The Rocket League Championship Series is set to hold its first World Championship tournament since 2019 beginning Aug. 4 -- but don’t dare call it a return to normalcy.
Seven regions will be represented among the 24 teams at this year’s Worlds, making this by far the biggest international event in RLCS history. And while some historically great Rocket League orgs like G2, Dignitas, and defending champs NRG will be among the competition, new challengers like Moist Esports, Team Falcons and many more are disrupting the esport’s ecosystem.
One of the biggest disruptors this season has been FaZe Clan, finishing second in the North American region rankings to bypass the wild card round (Aug. 4-7) and qualify for a spot in the tournament’s main event (Aug. 9-14).
FaZe are a relative newcomer to the RLCS scene, acquiring The Peeps’ roster in 2021, but the team has since become a model of consistency, winning two regional events and finishing no worse than fourth in all three splits this season. They also were in the top four at two of the three Majors.
“I knew we’d just keep improving every season and every split,” said Austin “AYYJAYY” Aebi, the roster’s longest tenured player, in an interview with Nerd Street.
At 19 years of age and weeks away from the biggest moment of his career, AYYJAYY spoke about Worlds and FaZe’s improvement with a sort of understated confidence.
“It’s hard to be nervous when you’re just prepared to the best of your ability,” he said. “We’ve been scrimming a lot more recently than the rest of the season … just talking as a team whenever issues come up and trying to figure it out, have a good mentality going into Worlds.”
Yet, he’s also honest about the challenge that lies ahead. AYYJAYY went to Worlds as a member of Rogue in RLCS Season 7 and finished 3rd-4th, so he has experience on the biggest big stage. And FaZe know as well as anybody just how dangerous some of the international teams from smaller regions really are, having already lost to fellow main event qualifiers FURIA (South America) and Team Falcons (Middle East and North Africa).
Photo credit: Psyonix
“I think we’ll be surprised by some of the minor regions and other regions in this tournament,” he said. “You saw at Gamers Without Borders -- FURIA won and Falcons made it super far. Same with London -- Falcons made it to the finals.
“It’s like a new era of Rocket League where other regions are making it far into tournaments, so who knows how Worlds will go.”
FaZe Clan’s plan of attack
AYYJAYY is counting on FaZe being able to draw on every bit of experience he and his teammates have -- the big things and the little stuff; the good and the bad -- to be able to elevate their play when it matters most.
Most recently, that means going back and learning from their defeats at the hands of FURIA and Falcons in the Spring Major, the resulting 9th-12th finish perhaps FaZe’s most disappointing of the season.
“It matters a lot,” AYYJAYY said. “That was all of our first time playing them as a team. Usually you’re bad the first time, so if we get to rematch it, it should be better for us with that experience.”
That sense of optimism is probably warranted given the upward trajectory FaZe have been on seemingly all season. And the feeling is the team is still becoming the best version of itself since it acquired Caden “Sypical” Pellegrin in January, a move AYYJAYY believes gave the group more of a killer instinct, as evidenced by their victory in the final NA regional before the Spring Major.
“We just had trouble with closing out series, which would’ve got us a couple more regional events,” AYYJAYY said. “But in the third split, we cleaned that up a bit. [Sypical] had more ice, I guess you would say.”
“I think it was just more about our confidence … talking it out as a team and just figuring out what made people uncomfortable and fix the issues that we had.”
Photo credit: Psyonix
Sypical also gives FaZe another player with Worlds experience, having been a part of the Spacestation Gaming team that finished 3rd-4th in RCLS Season 8. With Jason “Firstkiller” Corral rounding out the trio and getting valuable experience in major LAN events this season, the roster is looking every bit as formidable as the team’s seeding would indicate.
“We have an advantage on LAN because of our experience,” AYYJAYY said. “It’s growing every event that we have, and it’s good that we made all three regionals since Firstkiller was kind of new to LANs.
“Sypical already had a lot of experience, and so did I. Now that we all three have it, it’s helping us out a lot, I’d say.”
Who and what is FaZe worried about at Worlds?
Still, AYYJAYY is cognizant of the fact that not only can anything happen once the games get underway, it likely will.
Asked to give a prediction (besides, ya know, FaZe winning the whole thing), he suggested that the eight main event teams are far from safe from their wild card brethren.
“I think that one of the top teams will get upset pretty early,” AYYJAYY said. “I’m not sure which one, but I think it’s something that’s gonna happen.”
As Mike Tyson famously quipped, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
Photo credit: Psyonix
Despite that thought and FaZe’s previous troubles with opponents from less-heralded regions, the team AYYJAYY admitted he is most concerned about is Moist Esports, the No. 1 seed coming out of Europe. Moist, which acquired the Team Queso roster in May, won the Spring Major and were runners-up at the Winter Major after their season got off to a slow start.
“They’re just really tough to beat on LAN with their playstyle, their communication and their gameplay,” he said.
Regardless of how it all plays out exactly, AYYJAYY is happy to be in this position with FaZe, playing alongside two of his “dream teammates.”
And while the goal is obviously to become a world champion this month at 19, win or lose, he promises “there’s a lot more events to come for us.”
“If we made a lot of improvements as a team and gotten better together, then I’d say it’s still a success for getting better for the future tournaments,” AYYJAYY said. “But obviously we want to win and it will suck if we don’t.”
Lead photo credit: Psyonix