Chaos will descend upon Orlando, Florida August 9-13 as 32 of the world's best Call of Duty teams will challenge for the right to be crowned 2017 Call of Duty World Champions. And if the bragging rights aren't enough, first place will walk away with a tidy $600,000 for their troubles. The competition will begin with eight groups of pool play, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the championship bracket.
Here's a preview of the teams expected to advance from Groups A through D.
Group A: OpTic Gaming, Epsilon Esports, Echo Fox, 3sUP Enterprises
Expected to advance: OpTic Gaming, Epsilon Esports
Who will go furthest: OpTic Gaming
OpTic Gaming historically have had no trouble during the group stages of major events, and that trend should continue here, especially given the competition residing in this pool. It's the championship bracket that has proved to be particularly troubling for the Green Wall, but that's a discussion for another time.
While Epsilon Esports' current roster has been near the top of the European circuit for the majority of the season, recent struggles don't paint a promising picture for a long run through the Call of Duty World Championships. A particularly brutal weekend during Group Green of the CWL Global Pro League Stage 2 (where Epsilon Esports posted a 0-6 record against the likes of OpTic, Team EnVyUs and Cloud9) is certainly a large blemish, but it shouldn't wipe away the success the unit has had throughout the season.
Group B: Team EnVyUs, eLevate, Projekt Evil, Mindfreak.Black
Expected to advance: EnVyUs, eLevate
Who will go furthest: EnVyUs
While the sting of losing to OpTic Gaming twice in the grand finals of the CWL Stage 2 Playoffs likely won't go away anytime soon, it's been a miraculous turnaround for the Boys in Blue after the worst placement (21st-24th) in the history of the organization at the CWL Anaheim Open. Fans need only point to last year as evidence to what a still-peaking EnVyUs is capable of, as the team ran roughshod through the 2016 World Championships en route to a first-place finish despite struggling throughout the season.
Who will emerge as the second team from Group B is still very much up in the air, as each of the remaining squads could make a reasonable argument for the honor. I'll lean towards eLevate, simply because it possesses the best individual talent - Jordan "Reedy" Reed - of the trio. While it, too, finished 0-6 in pool play during Group Blue of the CWL Global Pro League Stage 2, eLevate was placed in arguably the hardest group of the bunch. It won't be facing the likes of FaZe Clan, Enigma6 Group and Ghost Gaming in Group B, and I suspect their struggles in Stage 2 could serve as a wakeup call.
Group C: eUnited, Mindfreak, Team Infused, Lethal Gaming
Expected to advance: eUnited, Mindfreak
Who will go furthest: eUnited
eUnited are simply one of the best teams in competitive Call of Duty and should have no trouble making it through a relatively easy group. With former FaZe Clan in-game leader James "Clayster" Eubanks in tow, eUnited are expected to contend for first place overall, not just from Group C.
Much like Group B, however, Group C could see an array of different teams step forward as the second seed. Lethal Gaming loom as a potential upstart roster hungry to step into the spotlight, but Mindfreak have a wealth of experience, having dominated the APAC (Asia-Pacific) region for the majority of 2017. And if that doesn't sell you on them, it has the best talent of the three teams in Denholm "Denz" Taylor who was even being considered by Cloud9 earlier this year according to various reports.
Group D: Luminosity Gaming, Rise Nation, Supremacy, Team Vitality
Expected to advance: Luminosity Gaming, Rise Nation
Who will go furthest: Luminosity Gaming
You can basically wipe away the "expected" part above, because it's pretty clear who are the top two teams in this group. Simply put, it would be stunning to see Luminosity Gaming unable to advance as it should be considered one of the overall favorites to take home the title this year. As has been the case all year, LG will go as far as slayer Sam "Octane" Larew can take them and a cakewalk to start the tournament should only help matters.
While Rise Nation have put together a dismal portfolio (for them) in 2017, it simply is better than two of the last teams from Europe to qualify for the tournament - Supremacy and Team Vitality. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Rise bow out of CoD Champs soon after clinching the second spot from Group D, but that still might be considered a positive for a team that is too talented to have struggled for this long.