The Benelux League saw qualifiers begin last March, with the Best-of-One map double round-robin league kicking off a month later.
Now, two weeks after the regular season ended, the top six teams will play in an online Finals to battle for the title, the winner’s payout of €6,375, and for a spot in the 2021 FACEIT Challenger League season.
The eight teams that played this season included four from last year's BNL Cup and four new qualified rosters:
- GAMMA GAMING -- Leonski, Deapek, Avaiche, ASTRO, Prano, Sternab (Coach), and Phenomene (Analyst)
- Game Fist -- HughesDS, LNG, Krst, Smurfje, Cybrr, Deox (Coach), and Raven (Analyst)
- 4 Elements -- Lucania, Dxtch, Vapour, Jume, Bsaint, and Bard (Analyst)
- Activit-E Esports -- Youri, Karmaze, Hennessy, RaiDeN, Konkih, Alipali (Coach), and Huba (Analyst)
- Clutch Rayn eSport -- Zevroz, Voxsey, Nago, Notsu, Zydenn, and Jez1 (Coach)
- KV Mechelen Esports -- Duco, Kwekko, NNN1CK, Flixow, KaneB, Lance (Coach), Lumppuz (Coach), and Okidokie98 (Analyst)
- Red Falcons -- SlayerZz, GNXaknu, Panda, Veteran, Swarm, and Tony (Coach)
- Team 7AM -- Hoffo, Jonna, Locky, Mata, Sens and Conco (Analyst)
Following the retirement of Panix just before the first play day, GAMMA had been forced to play with a stand-in for the entirety of the first split. Initially, the team had brought in the ex-Na'Vi player of Joe for the first game, before blas and Phenomene shared the remaining six games.
This led to a number of surprising results, as GAMMA lost to KV Mechelen Esports (KVM), was taken to overtime in subsequent games, and could not progress past the Round-of-64 in the first Challenger League qualifier.
By the end of the split, the rest of the table had somewhat clumped together, with Game Fist and 7AM both tied on six points in sixth place, while just four points separated third from fifth. The lone team out of contention was Red Falcons, who only had a mere point to its name.
Following the 2021 Six Invitational and a series of changes in almost every team, the second half then saw the Red Falcons finish dead last with a totality of five points, while Game Fist jumped up into fifth place.
Near the top of the table, meanwhile, the top four teams remained where they had been seven play days prior, though the gap between each had opened up further.
This break had also allow GAMMA to finally fill its vacant player position with the former Team Secret player Prano. But despite the addition, even though the team managed 7-0 wins against both the Falcons and 7AM, GAMMA once again fell to second-placed KVM.
This means that GAMMA and KVM progress straight to the semi-finals, while the third to sixth-placed rosters of 4Elements, Activit-E, Game Fist, and Clutch Rayn all have to play an initial quarter-final match later today to meet them there.
Starting off with the four-time Benelux Champions, GAMMA will still definitely be the favourite to win the title and a spot in the Challenger League for the fifth time.
Despite this impressive domestic record, the GAMMA roster has not been unopposed. The team had lost the Season 2 title to the French Demise roster and had only narrowly won in Season 4 even though Epsilon had been playing with its manager standing in.
Nevertheless, with top-four finishes in the Challenger League during Season 9 and 11 under ESL, and the 2020 season under FACEIT, GAMMA remains the pride of the Benelux region.
Despite coming from the open qualifiers, KVM -- the esports division of the KV Mechelen Football Club in Belgium -- finished the season with only two defeats from 14 games, against Activit-E and Game Fist, having beaten GAMMA in both meetings.
This makes KVM the main challenger to GAMMA despite a six-point gap in the league table, which primarily stemmed from points lost in multiple overtime games.
A number of KVM's players have been in this position before as well, with Duco, MXKX, and Okidokie98 -- KVM's player, substitute, and analyst respectively -- all having been on the Sector One roster that had finished second last season.
Only time will tell, however, if KVM will be able to take GAMMA down this season.
After replacing the entire roster following a first-round exit from the Benelux Cup, the 4Elements organisation fared much better this season. This team instead managed to bounce back from a 0-7 loss on Day 1 to eventually end the group stage with four wins in a row.
Furthermore, since having signed the players of Lucania and Bsaint in the mid-season break, it has only lost to GAMMA and KVM.
This weekend will now be the team's final game with its star fragger Jume, as he had been announced as a Delta Project signing in June.
Next up, entering as the fourth seed will be Activit-E, which includes players from five different nations -- the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the UK.
This roster entered the league straight from the open qualifiers and made quite an impression in the first few weeks, being the only team to take GAMMA to overtime before beating KVM 7-4.
During the mid-season, it also added RaiDeN and Konkih to the roster, but lost a bit of ground after only securing nine points in the second half to its 13 in the first half. Still, the performance was enough for fourth in the standings.
After initially starting out with the core roster from the Benelux Cup runners-up, the current Game Fist roster only has LNG and the ex-Challenger League player HughesDS remaining.
Nevertheless, despite needing four different players to stand in during the season, the team went from near-relegation at the mid-point to a positive win record at the end, largely thanks to its new in-game-leader of Krst.
The Belgian-majority roster of Clutch Rayn here is the only finalist not fly a European Union flag, sporting three Belgian players and two Frenchmen.
Since finishing the Benelux Cup in joint third place, this team has made considerable changes that presented mixed results.
While the three Belgians stayed on the team throughout the season, both Frenchmen were replaced at the mid-season, with their replacements achieving lower ratings and the team securing three fewer points in the second half.
With an opening game against 4Elements -- a team that it had beaten 8-6 in the first half, but had lost 4-7 to in the second-half -- there is much that Clutch Rayn needs to improve upon.
The three-day schedule will kick off later today with the following schedule:
- 6 PM CEST -- Activit-E vs Game Fist
- 9 PM CEST -- 4Elements vs Clutch Rayn eSport
- 3 PM CEST -- GAMMA GAMING vs [winner of game one]
- 6 PM CEST -- KV Mechelen Esports vs [winner of game two]
- 4:30 PM CEST -- Grand-Final (between both of Saturday's victors)
These games will very likely be cast by the well-known faces of Stijn "Hap" Hapers, Thiadrik "Toldersma" Oldersma, Anthony "Anthox" Kremer, and Anne "FastAnne" Janssen, while Stephan "Easy" Kemin will likely observe the games.
These names are also likely to star in a showmatch happening prior to the grand final on Sunday, with Team Toldersma having defeated Team Hap during the Season 5 Finals, 8-7.
The full talent lineups will presumably be announced in the coming hours, while the showmatch teams will come in the next few days.
Check back here on Monday for full coverage of the BNL Finals including stats and news!