Asia’s first Psyonix-sponsored event takes place this weekend. We take you through everything you need to know about The Kickoff.
Despite its lack of inclusion in the upcoming RLCS Season X, the Asian region still has something to celebrate this weekend. APL Esports’ The Kickoff is the first Psyonix-backed event across both Asia and the Middle East, with each region battling it out for their share of the $45,500 prize pool. The Kickoff is both Asia's and the Middle East's biggest Rocket League event ever, and it's set to be a cracker...
ASIA - WILL ANYONE DETHRONE REALIZE AS THE KING OF ASIA?
Shogo “ReaLize” Ikeyama. When you think of Asia, you think of that name. ReaLize is undoubtedly the most popular player in the region thanks to his flashy mechanics and appearances in Oceanic tournaments under the Gaming Gamers banner. Although he has heavily considered moving to OCE in order to be able to compete in the RLCS, the pandemic has meant that, for now at least, he’s carried on his domination of the Asian region. Alongside Kanra (and, for most of their tournaments together, mikan too), he’s lost exactly two series’ in the last four months - both against Ooga Booga in the first Ketteisen Cup. Across the last three Ketteisen Cups, his Zoomer Remover side lost just twelve individual games as they took home three tournaments and the title of Asia’s best team. In both the third and fourth cups, ReaLize got the most points per game, scored the most goals per game and was in the top three for shots per game.
As the poster boy of Asian Rocket League, ReaLize now has a huge target on his back. For both of those aforementioned Ketteisen Cup, one player was breathing down his neck in the leaderboards - HANAGUMI’s Shoki “Burn” Minamigawa. Since joining TF Gaming his steady growth over the last year has resulted in some impressive performances. He finished the third and fourth Ketteisen Cups just behind the former Glory Stone star in terms of score per game. With HANAGUMI rising up the rankings, Burn could be the key to stopping ReaLize’s Team iXA from taking yet another Asian title.
MIDDLE EAST - WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO STOP SANDROCK GAMING
Ever since winning the third season of the Asia Pro League well over a year ago, Sandrock Gaming’s stocks have only risen and risen. They’re still yet to lose a series to another Middle Eastern team, with a grand final appearance in The European Invitational winning over fans from all over the world. With Khalid “oKhaliD” Qasim’s 1v1 plays, including his grand final appearance in The Salt Mine 2, SRG have been able to take down some of Europe’s best RLCS teams. However, whilst they’ve easily won ME events including the Kafu Games, The Kickoff is the first Middle Eastern tournament on a scale anywhere near as big as the ones that European sides are used to in the RLCS.
Their biggest competition is set to come from fellow invited side Forest Hunters, as well as qualified teams Momentum Shifters (no, not the ones who got banned), ASMR eSports and 5Head. Forest Hunters are the only other team here with experience in APL Esports events, having taken home The Clash Season 2 back in January. Momentum Shifters’ new-look roster looked impressive in the first Kickoff qualifier as they qualified through the upper bracket, as did ASMR (who qualified without losing a single game). The 5Head roster contains Sandrock’s former sub Fahad “Zez0nix” Ahmed and he’ll be looking to prove why he should’ve been on the starting roster the whole time.
“It’s tough to call who is the best, because almost every team is on either a roster change or new to the scene. However, I would say 5Head, Momentum Shifters, Forest Hunters and ASMR eSports.” - SENZO on Sandrock's biggest competition
With every team looking to knock Sandrock Gaming off of their perch, the Saudi Arabian trio will have some serious competition to see off if they’re to stroll to the Kickoff title as expected.
CAN THE JAPANESE TEAMS CONTINUE THEIR DOMINATION?
Heading into Sunday’s Asian event, four of the top five seeds are Japanese sides. Team iXA (ReaLize, Kanra, mikan) was invited as the top seed, meanwhile, VELLFiRE (Maru, Battlelain, tenhow), Xayfhers (akikansu, PLASMA, peseta) and HANAGUMI (OLPiX, Burn, shaolon) secured spots 3-5 by making it through the first qualifier. Having dominated the rest of Asia’s top teams in Ketteisen Cups and Kickoff qualifiers, the teams from the land of the rising sun have put themselves in prime position to secure some high finishes in the finals, and it’s hard not to back them.
However, they certainly won’t have it easy. Oryx Esports (Maxeew, LCT, Kaotik) comes in as the second seed and are certainly capable of handing defeats to all seven of their competitors. In the Ketteisen Cups, whilst playing with Misty instead of new third Maxeew, Oryx came close to taking iXA down on multiple occasions, with a thrilling seven-game series in the second Cup being the closest they got to a win. But when it comes to the rest of the Japanese teams, Oryx will be licking their lips at any possible ties. Against HANAGUMI, Maru and akikansu’s ex-team Panini and Xayfhers, Oryx’s record over the past three months is 11-1 (with 9 of the wins and the only loss coming against HANAGUMI). Even for the rest of South-East Asia’s top teams, the results are promising. OLPiX’s side were the only team to reach the top four in either of APL’s June Biweeklies (both of which were won by Oryx) and both Xayfhers and VELLFiRE weren’t seeded to qualify through the first bracket. At the end of the day, it could be either sub-region to take down the other.
- Read More - Rosters to Watch for The Kickoff Qualifiers
WHEN AND WHERE TO WATCH IT:
The Kickoff starts tomorrow (July 11th) with the Middle East finals at 4pm BST. Asia follows on Sunday at 10am BST. In each event, the eight teams will be split into two four-team double-elimination groups, with two teams per group qualifying for the single-elimination playoffs. The matches will be broadcast at APL_Esports and APL_EsportsB on Twitch, with Asia’s B stream being cast in Japanese.
It’s set to be an incredible weekend of action and you can find more coverage on GGRecon over the course of the weekend.