Three teams look to prove themselves in the upcoming tournament.
The Countdown Cup is coming quickly as teams know it is one last chance to prove themselves before the playoffs begin. The bonus wins that can be earned will have massive implications as many teams look to make a push for a playoff spot. These three teams are looking to make a big splash and fans should keep their eyes on them as the Countdown Cup projects to be an entertaining tournament.
The Philadelphia Fusion aren't in need of the bonus wins provided by this tournament, but they would definitely appreciate the extra prize money. Beyond that, this team is looking to finally take first place after falling short to the Paris Eternal in the Summer Showdown. After failing to take down the San Francisco Shock in their most recent matchups as well, the Fusion want to prove they can beat anyone in North America. Although their roster proved talented in the Summer Showdown, they decided that in order to take down the best, they needed to switch something up. They did this by experimenting with their DPS lineup after Josh "Eqo" Corona seemed to slow down after the tournament. With various combinations of Seung-hyun "Ivy" Lee and Hee-Su "Heesu" Jeong coming in, at times they even substituted out star DPS player Jae-hyeok "Carpe" Lee to take advantage of maps and matchups.
At first glance, this might raise a few eyebrows, but the idea isn't as outlandish as it seems at first glance. The Fusion actually fell prey to a similar strategy in the Summer Showdown as the Paris Eternal were creative with their roster and substituting out Yeong-han "SP9RK1E" Kim and Ki-hyo "Xzi" Jung for several maps throughout the competition. This added versatility is going to provide the Fusion with more strategies to employ as well as causing a headache for opposing teams to plan against. Carpe has such a large reputation for a reason, but being able to deploy these other players effectively gives the Fusion an edge they hope will take them to the top.
Over in the APAC Conference, the Chengdu Hunters are going to be one of the most-watched teams in this tournament. After earning the second place seed by quickly developing a strong composition in the hero pool they were playing in, fans began to respect the Hunters. It wasn't rare to see them ranked as one of the top two teams in their conference, but expectations should be kept in check as the hero pool has opened up again for this tournament. After many teams adapted to Chengdu's playstyle, no one seemed to think it was the strongest one the hero pool was removed. It is up to the Hunters to prove they can use their composition against more established strategies, or adapt themselves to the playstyle they haven't executed as well this season. The season has overall been disappointing for the Hunters, but this could prove they can compete against the top teams in their conference. If they can pull off an underdog run, the bonus wins earned could give them a massive boost in their playoff position.
The Seoul Dynasty have been unable to consistently prove they can beat top teams like the Shanghai Dragons and Guangzhou Charge. Luckily for them, they don't have to play them until the finals if they make it. The Countdown Cup is a wide-open window for this team, as their side of the bracket is relatively weak. All of the teams they could face are beatable, and that could mean big things for the Dynasty. At 8-11, the Dynasty sit just below mid-table for the overall season, but even two bonus wins could see them move up as high as eighth. The Dynasty have the potential to make a splash in the postseason as the roster has shown flashes of brilliance several times throughout the season, but their inconsistency has haunted them. Taking a few wins in this tournament would not only give them confidence but some much-needed positioning for the overall season playoffs. If the Dynasty can compete here, they might be able to pull together into the team that has been expected of them all season long. It will all come down to their first match of the tournament when they face the Hangzhou Spark. The Spark have been inconsistent as well, and if the Dynasty are going to change anyone's view, they will have to beat this roster that is looking to prove themselves just as much as Seoul is.
The Countdown Cup will prove to be entertaining as the past few weeks have seen lots of roster experimentation and meta developments. As the final tournament before the season playoffs, teams realize that this could be their last chance to make an impact on their season with prize money and bonus wins on the line. After the Summer Showdown provided us with an abundance of upsets, this Cup could repeat the trend. Fans should keep an eye on these teams specifically as they hope to change our views and respect them as threats to the top teams in the league.
Images via Blizzard Entertainment