Banner image: Ubisoft / @itsmeERROR
This weekend, four teams will meet in the North American SI 2023 Closed Qualifier for a final chance to qualify for the Six Invitational 2023.
From Saturday to Sunday, the four teams will face each other in a double-elimination bracket. The semi-finals and the finals rounds are expected to be played on the Jan. 21, while the grand-final will be played on the subsequent day.
Spacestation Gaming in 2022 were unrecognizable from their title-win that will soon be three years-old. After attending every single international event since their Six Invitational 2020 victory, their streak came to an end when they missed out on the Charlotte Major in May 2022 and then also the Berlin Major in Aug. 2022.
Spacestation Gaming’s fifth-place finish in the first stage of the year was followed by a ninth-place finish in the second, which put them well out of the top 16 in the Global SI Points standings.
Heading to the final stage of the year, Spacestation Gaming decided to sign Alexander “Yeti” Lawson. It was a somewhat surprising move when looking at his SiegeGG Ratings for Stages 1 and 2 – he only had figures of 0.93 and 0.86, respectively.
Despite his prior performances with the Soniqs, Yeti slotted in smoothly with SSG. He became the third-best player in the league by SiegeGG Rating and got his new team to the Jönköping Major. However, they were quickly sent home after finishing in third place of the tournament’s group of death despite some bright performances.
Now, Spacestation Gaming must win the qualifier in order to play at what could be their fifth Invitational. Alongside Team Liquid and FaZe Clan, they are the only team to not have missed a single Six Invitational edition since 2019 and will be keen to keep their streak alive.
Last year’s winners TSM are in a very delicate position, as they could be the first defending champions to miss out on the Six Invitational.
While they started the year poorly and missed out on the Six Charlotte Major and the Six Berlin Major, TSM were invited to the Gamers8 tournament in Saudi Arabia and used that opportunity well. Nick “Snake” Janis had been loaned to the world champions from Challenger League side Vipers eSports for a trial, though he only played in the first game of the competition due to a positive COVID-19 test by the end of the day.
Despite his lack of game time, Snake later permanently signed for TSM. Later on, the team completed their Stage 3 team by signing Aqualix player Keegan “Gasher” Slovensky, who came to replace the Soniqs-bound Emlio “Geometrics” Léynez.
With new blood in the team, the Six Invitational 2022 champions finished at the top of the NAL in Stage 3, qualifying for the Jönköping Major.
While Geometrics’ Soniqs sent TSM home in the quarter-finals 2-1, it was a vital confidence-builder ahead of the NA SI 2023 Closed Qualifier and was a good indicator of progress.
However, TSM are familiar with this environment. They had been in a similar position last year, having won the title after starting their run through the Closed Qualifier and will be a favourite to do it again.
Mirage were only able to secure 12 points across stages one and two and had become the subject of many a Reddit essay as a result. But things changed in Stage 3, where they beat their combined tally from earlier in the year by two points, thus securing them a trip to the Jönköping Major.
This was largely thanks to the additions of former Spacestation trialist and near-permanent signing Lorenzo “Dexter” Albiero and Jesse “Mohesse” Sheffield, former Arial Arise.
Despite the improvements, the Mirage were sent home early as they finished as the bottom team in Group D. However, there were signs of their quality, as they pushed Wolves Esports to maximum overtime and defeated Dire Wolves once.
Mirage’s roster for the NA SI 2023 Closed Qualifier will be slightly different to the one that played in Sweden, though, as they have since parted ways with Tyler “Kento” Ross. While his replacement is still unknown, the former DarkZero Esports player Paul “Hyper” Kontopanagiotis competed as Mirage’s provisional fifth player in the SI 2023 North America Open Qualifier.
Last but not least, the only non-professional contenders, Reality TV, are ready to run at the three top-flight teams.
The Challenger League side was awarded a spot in the SI 2023 Closed Qualifier after winning the second open qualifier and getting to the grand-final in the first, where they lost to Mirage by 1-2.
They were also the best team in the North American Challenger League, after finishing in second place in the regular standings and then defeating Arial Arise 3-1 in the NA Challenger League 2022 grand-final.
However, the team now looks slightly different since they won the tier-two competition. Jaidan "Packer", Reality TV’s best-rated player in the NA CL 2022 Finals, joined Parabellum Esports back in Nov. 2022. One month later, Gaven “Gaveni” Isaac joined DarkZero Esports.
Thus, heading into the open qualifiers, RealityTV added “Valorr” and former Aqualix player “Hat” to the squad. Despite the sizeable changes, they still made it to the NA SI 2023 Closed Qualifiers after which former Luminosity Gaming player Jason “Ryce” Ngo joined the squad in January to replace Valorr.
Reality TV also have had changes in their staff lineup. The team’s coach, “Fetuccine” joined Mirage as an assistant coach, with the former TSM player Khalil “b1ologic” Pleas joining the Challenger League side as their new coach instead.
Catch the NA Closed Qualifier on Jan. 21, starting at 9 AM PST (UTC-8).
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