Will NA teams benefit from a home crowd advantage at VALORANT Champions?

by Brian Bencomo

LOS ANGELES -- Chants of N-R-G, N-R-G rang out throughout the Shrine Expo Hall whenever an NRG player made a big play or won a big round against China’s Bilibili Gaming. The crowd went crazy for Sam “S0m” Oh’s ace early in the match, and their desperate cheers late in the game tried to will NRG to victory.

Similarly, chants of “ACE, ACE, ACE” rang out for Max "Demon1" Mazanov when he got kill after kill in Evil Geniuses’ match against FUT Esports, and the crowd roared when EG won to advance to the playoffs.


That’s the advantage of getting to play a big global VALORANT tournament on home soil. After global VCT events in Iceland, Germany, Denmark, Turkey, Brazil and Japan over the past couple years, Riot Games has finally brought a global event to the United States. VALORANT Champions is the first global VCT tournament being held in North America, and NRG and Evil Geniuses will be the recipients of the home advantage.

But how big is this advantage really? With spectators flying in from around the world to fill the arena, it’s not exactly like a pro basketball team’s home game. However, there is something to be gained from having more of the crowd behind you.

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Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

“If anything it gives like a bit of a bonus, because we have more people cheering for us, which in events like Copenhagen and Turkey last year, we didn't get that advantage.” NRG head coach Chet “Chet” Singh said in a pre-tournament press conference.

As the coach of OpTic Gaming last year, Chet as well as current NRG players Pujan "FNS" Mehta, Victor "Victor" Wong and Austin "crashies" Roberts were used to having the European crowds going against them. That also was the case earlier this year in Sao Paolo because of their rivalry with Brazilian team LOUD.

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Evil Geniuses in-game leader Kelden “Boostio” Pupello thinks the crowd advantage will become more pronounced as the tournament goes on and the crowds get bigger, especially the last few matches at The KIA Forum.

“I'm sure when we get deep in the tournament and a lot of games are happening and we feel the NA crowd it'll probably definitely be like a buff for us,” he said.

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

His teammate Corbin “C0M” Lee, however, thinks an early advantage for NA teams will diminish as the tournament moves forward because the teams traveling from overseas will get over whatever jet lag they might have earlier in the tournament.

“Maybe like a very small one because of just the jet lag part because I know it was hard for me to kind of adjust in Japan. But I think it's not like a huge advantage,” C0M said.

Read more: C0M not feeling pressure at VALORANT Champions despite EG now being favorites

The fact they don’t have to travel, in fact, is the strangest aspect of being at Champions, according to NRG and EG players. They didn't even have to travel to another city as Champions is being held in the same city that NRG and EG competed in the VCT Americas league this year.

“It feels really weird being like the biggest tournament of the year but not like traveling to another country,” Boostio said.

FNS has enjoyed not having to travel for Champions but admitted it made going into the tournament a bit odd.

“Because we're based out of LA, so we just had to drive 20 minutes, but obviously it's a completely different feeling when you're flying somewhere. And it gives you that like, ‘oh, you're in a tournament mode,’ he said.

Of course, whatever small crowd advantage NRG had in their opening matchup didn’t help as they ended up losing to BLG in the biggest tournament upset so far.

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

“It's really disappointing losing in front of the home crowd, for sure,” he said. “That hurts a lot more than had I lost to this team at another place -- definitely hurts more losing here for sure.”

High stakes matchups await both North American teams going forward.

NRG will get a chance to redeem themselves Friday when they play Japan’s ZETA Division, while Evil Geniuses will play again next week in the playoffs after winning both of their matches in the group stage.

Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

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