Rocket League: The rise of the “Minor Regions”

by stubat
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Over the years in the RLCS, or rather, Rocket League esports in general, the biggest and best teams we’ve seen have come from what has been dubbed the “Major Regions”. Europe and North America, in fact for the first 2 seasons, were the only teams involved in the RLCS World Championship. A massive player base already existed in these two continents, so it makes sense I suppose. In fact, to this day NA & EU are the only regions to win a major LAN, World Championships are currently split 5 to EU 3 to NA.

Season 3 introduced us to Oceania, which would be the first of the “minor regions”, two teams qualified for worlds. Alpha Sydney featuring the retired, but long-standing Drippay and Torsos who now play for PWR and Just a Minute Gaming (JAM) featuring Express, also now playing for PWR. We wouldn’t be introduced to another minor region until SEASON 7 when South America was introduced.

We never really got introduced to any huge South American players in Season 7 worlds, but one man stands tall above the rest of them. Lowkey Esports player Caard now plays for the Brazilian powerhouse, FURIA. But we’ll delve into that a little bit more soon.

A few more seasons would pass before we would see any more “minor regions” introduced again, this time however we got a BUNCH of them. The 2021-22 season introduced MENA (the Middle East & North Africa), APAC N & S (Asia Pacific North & South) as 2 separate minor regions and finally SSA (Sub Saharan Africa). Along with that, we got Falcons Esports from MENA, formerly known as Sandrock Gaming, Ahmad, oKhaliD & TRK511. They’re an important part of this story too.

Up until recently the “minor regions” were pretty much just fodder to fill out Worlds. Seasons 5 & 6 saw the Chiefs Esports Club, Drippay, Jake (S5)/Kamii (S6) and Torsos get top 6 and top 4 respectively which was the first time an OCE team (and any minor region team) had made it that far, but unfortunately, they couldn’t build on that momentum and eventually dropped back to not making it past bottom 4-6.

Chiefs lost to eventual winners, Cloud 9 (NA), above, Torment, Gimmick & Squishymuffinz.
Chiefs lost to eventual winners, Cloud 9 (NA), above, Torment, Gimmick & Squishymuffinz. Source: Liquipedia

The OCE Minor Region

Since then OCE has had a few teams make it out of that bottom 4 bracket, but until recently no teams have really stood out and looked to take on the responsibility of the old Chiefs roster, until recently with Pioneers. bananahead, Scrub & Superlachie are a real breath of fresh air and for a truly young and inexperienced roster, have been having a ton of fun with their game and made it to 2 international LANs in a row.

Making top 12 in both LANs, this rifled them into a World Championship Wildcard slot for the Dallas World Championship in August. While I don’t see them achieving a LOT this season, if they stick together I’d be surprised if we don’t see a top 4 finish or better in a major from them.

The SAM Minor Region

Until recently, the same could be said for South America on their entry to the big stage too. S7 saw both SAM teams bottom 4. S8 was the same, however, Lowkey Esports had picked up CaioTG1 to play alongside Caard at this point which, who knew would be the start of something special? S9 was cancelled due to COVID unfortunately and then we went into an entirely online season. Two SAM teams were absolutely incredible and forged names for themselves in Season X. True Neutrals took the glory featuring ajg Reysbull and Shad. Then FURIA featuring Caard, CaioTG1 and in tander, soon to be replaced, however.

Fast forward to the 2021-22 season and tander had in fact been replaced by an absolute demon, Yanxnz, but FURIA were left to fight for the SAM glory on their own as True Neutrals decided they would leave the region, moving their players to Mexico to compete in North America in what was the first-ever full team cross-region transfer.

A couple of players in the past had transferred across regions, most notably Turbopolsa leaving Europe to go to NRG. But this was the first time an organisation had moved a full roster to a new region and from the minors to the majors, and honestly, True Neutral has held its own. They’ve adjusted quite well. FURIA on the other hand has grown tenfold with Yanxnz in their lineup and has been absolutely phenomenal. 

The Fall Major saw Complexity (Formerly True Neutrals after TN decided they wanted to go back to SAM) finish top 8 in the first international LAN in a long time with FURIA finishing 12-14th which was the first time a South American representative hadn’t been bottom 4 in an international LAN. FURIA went on to get TOP 6 in the Winter Major, Complexity didn’t qualify.

The Spring Major saw ANOTHER top 6 finish for FURIA with Complexity failing to make the grade again. The competition in NA is really fierce and I personally don’t think you can say they aren’t good enough to compete, but maybe the region transfer was a little too soon?

Unfortunately for Complexity, they failed to make worlds, but FURIA qualified for the main event, skipping the Wildcard phase entirely. But recently, they were invited to a Gamers8 tournament in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. They went on to beat some strong competition to win the whole thing, taking home $500k of the $2 million prize pool.

They beat Complexity, they beat Falcons (the favourites and home team heroes) as well as swept a newly revitalised Guild in the final 4-0. Sure, it might not have been an official RLCS tournament, sure it might’ve been crew battles featuring 3v3, 2v2 AND 1v1, but they still won the whole thing and are continuing to improve on all fronts! I’m expecting the top 4 from FURIA at worlds in August, they’re an incredible team! Also, Yanxnz is ARGUABLY the top 3 players in the world right now, maybe even the best!

FURIA were the Champions of the Gamers8 Crew Battles tournament in Riyadh, taking home $500k!
FURIA were the Champions of the Gamers8 Crew Battles tournament in Riyadh, taking home $500k! Source: Gamers8

The MENA Minor Region

Next in the Minors, we have MENA. We’ve seen plenty of show matches over the years between the Falcons boys and other regions, MENA players like Fahad, Senzo, Rw9 have been known in the 1v1 scene for a while too. But this season was the first where we could see them OFFICIALLY given a chance to prove themselves on LAN against the “major regions”. Falcons have done just that. They have won 9 out of 9 regionals in MENA first up, which is outrageous. They placed top 8 in their FIRST EVER LAN in Stockholm, the Fall Major, which they attended without oKhaliD.

Then they qualified for the Winter Major in LA but unfortunately due to what appeared to be VISA issues, they were unable to get into America to attend, but thankfully they had no such issues for the Spring Major in London where they beat the likes of Team Liquid (new EU fan favourites), FaZe, SSG and Version1 to become the FIRST non-EU/NA grand finalist at an international LAN in the history of the RLCS. Incredible scenes. In the end, they lost out in a bracket reset against Moist Esports, but that isn’t to say they didn’t perform phenomenally and they’re STILL improving?!

The APAC and SSA Minor Regions

There isn’t a LOT to say about APAC & SSA right now, SSA hasn’t had the opportunity to attend a LAN yet, worlds will be their first in the RLCS however they did attend Gamers8 in Riyadh, but their performance left much to be desired. APAC on the other hand have some potential with the likes of Gaimin Gladiators, Tokyo Verdy and Detonator but it seems to me personally that they are putting up the sort of performances we saw from OCE and SAM on their entry into the scene. 

I’d say in a year or so their standard will improve dramatically, they have been getting LAN experience as well as more time in the spotlight, money being involved means players want to get better, players get better, the prize pools increase and the opportunity to make a living off of it arises. That’s when the quality starts to peak. I’d love to revisit the APAC/SSA regions this time next year, before Worlds 22-23 to see how they stand. 

Are There Really Minor Regions Anymore?

But this all brings me to my next point, is it about time we dropped the “major” and “minor” region tags? Sure we can call EU & NA the OG’s because they were. They paved the way for the other regions to compete. Showing there was a market for this Rocket League as an esport. The newer, or fresher?

Regions should be recognised for their ability, not based on a tag. To call MENA a minor region when they have got top 8 and top 2 in their 2 RLCS LANs this season as well as a top 4 at Gamers8 is absolutely preposterous. Yes, we’ve seen Ahmad, oKhaliD and TRK for years in 1v1s and 2v2s but for them to get their shot on the big stage and grasp it with both hands so soon proves how good they actually were all along. That’s not worthy of a “Minor” tag.

For me, personally. The more regions, the more teams, the more representation in the esport, the better. More Rocket League to watch, more chances for people with real talent to make a living off of what they’re good at. Let’s get more “newcomers” into the game and give more people a chance. I’m particularly interested to see how Veloce Esports and 01 Gaming from MENA get on, as well as Orlando Pirates and Bravado Gaming from SSA! Be interesting to see if any of those four teams make it to the main event.

That’s going to do it for this one, my point is, that it’s no longer suitable to call them “minor regions” anymore and it seems this is a growing thought in the rocket league community. I think the correct name we should be using is “growing regions” as they’re newer in the scene, specifically the new ones introduced in the 21-22 season. Plus OCE & SAM are making strides too! Keep your eyes out for a preview of the RLCS World Championship being held in Dallas coming in the next week or so, unfortunately, I won’t be attending this one in person but there’s a LOT to talk about! Take care folks.

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