a counterargument against that claim."
The rock-star squad includes Alexandre "Kaydop" Courant, Jos "ViolentPanda" van Meurs, substitute Joni "JHZER" Humaloja and Pierre "Turbopolsa" Silfver, who has an additional championship win from his time on Northern Gaming.
"The eyes of the world are on Dignitas, and the scary thing is that they aren't fazed at all," Rocket League caster Demar "Dazerin" Williams said. "That confidence might prove to be a double-edged sword this time around as teams like NRG are starting to catch up."
All things considered, it's Dignitas' championship to lose. Very few teams have been able to stand up to this three-man juggernaut. If anyone has a chance, it's fellow European squad We Dem Girlz, an unsigned team, who will have to get past Cloud9 first.
"We Dem Girlz has had very close games against Dignitas, and while they come in as the [second] seed for Europe, they have been a pleasant surprise this season. [It's] a team that could play spoiler," Collier said. "They could do it, but I doubt it. The season that Dignitas has had has been undeniable."
Rocket League has been dominated by European and North American teams during its six-season lifespan. Oceania, which consists of Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines and several other islands, has been competing with them for only half that time.
An ocean-sized separation has led to a gap in talent between the eastern squads and the rest of the competitive community, not to mention that lagging servers have put the region at a disadvantage. Two Oceania teams, Tainted Minds and Chiefs Esports Club, hope to close that gap this weekend.
"Oceania always comes into the world championship as underdogs," Rocket League caster Grant "Fickle" Haynes said. "Maybe in Season 3, when Oceania was given two spots in the finals, this was true. But after the Chiefs knocked out NRG in Season 4 and EnVyUs in Season 5 -- who knows what they're capable of in Season 6? Do not sleep on the Chiefs."
While Tainted Minds might have taken the No. 1 seed in the region, the Chiefs are more well-known for their passionate play. Even after Jake "Jake" Edwards retired from competitive play, the Chiefs looked to upset expectations at the championship once again.
"They've had one team play well over the past few years with the Chiefs, but this year they have two solid teams with Tainted Minds," Rocket League caster Michael "Achieves" Williams said. "So I'd say the gap closes every year, but if we have both of the Oceanic teams make Day 3, then we'll call it closed."
Catch them on the Flipsid3
After two seasons without success, Europe's FlipSid3 Tactics have finally made it back to the championship LAN. Even with its absence in previous years, many believe FlipSid3 to be one of the stronger teams heading into the tournament. Francesco "Kuxir97" Cinquemani, Maurice "Yukeo" Weihs and David "Miztik" Lawrie fill out FlipSid3's roster.
"A lot of people are excited to see Kuxir return to the LAN stage because of the passion and drive he has," Williams said. "Not to mention the new kid on the team, Yukeo. Longtime veteran and team captain Miztik will be in charge of keeping them together."
This is the first time Flipsid3 has qualified for the championship without Mark "Markydooda" Exton, who helped the team excel. But with new and old blood mixing it up this year, it could possibly make it all the way to the final day.
"I think Europe looks more dominant because of Dignitas, and I think Flipsid3 will finish very highly as well," Stackhouse said. "I also think the winner of the We Dem Girlz and Cloud9 match has a very good chance to win it all. But after that I think most of the matchups between North America and Europe are coin flips."