Europe's time is now to become a Call of Duty World Champion
Elite Call of Duty has come a long way since the first-ever World Championships back in 2013. A decade ago, champs was a globally recognised event with regional representatives from all corners of the Call of Duty community, all gathering on the iconic Black Ops 2 fields.
Some icons of the game started their legacies then. Three-rings Damon "Karma" Barlow began one of the most accomplished arcs in CoD history while American stalwarts like Christopher "Parasite" Duarte reached the pinnacle of their careers early on to cement the leading region.
North America quickly became the strongest nation for Call of Duty esports, whilst South Korea's InFiDream loaded into their matches armed with Riot Shields only to be eliminated in the Group Stages with a 0-6 map count.
But while this might have been the last we saw of Korea, South Africa, and other smaller countries on the Call of Duty main stage, those in Europe have been biding their time and growing significantly and now is their time to shine.
Heading into the Call of Duty World Championships 2023, European talent has been cherry-picked and promoted through the ranks again to find spots on the best teams in the world, and now is the time that they need to step up and translate that faith placed in them to produce a global superstar.
The promotion of EU talent is blossoming in the CDL
For years we've been saying that the European second tier of competition is a gold mine for Call of Duty teams to experiment with. Following the introduction of the CDL though, it's taken a droning and monstrous effort for teams to listen to the advice and place faith in the exciting prospects sprinkled throughout the promising region.
Back in Modern Warfare 2019 (2020 CDL Campaign), only 12% of players emerged from Europe to compete at the World Championships, with five of those coming from London Royal Ravens and three from Toronto Ultra. Only Alex "Alexx" Carpenter of Minnesota ROKKR and Zach "Zed" Denyer of Paris Legion were part of other teams in the league, although they both finished in the bottom four.
Throughout that season, not a single EU player was picked up from Challengers, despite there being an abundance of trades and acquisitions being made by nearly every team.
But recruitment has slowly burned, especially in the 2023 campaign where picking up veterans on high contracts has become unviable for organisations, and now half of the teams competing at champs will boast players from the UK, France, or Denmark.
The emergence of Jamie "Insight" Craven, Paco "HyDra" Ruseiweiz, Charlie "Hicksy" Hicks, and Ben "Beans" McMellon in the last three years have now added to stalwarts such as Ben "Bance" Bance, Cameron "Cammy" McKilligan, and Tobias "CleanX" Juul Jønsson, all featuring on top-eight teams.
Now, with reigning Major champions New York Subliners, Major II champions Toronto Ultra, and resurgent Boston Breach and Minnesota ROKKR sides all sporting EU warriors, there's never been a more prudent opportunity for North America to be usurped.
The time is now for a European king of Call of Duty
The octet of Europeans aren't just here for another holiday in Vegas. In fact, just as the native French roulette tables will be spinning, there's another main attraction from the humble and vibrant home of the les Francais, who will be equally as breathtaking to watch roll around the halls of Breenbergh Hotel.
It feels like HyDra has been around forever, but this is actually only his second full season as a professional, having had his first stinted by visa woes. But the phenom has already become a staple of the League and is the favourite to be crowned as the 2023 MVP. So as he dons the crown, a certain ring is also on the cards.
New York come into Champs as the most in-form team in the league, after quite a silent and sneaky slither through the rankings with a Major V win. With SnD being their bread and butter at the moment, centred around HyDra's ability to break open sites and lurk in the most unexpected places which has seen him become the League's best performer in the game mode, the pivotal practice is one that cannot be understated given its tie-breaker potential in Game 5s.
Currently, HyDra is the best player in the game, and no one has ever been better-placed to be able to break open Europe's dusty trophy cabinet, as the phenom himself holds more than the expectations of a nation on his shoulders, but the entire region.
Turning consistency into a dynasty
Toronto Ultra has been flirting with greatness for some time now. Ever since CleanX stepped into the starting roster back in 2020 alongside Bance, their European influence has been one that has catapulted them to become a championship-calibre side. In just four outings in MW2019, CleanX turned Ultra from a top-eight side to a squad capable of winning Majors, and they've continued to build around his underrated dominance with players as equally familiar with football, not soccer.
The tissue has since been accompanied by Insight in the main AR role, whose Cold War breakout was nothing short of revolutionary, and now Hicksy as an SMG pairing. Insight particularly has proven to be one of the most clutch ARs in the league, and now partnered with the ever-explosive Thomas "Scrappy" Ernst, they've added a much-needed consistency in the slaying department.
Hicksy remains as the one anomaly that has not yet quite reached the familiar heights of Ultra's usually high-ranking placements, having performed prolifically in fits and spurs alongside CleanX, and the emphasis will be on the rookie to match up against the HyDra's, aBeZy's, Shottzy's, and Envoy's of the league if Ultra really want to get their first Champs success.
Ultra has won chips on every single Call of Duty title in the CDL era (if we count Vanguard's Kickoff Classic), being at the upper echelons of CoD esports for four years, but has never quite translated that to get over the line with a ring. But for Ultra, the team's usually methodical approach to games, balanced with dynamic takeover-ability and crucial transitions in Control that is unrivalled, needs to now translate to being the greatest team in Modern Warfare 2.
It's not quite a last-chance saloon for Ultra, but for years at the top with little to pay for it, there's likely going to be some ambitious players in the camp that yearn to achieve greatness, and now must be the time for them to better the runner-up Cold War placement by becoming a champion and be the first three players from Europe to get their mits on the elusive trophy.
A run of dreams, beans, and slaying machines
There's no denying that the likes of HyDra and CleanX have burst onto the scene with their flamboyance and frenzied habits, but Bance has stirred and evolved to mature like a fine wine over the years, mastering the basics and being a catalyst for his teammates.
Although he's not enjoyed the best year overall, there's been glimpses of the Bance we know and love in the twilight portion of the season, and now with Dillon "Attach" Price back in for a piece of his pie, a miracle run behind this LAN monster is not completely off the cards.
On the flip side of the Benjamin age arc, Beans is also moving his chips in the middle for an all-in call at Champs, having seen Boston pick up yet another rookie in hopes of a honeymoon buff.
Both ROKKR and Breach aren't expected to move past the fifth-to-sixth mark at Champs, but the skill level is becoming increasingly more level across the board, and if anyone looks prepared to pull off a miracle run, it's these two over the likes of Seattle Surge.
Bance especially always shows up for Champs, being donned as the greatest European Call of Duty player ever, and even if it's HyDra lifting the trophy at the end of the year, he'll have at least provided an assist, being the flagship pro of the region and a monumental icon.
For the region as a whole, the 2023 World Championships are absolutely vital. For teams to continue picking up young and exciting talents from across the pond, we need a champion to aspire to and set the tone. We need to show that the rookies can translate into rings. We need to win. Now is the time for a European champion, and these eight duellists have everything in their locker to become a record-breaker.