With VALORANT releasing in 2020 amid the COVID pandemic, opportunities for the best VALORANT players in the world to play in front of crowds were few and far between in the game’s first couple years. It wasn’t until 2022 that Riot Games allowed crowds in attendance for VALORANT Champions Tour events.
Last year, European players got a chance to play in front of their fans for international VCT events, and Japanese players got a chance to play in front of their fans for a couple of high level regional events. Earlier this year, Brazilian players had a home crowd for VCT LOCK//IN.
Now, it’s finally time for North American players to play in front of their home fans with the start of the VCT Americas league in Los Angeles beginning April 1. “We're excited. We're really f---ing excited,” Evil Geniuses head coach Christine “potter” Chi told Nerd Street. “I've been around for so long that it's like that feeling of walking into LAN for the first time and seeing things like opening your eyes, you're just like, holy s---. That's where they're at right now. So it's really cool. They're very excited.”
Sentinels’ Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, arguably the biggest star in VALORANT, has played in front of crowds in Counter-Strike: Global offensive, but not in VALORANT until earlier this year at LOCK//IN.
“I think it's amazing,” he said. “I remember one of the things from before when I played CS was the crowd was always so cool, just playing on LAN. And having an audience, they're watching you play, it definitely -- it gives adrenaline I'd say. It's really exciting.”
NRG’s Austin “crashies” Roberts is used to having the crowd going against his team. The European crowds were against him and his OpTic Gaming teammates last year, and the Brazilian crowd at LOCK//IN was definitely against NRG earlier this year due to OpTic’s rivalry with LOUD last year.
NRG will finally play VALORANT in front of a crowd that will likely cheer for them. Photo credit: Riot Games
“Obviously, it's super exciting for us just because on our old team on OpTic, we've been to mostly every international event, we've never really had a home crowd before,” he said. “So it'll definitely be like a new experience for all of us, and I think it'll be a very cool experience at that.”
Sentinels coach Syyko, who first got into esports during the height of the pandemic, has gone from seeing his teams compete from home when everything was online to having his former team XSET compete in front of European crowds last year. XSET got the full crowd experience in Istanbul at Champions.
“The Turkish fans were actually really incredible,” Syyko said. “I was really amazed at how willing Turkish fans were to like cheer for XSET and kind of get behind this whole villain thing that I was doing on the stage where I was kind of antagonizing the European crowd, and I expected people to just hate it, but a lot of people really enjoyed it, and we made a lot of really cool fans out there. So I'm really excited to have the home crowd.”
In Brazil, Syyko played to the crowd with Sentinels having two Brazilian players on the roster. In addition to his signature suit, Syyko wore sunglasses with the Brazilian flag on them.
Sentinels coach Syyko interacts with fans at VCT LOCK//IN. Photo credit: Riot Games
Cloud9 coach Matthew “mCe” Ellmore also enjoyed playing in front of a crowd in Brazil as well as Red Bull Home Ground late last year.
“I think it's gonna be really cool to interact with the crowd,” he said. “We were lucky enough to play in front of a crowd both in London for the Red Bull tournament, and in Brazil, and it was really awesome getting to interact with fans and see them interact, take pictures, talk to them just going up, so I'm very excited because there's a lot of very passionate VALORANT fans in North America, so hopefully they can come out.”
What the players think of the competition in VCT Americas
Fans will certainly come out to Riot Games Arena in Los Angeles. As of publication, tickets for the first half the season are mostly sold out. Tickets for the second half of the season and playoffs will be released later in April.
The audience at Riot Games Arena will be treated to some high level competition in the inaugural season of VCT Americas. LOUD are the reigning world champions. Two of those world champions are now on Sentinels alongside some of the best North American players. The core of the best North American team is now on NRG. Leviatán is the best South American team and could be the best team in the league by the end of the season. The entire 10-team league is stacked.
Gustavo “Sacy” Rossi, who won Champions with LOUD and is now on Sentinels, doesn’t think there’s a bad team in the league. His teammate TenZ said he was excited to play each of the teams in the league.
“Everyone's gonna have their own style,” TenZ said. “Everyone's gonna be figuring out the game right now especially with the Chamber coming out of play, and the new meta coming in, so people might experiment with Gekko, and certain people might have a certain unique style to them. I think every team is unique and different.”
TenZ, left, and Sacy, right, bring together talent from North America and Brazil into one team. Photo credit: Riot Games
NRG’s Ardis "ardiis" Svarenieks did single out the teams he thinks are going to be the top contenders for the playoffs. The top six will advance after one round robin of competition.
“I think there's only gonna be really five teams that are gonna be able to compete in my opinion,” he said. “I think it's gonna be us, 100 Thieves, Sentinels and Leviatán and LOUD as a top five. And I think the sixth spot for the playoffs at the end … will be up for grabs for the rest of the teams -- could be Cloud9, could be MIBR, could be anyone. But I think the top five will be that for sure.”
Even after the VCT Americas league concludes in May and the three best teams move on to play against the best from other regions at Masters: Tokyo, North American fans will get another chance to cheer for their favorite teams and players later in the year. Champions 2023 will take place in Los Angeles too and bring together the best teams not only from the region but from around the world.
“Champions in LA should be pretty hype,” crashies said. “We definitely want to attend just because it goes back to having a home crowd again, like it was insane the energy in Brazil having -- the LOUD crowd cheer for them and then being the villain … So it would definitely be a cool feeling having them cheer for us here, for sure.”
The road to Champions begins April 1 at 12 p.m. ET with Sentinels facing 100 Thieves in the first match of VCT Americas.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games