Envy player yay on the left and Sentinels player dapr on the right walk out on stage and bump fists
Envy player yay on the left and Sentinels player dapr on the right walk out on stage and bump fists

Top 10 North American esports orgs of 2021

by Nerd Street

Looking back on 2021, 10 esports organizations stood out for their accomplishments across the North American esports landscape. From winning championships domestically to doing well on the international stage, these 10 orgs were the best in North America in 2021. Some of these orgs did well across multiple esports, whereas some dominated in just one or two. A couple stood out for being among the best in several esports.

One note on these rankings: some of these orgs have rosters in games that compete in other regions – for example Team Liquid’s VALORANT squad represents Europe and so does FaZe Clan’s CS:GO team. These results were not a factor in these rankings. We looked solely at the results from teams that compete as North American teams and represented NA on the international stage.

10. TSM

Photo credit: Riot Games

TSM have a long and storied history in esports, but 2021 really wasn’t their year. They still cracked our top 10, but they failed to live up to expectations or achieve better results across most of the games they compete in. Their best finish on the international stage was a fourth-place finish at the Six Invitational in Rainbow Six Siege. The org also had a strong result in Apex Legends. Their Apex Legends team has been one of the best in the world since the start of Apex esports, and this year they finished third at the ALGS NA Championship.

Everywhere else though, they fell short of expectations. In League of Legends, the team signed 2020 Worlds finalist Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Chieh, but failed to qualify for MSI or Worlds in 2021. Their best result was finishing first in the LCS 2021 Summer Split, but they fell flat in the LCS Championship. In VALORANT, TSM failed to follow up their second-place finish at First Strike North America last year with any high placements or international appearances in 2021. Given their history, they’ll likely bounce back and end up higher on this list in 2022.

– Brian Bencomo

9. Version1

Photo credit: Riot Games

Version1 have teams in Rocket League, Call of Duty League and VALORANT, and they had some decent success this year with their VALORANT and Call of Duty rosters.

The biggest accomplishment is the Minnesota ROKKR’s win in the CDL Major V. Even if it wasn’t the biggest event in all of esports, the comeback story is top tier. The ROKKR were playing the Toronto Ultra in the final. The Ultra took the first four maps in the best-of-nine series, and it was looking really bad for Version1’s CoD League team. To the surprise of many watching, the ROKKR came back and reverse swept the Ultra, making it one of the most improbable comebacks in esports history one of the best moments of 2021.

Their VALORANT roster gained some attention after they made it to the Stage 2 Masters event, Masters: Reykjavík. Anthony “vanity” Malaspina gave the iconic Version1 cat ears life, and their rowdy on-stage presence caught the attention of many VALORANT fans. Their run in the tournament was cut short though by Fnatic, and they finished 5th-6th at the 10-team tournament.

– Jessica Scharnagle

8. Spacestation Gaming

Photo credit: Siege.GG

Spacestation were the best North American team in Rainbow Six Siege this year. They finished first in two of the three stages of the North American League. They also represented NA at both international majors and the Six Invitational.

In Rocket League, Spacestation’s squad finished second to NRG in the RLCS X NA Championship. An NA championship likely would have vaulted them a bit higher on this list. Reaching the RLCS Fall Major – the first Rocket League international LAN in two years – would have also helped. They just missed out on qualifying, losing a tiebreaker match to Complexity.

– Bencomo

7. Team Liquid

Photo credit: ESL

Team Liquid had another strong showing in the League Championship Series this year. They were runners-up in the LCS Championship which made them one of the three NA teams to book their trip to the League of Legends World Championship. They also were runners-up at the Mid-Season Showdown. Unfortunately, only one NA team gets to go to the Mid-Season Invitational, so they just missed out on MSI.

In CS:GO, they showed all year that they were the best North American team in the scene, bookending their year with fourth-place finishes at the Blast Premier World Final in January and the Global Final in December. Juan “Hungrybox” Debiedma also showed he’s still one of the best Smash Melee players around as he finished third at Smash Summit 11 and second at Mainstage 2021.

– Bencomo

6. NRG

Photo credit: Epic Games

The only disappointing aspect of NRG’s RLCS X season is the fact that they didn’t have the opportunity to play for a world championship at the end. That was through no fault of their own, of course, as the event was canceled due to COVID.

In lieu of international play, NRG had to settle for a North American championship, which came on the heels of wins at the region’s winter and spring majors. The Rocket League team isn’t off to a shabby start in the 2021-22 season, either, finishing second at the recent fall major, which featured competitors from a whopping six different regions,

NRG also had strong finishes elsewhere, with its franchises the San Francisco Shock and OpTic Chicago finishing fourth in the Overwatch playoffs and Call of Duty League Championship, respectively. NRG got out of CDL altogether at season’s end, which, while not necessarily impacting their finish in these rankings, just leaves one less opportunity for the org to bring home hardware in the new year.

– Andrew Kulp

5. FaZe Clan

Photo credit: Call of Duty League

Although FaZe didn’t match the sheer volume of accomplishments of several of the top orgs in 2021, their biggest, most notable championship of the year was among the most impressive.

Few teams so completely dominated an esports scene the way the Atlanta FaZe did from start to finish in the Call of Duty League 2021 season. Not only did they win the CDL championship but, by the time they got there, that outcome felt inevitable, as FaZe also won three of five majors and finished as runners-up in a fourth. And only after the fact did we learn half the team almost didn’t make Champs thanks to COVID.

FaZe also expanded in ‘21, signing The Peeps in the Rocket League Championship Series — a top-six squad in the NA region that finished top four at the Fall Major. FaZe also had a strong debut in the Halo Championship Series with a third-place finish at the Kickoff Major in Raleigh. The org is still a player to keep an eye out for in a number of other scenes as well, so it will not be a surprise to see them vault into a higher spot in the 2022 rankings.

– Kulp

4. 100 Thieves

Photo credit: Riot Games

100 Thieves have less meaningful results than some of the North American organizations on our list, but it’s the quality of the events that really made a difference. Not only did 100 Thieves show up big in VALORANT at Masters: Berlin as one of North America’s two semifinalists, but the organization also came away with its first League Championship Series title this summer.

That title also earned 100 Thieves North America’s No. 1 seed at the League of Legends World Championship, where the team finished 3-3 in a group featuring the eventual champion, EDward Gaming. VALORANT and League of Legends are some of the most competitive esports in the scene right now, and although 100 Thieves’ placement is hurt for not sealing the deal at a bigger international tournament, a strong presence in both solidified 100 Thieves as one of the best NA organizations of the year.

– Xander Torres

3. Sentinels

Photo credit: Riot Games

Most of Sentinels’ success came from VALORANT. Although they also have teams in Fortnite, Halo and Apex Legends, Sentinels were only highly successful in VALORANT.

Sentinels have been a dominant team throughout the year in VALORANT, save for the very end of the season, where the team started to fall flat. They won the North American Masters tournament and Masters: Reykjavík, one of the biggest victories for a North American team at an international event. They made it out of groups at Masters: Berlin, but they lost in the quarterfinals, and at Champions, they didn’t make it out of groups.

Although they lost their steam later in the year, Sentinels were a powerhouse for most of the year in VALORANT, winning almost every tournament they entered and marking themselves as the team to beat pretty early on in the year.

– Scharnagle

2. Cloud9

Photo credit: Riot Games

Few organizations have strong results across multiple esports, but Cloud9 has always been one of the best in this regard. Between its League of Legends team being the first North American team to advance from the Worlds group stage since 2019 (when Cloud9 also advanced) and its Halo team winning the Halo Championship Series Kickoff Major in Raleigh earlier this month, it’s clear that depth and results were on Cloud9’s side this year.

Cloud9 also enjoyed incredible success in VALORANT this year with Cloud9 White winning all three North American Game Changers tournaments -- also being the only organization to qualify for all three events -- and Cloud9 Blue picking up the slack for North America as the region’s only bracket representative at Champions. Throw in Joseph “Mang0” Marquez’s huge win in Super Smash Bros. Melee at Smash Summit 11 and Cloud9 was not only everywhere in a way most organizations weren’t -- they were winning.

– Torres

1. Envy

Photo credit: Riot Games

No team came close to winning as much in high-profile esports as Envy did. Envy have teams that had good results in VALORANT, Overwatch, Call of Duty, Rocket League, Smash and Halo Infinite.

In VALORANT, they made it to the grand final at Masters: Berlin and were one of the three teams representing North America at Champions. In Overwatch, Envy’s Dallas Fuel finished third overall in the Overwatch League 2021 playoffs and they won the May Melee tournament. In Call of Duty, they finished third at the CDL 2021 Championship and second at Major IV. Envy’s Rocket League roster finished 3rd-4th at the RLCS Season X NA Championship and were one of the five NA teams at the Fall Major.

Recently, their Halo Infinite roster, who are competing under the OpTic Gaming banner, scored 5th-6th in the Halo Championship Series Kickoff Major in Raleigh, which isn’t a bad start for a brand new iteration of Halo esports.

– Scharnagle

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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