VCT LOCK//IN groups, matchups and schedule

by Brian Bencomo

After months of speculation about how Riot Games would structure a 30-team VALORANT tournament, we finally have an answer. Riot has invited two Chinese teams to compete alongside the 30 partnered VCT teams from the Americas, EMEA and Pacific regions to make a 32-team single elimination bracket for VCT LOCK//IN.

That’s right, it’s going to be single elimination, which means 16 teams will be out after one best-of-three series. There’s no seeding. Instead, Riot has basically randomized the matchups and made all 16 initial matchups inter-regional, so no Americas vs. Americas, EMEA vs. EMEA or Pacific vs. Pacific matchups to start.

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The teams have been sorted into either Group Alpha or Group Omega, which constitute the two sides of the 32-team bracket. Group Alpha will play out their matches first until two teams are left. Then Group Omega will begin play and proceed accordingly. The semifinals of the tournament will essentially be the finals of each group, and the grand final will pit the winners of each group. The semifinals and final will be best-of-five. The winner of the tournament will earn their region an extra slot at Masters Tokyo in June.

Before the tournament kicks off Feb. 13 in Sao Paolo, Brazil, here are the groups, matchups and schedule followed by a short breakdown.

Image credit: Riot Games

Group Alpha

  • KOI
  • NRG
  • Detonation FocusMe
  • Giants
  • Gen.G
  • LOUD
  • FPX
  • Karmine Corp
  • BBL Esports
  • DRX
  • Cloud9
  • Paper Rex
  • Team Heretics
  • Evil Geniuses
  • MIBR
  • Talon Esports

Read more: The 2023 VCT Americas partner teams’ rosters

Group Omega

  • Team Liquid
  • Team Secret
  • NAVI
  • KRÜ Esports
  • ZETA Division
  • Leviatán
  • Team Vitality
  • Global Esports
  • FUT Esports
  • Rex Regnum Qeon
  • 100 Thieves
  • EDward Gaming
  • Sentinels
  • Fnatic
  • T1
  • FURIA

Photo credit: Riot Games

Matchups and schedule (all times ET)

Feb. 13

  • 12 p.m. -- KOI vs. NRG
  • 3 p.m. -- Detonation FocusMe vs. Giants
  • 6 p.m. -- Gen.G vs. LOUD

Feb. 14

  • 12 p.m. -- FPX vs. Karmine Corp
  • 3 p.m. -- BBL Esports vs. DRX
  • 6 p.m. -- Cloud9 vs. Paper Rex

Feb. 15

  • 12 p.m. -- Team Heretics vs. Evil Geniuses
  • 3 p.m. -- MIBR vs. Talon Esports

Feb. 16

  • No matches

Feb. 17-19

  • Group Alpha winner’s matchups

Feb. 20-21

  • No matches

Feb. 22

  • 12 p.m. -- Team Liquid vs. Team Secret
  • 3 p.m. -- NAVI vs. KRÜ Esports
  • 6 p.m. -- ZETA Division vs. Leviatán

Feb. 23

  • 12 p.m. -- Team Vitality vs. Global Esports
  • 3 p.m. -- FUT Esports vs. Rex Regnum Qeon
  • 6 p.m. -- 100 Thieves vs. EDward Gaming

Feb. 24

  • 12 p.m. -- Sentinels vs. Fnatic
  • 3 p.m. -- T1 vs. FURIA

Feb. 25-27

  • Group Omega winner’s matchups

Feb. 28 - March 1

  • No matches

March 2

  • 12 p.m. ET -- Semifinal 1

March 3

  • 12 p.m. ET -- Semifinal 2

March 4

  • 12 p.m. ET -- Grand final

Photo credit: Riot Games

LOCK//IN matchups highlights and predictions

The matchups that immediately stand out are KOI vs. NRG, Cloud9 vs. Paper Rex, NAVI vs. KRÜ, ZETA Division vs. Leviatán and Sentinels vs. Fnatic. On paper, these should be some of the best teams in the world, so these matchups should be intense and fairly even. KOI vs. NRG and Sentinels vs. Fnatic are both fun North America vs. Europe matchups. Sentinels vs. Fnatic is a rematch of the very first VALORANT international final, Masters Reykjavík 2021. The two teams’ rosters are very different now than they were in 2021, but Tyson “TenZ” Ngo is still on Sentinels and Fnatic still has Jake “Boaster” Howlett and Nikita “Derke” Sirmitev.

There are many interesting possibilities beyond the initial matchups depending on how the bracket plays out. In Group Omega, we could get 100 Thieves vs. Sentinels or Fnatic to determine one Group Omega semifinalist. In the other half of Group Omega, NAVI and Team Liquid will likely face each other in the second round, and the winner of their matchup would be a favorite to reach the tournament semifinals.

In Group Alpha, we could get NRG vs. LOUD to determine one of the group’s semifinalists. This would be reminiscent of the OpTic vs. LOUD matchup we saw six times last year. Pujan "FNS" Mehta, Austin "crashies" Roberts and Victor "Victor" Wong are now with NRG, while Matias "Saadhak" Delipetro, Erick "aspas" Santos and Felipe "Less" Basso remain with LOUD. In the other half of Group Alpha, the winner of Cloud9 vs. Paper Rex will likely face DRX, and the winner of that matchup is likely bound for the semifinals.

My semifinalists are:

  • NRG
  • DRX
  • NAVI
  • 100 Thieves

Lead image created via photos from Riot Games

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