Written by: Caleb Simmons
Twitter: @WavePunkRL

As the dust settles on the ELEAGUE Rocket League Cup, the community is still catching its breath. A whirlwind tournament of upsets, lengthy overtimes, brilliant goals, and a grand final NA vs EU showdown was everything fans had hoped for and more. The underrated Mockit thrived in the so-called “Pool of Death,” PSG’s Bluey dazzled with an absurd boostless goal off the opponents backboard, and Gale Force and Cloud9 brawled eight minutes and 14 seconds into overtime, one of the longest ever in competitive rocket league.

The crowning jewel of this Atlanta tournament was hometown hero, Kronovi, and his North American sweethearts, G2, taking on the world champions Gale Force in a grand final matchup that had the local Georgia crowd roaring. Some questions were answered, while others were left unclear. Looking back at the stacked ELEAGUE Cup, one would be hard pressed to draw any other conclusion than this: Rocket League competition is the tightest it’s ever been.

The group stage saw two pools of four teams play round robin; each group seeded two teams into the championship Sunday bracket. Group A, comprised of Gale Force, G2, Ghost, and Chiefs, had a clear favorite in Gale Force, with the second seed being up for grabs between the remaining three. Gale Force did not disappoint, only dropping a single game in their group stage run, cleanly sitting at 3-0 on top of Group A. G2 showed up in a return to form, only dropping a match to Gale Force, clinching the second seed heading out of the group stage. Things were looking good for Atlanta native, Kronovi. Ghost, plagued by team synergy issues that had haunted the roster since its inception, underperformed and were unable to take a match; the only team at ELEAGUE to go winless. The team had fought against public doubt all year; yet just when it looked like they had cleared their name with a hopeful performance at the world championship, it all came crashing down at ELEAGUE as they could not even manage to get to game five in any of their series.

Which brings us to the Chiefs. The Chiefs from Oceania were one of the most exciting storylines to come out of the world championships with their upset victory over NRG. As ELEAGUE approached, all eyes were on OCE’s Champion to see if they could continue to impress. In Atlanta, their only victory came over Ghost and saw Chiefs drop out during the group stage. Yet their losses were to Gale Force and G2, the teams who would eventually play in the grand final. Would any other team have had different results than Chiefs had they swapped places? Would Chiefs have had better results had they been in Group B? One can only speculate, but their only losses came against the reigning world champions Gale Force and the now reigning ELEAGUE champs G2, which makes it difficult to harshly judge a team for such tight competition. For now, the Chiefs remain a fascinating question mark.

While Group A had a clear favorite and a clear underdog, Group B was an absolute nightmare. This “Group of Death” featured World Championship runner-ups Method, North American Champions Cloud9, the award-winning Mockit, and young guns of PSG. Every single one of these teams had played in an international grand final at some point, and any of these teams could fill the spots for the championship Sunday. And yet, this group still held surprises. Heading into ELEAGUE, Mockit had been the quietest of group B. Everyone knew the team was capable, but few expected Mockit to deliver. Then Mockit started their performance with a sweep over Method, they continued with not one, but TWO reverse sweeps to finish off Cloud9 and PSG. The fact that anyone came out of the Group of Death undefeated was incredible; the fact that it was Mockit was completely unexpected. A three-way tie for second in Group B made the final match of day two between Mockit and PSG so important. If Mockit managed to beat PSG, the second spot from Group B would go to Cloud9, if PSG could take the win they would secure the sport for themselves. PSG held their fate in their own hands, and they looked good to secure it taking games one and two. But then Mockit roared back, one game at a time. Game five ended 1-0 but that one goal was all Mockit needed; completing their second reverse sweep of the day. Cloud9 could breathe a sigh of relief knowing they would get to play on championship Sunday.

But the Group of Death would prove to be an apt name, as the semifinal matches saw both Mockit and Cloud9 fall to G2 and Gale Force respectively. The stage was set for a battle to take it all between North America’s favorite team and Europe’s strongest titan. The finals were an absolute war between these two juggernauts, neither able to go up more than one game, sending the series all the way to game 7. G2’s Jknaps absolutely sparkled, making shot after shot, and being the MVP G2 needed.

Then, as the ball hit the floor as the clock hit zero, G2 celebrated and hoisted a trophy for the first time as a team. The crowd created a strong home field advantage, absolutely roaring for anything that went G2’s way; a truly beautiful moment as G2 finally brought home a win for their fans, and the poster boy Kronovi once again hoisted a trophy after over a year of frustrating losses. Enjoying the win in his hometown only made the victory that much sweeter.

The crazy thing is, had the event been repeated the next weekend, the results likely would have been completely different. So many critical series decided by a single goal, so many split-second decisions that meant the difference between life and death. Truthfully, the ELEAGUE Cup created as many questions as it answered. Will Ghost make a roster change? Is Cloud 9 in a slump? How did Mockit sweep the #2 in the world with such ease? NA has never lost to EU in a LAN grand finals. In 5 occurrences of NA vs EU, it has always been NA, yet EU clearly remains the stronger region overall. It’s these paradoxes and questions that keep us coming back again and again to this game. One can only guess at what questions and surprises the next showdown will hold.