At long last, we’ve arrived. The 2019 edition of the Call of Duty Pro League begins today at the MLG Studios in Columbus, Ohio. The league will operate with two divisions of eight teams, with Division A playing each other for two weeks, followed by Division B doing the same, before two weeks of inter-divisional matchups. You can check out the schedule for these first six weeks here.
MLG has stepped up their production game with the league so far, hosting players in two-bedroom apartments in Columbus (notably nicer than last year’s), and that’s not the only thing new this year. In fact, surprises and changes have played a massive part of the competitive season thus far, so let’s take a quick look at the storylines going into today’s opening matches.
LAN Pro-League Qualifier
For the first time in the history of Call of Duty, the qualification to the Pro League relied almost entirely on LAN performances (rather than online). Of the 16 spots available in the league, four were decided at the first LAN tournament of the season: CWL Las Vegas. This left 12 places to be decided among the remaining 28 teams (of the top 32 from Vegas). MLG invited these teams to Columbus to take part in a grueling five-day qualifying tournament to settle the affair.
While a LAN qualifier is no doubt a massive step forward for the Call of Duty scene, it also meant that if a team simple did not perform well at the qualifier for whatever reason, their entire season would be in jeopardy. Strong performances from formerly amateur rosters took advantage of weaker performances from veteran rosters to secure their spot in the league.
Some teams like 100 Thieves and Team Space (now Gen G) started off very slowly, but they played well enough down the stretch to salvage a Pro League spot. Other experienced rosters were not so lucky. FaZe Clan, an organization among the pre-eminent brands in Call of Duty, could not put together enough clutch performances to advance to the league. Neither could the Pittsburgh Knights, G2 Esports, Lightning Pandas, or Mindfreak. All in all, players who accounted for about $830,000 in last year’s professional prize money would be initially excluded from the Pro League, or so we thought.
Many amateur teams celebrated euphorically upon qualifying for the Pro League, and with good reason. The Pro League guarantees certain salaries, housing, spotlight, and general stability that was absent from the lives of most amateur players up to this point. However, with the massive amount of proven talent watching from the sidelines and the CWL allowing unlimited roster changes, many amateurs will soon have their hearts ripped out as their organization seeks steadier and more reputed roster options elsewhere. To an extent, this has already happened; UYU dropped Tristan ‘Spoof’ Green, their captain during their qualifying run, to their substitute for veteran Assault Rifle player Anthony ‘Methodz’ Zinni from G2 Esports.
100Thieves engaged in another highly-criticized roster move by dropping Maurice ‘Fero’ Henriquez to their substitute role, and while he is by no means an amateur, he was having an excellent year. Instead, they opted to pick up the versatile Preston ‘Preistahh’ Greiner from FaZe Clan. The team hopes that Preistahh’s addition alongside their new coach, James ‘Replays’ Crowder (also from FaZe), will help them recover from their team play and pacing issues that have plagued their season thus far.
However, the major roster changes have yet to come. In the two weeks before the CWL Fort Worth Open Tournament in mid-March, the CWL will open the first of this year’s transfer windows, where organizations can make unlimited roster moves. If a formerly amateur team starts slowly in the Pro League, many of them may be dropped for former professional players, never to return this season.
Now enough with the doom and gloom.
Division A has fierce competition from top to bottom, and as a whole, presents many intriguing storylines.
Midnight Gaming and UYU have shown incredible promise even though the majority of their rosters have never seen a Pro League before. Their mettle will be tested several times during these six weeks, and Midnight can mark their entry to the big leagues by taking down the number one overall ranked team, OpTic Gaming, in their first matchup tonight. OpTic, on the other hand, have temporarily lost their MVP from their CWL Las Vegas, Brandon ‘Dashy’ Otell, as he is facing some unforeseen visa complications. In the meantime, their substitute will be former OpTic rival Thomas ‘ZooMaa’ Paparatto.
Meanwhile the other matchup tonight will feature the two strongest European rosters in all of the Pro League: Reciprocity and Red Reserve. Overshadowing the tactical chess match between team captains Thomas ‘Tommey’ Trewen and Rhys ‘Rated’ Price is the hilarious trash talk coming out of the young twins, Bradley ‘Wuskin’ Marshall and Matthew ‘Wuskin’ Marshall, prior to their first ever clash, tonight.
And this is only day one.
During Division A’s time in Columbus, we will get to see how the more strategic (as opposed to slay-heavy) teams like Evil Geniuses and Team Space (now Gen G) handle the slaying giants that are OpTic and Luminosity. And of course, OpTic and Luminosity will get to face off themselves, and Luminosity’s captain, Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper, will get a shot at revenge against his former team.
Matches begin at 6:00 EST. You can check out today’s action on https://www.twitch.tv/callofduty or ESTNN TV.
Image source: Official CWL Twitter