VALORANT Champions 2023: Teams, schedule, format and groups breakdown

by Brian Bencomo

The 2023 VALORANT Champion Tour season will come to a conclusion this month in Los Angeles as 16 of the best VALORANT teams in the world compete at Champions. The field of 16 includes teams from each of the three VCT international leagues as well as China. Champions will include four teams from the Americas, four from the Pacific region, five from EMEA (Europe) and three from China. Last year, LOUD lifted the trophy at Champions, and this year, Fnatic look poised to do so. To get you ready for the most important VALORANT tournament of the year, here’s a primer on the teams, schedule and format, and a groups breakdown.

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  • Fnatic
  • Team Liquid
  • FUT Esports
  • Giants Gaming
  • Natus Vincere (NAVI)


  • Evil Geniuses
  • NRG
  • LOUD
  • KRÜ Esports


  • Paper Rex
  • DRX
  • T1
  • ZETA Division


  • EDward Gaming
  • Bilibili Gaming
  • FunPlus Phoenix

Schedule and format

Champions will be divided into a group stage and a bracket stage. All matches will be best-of-three except the lower final and grand final which will be best-of-five. While most of the tournament will take place at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, the final matches -- the lower semifinal, lower final, upper final and grand final -- will take place at The KIA Forum in Inglewood, just outside LA.

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The 16 teams have been divided into four groups of four, and group play gets underway with Group D on Sunday, Aug. 6. After the initial two matchups in each group, teams will compete in winner’s, elimination and decider matches to determine the two teams that will advance to the bracket stage. The group stage concludes Sunday, Aug. 13.

After a couple days off, the eight teams that have advanced to the bracket stage will compete in a double elimination bracket that will begin Wednesday, Aug. 16, and end Sunday, Aug. 26. There will be three days off Aug. 21-23 as the competition moves from The Shrine to The Forum for the final four matches.

Group A: Is this the most interesting group?

Paper Rex, KRÜ Esports, EDward Gaming, Giants Gaming

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

This group is interesting because all four teams have legitimate potential to go on a run. First, you have Paper Rex. They finished third at Masters Tokyo without their star duelist Ilya "something" Petrov. Something is set to attend Champions, putting the VCT Pacific champions at full strength in Los Angeles. Their initial opponent is KRÜ Esports, the Americas LCQ winner. KRÜ are a team that went winless in the VCT Americas season before winning five straight in the LCQ. It’s one of the most improbable runs in VALORANT history and gives them strong dark horse potential at Champions.

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The other initial matchup in this group involves EDward Gaming and Giants Gaming. EDG were one of the best stories at Masters Tokyo. The Chinese team broke through with three wins over NAVI, T1 and LOUD and finished 5th-6th. They’re a popular pick to take the next step and potentially crack the top four at Champions. Their opponent will be Giants Gaming, the winners of the EMEA LCQ. Similar to KRÜ, Giants looked great in their LCQ as they beat Karmine Corp, KOI and NAVI without dropping any maps.

Group B: How likely is it that Evil Geniuses stumble in this group?

Evil Geniuses, FunPlus Phoenix, T1, FUT Esports

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

Not likely … unless you believe in the second-place curse. It’s uncanny the amount of bad luck and bad results that have befallen teams who finish second at global VCT events. Here’s a simple breakdown:

  • Fnatic 2nd at Masters Reykjavík 2021 -- miss Masters Berlin 2021
  • Envy 2nd at Masters Berlin 2021 -- lose in groups at Champions 2021
  • Gambit 2nd at Champions 2021 -- organization disbands in 2022
  • LOUD 2nd at Masters Reykjavík 2022 -- lose in groups at Masters Copenhagen 2022
  • Paper Rex 2nd at Masters Copenhagen 2022 -- lose in groups at Champions 2022
  • OpTic Gaming 2nd at Champions 2022 -- teams disbands in 2023
  • LOUD 2nd at LOCK//IN 2023 -- winless at Masters Tokyo 2023

If Evil Geniuses fail to make it out of Group B, surely the curse exists. They’re in a group with T1 and FUT Esports, two teams that failed to make it out of groups at Masters Tokyo, and EG beat FUT at that tournament. Their first matchup will be against FunPlus Phoenix, the third seed from China and likely the weakest team at this tournament. Given EG’s performance in Tokyo, they should be able to waltz out of this group as the top team in Group B.

Group C: Fnatic and NRG will advance from this group, right?

Fnatic, ZETA Division, NRG, Bilibili Gaming

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

It seems like an open and shut case that Fnatic and NRG should advance out of Group C. Fnatic are back-to-back VCT global champions and undoubtedly the best team in the world. NRG were the VCT Americas runners-up and a top four finisher in Tokyo. A winner’s matchup between these two teams seems inevitable, but few VALORANT tournaments ever work out so neatly.

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Bilibili Gaming have never appeared at a global VALORANT tournament, so maybe they’ll take NRG by surprise. Plus, the NRG core had a tendency to have slow starts at tournaments when they were with OpTic. Who knows -- maybe ZETA Division pull off a massive upset over Fnatic in their return to the global stage. Everybody thought OpTic and LOUD would face each other in a winner’s match at Masters Copenhagen last year. Instead, the two lost their initial group matchups and faced each other in an elimination match with OpTic sending LOUD packing.

Group D: Which disappointing teams will redeem themselves?

Team Liquid, NAVI, LOUD, DRX

Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

This group is filled with former world champions and teams with unrealized championship potential. It’s been dubbed by some as the Group of Disappointment. One opening matchup features two of the best EMEA teams besides Fnatic in Team Liquid and NAVI. Team Liquid are the only team that has beaten Fnatic this year. They took down Fnatic in the VCT EMEA final to claim the league crown for themselves. However, they went 1-2 at Masters Tokyo, finishing 5th-6th when many expected a top four finish. NAVI have a roster filled with former champions and after a top four finish at LOCK//IN, they have appeared flat. NAVI finished fourth in the VCT EMEA playoffs and went 0-2 at Masters Tokyo. They stumbled in the EMEA LCQ too, but qualified for Champions because Fnatic gave the region an extra slot because they won Masters Tokyo.

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On the other side of the Group D bracket are LOUD and DRX. Both of these teams went 0-2 in the bracket stage and finished 7th-8th. LOUD finished second at LOCK//IN and were the VCT Americas champions. DRX were a top four team at LOCK//IN and VCT Pacific runners-up. It should be noted, DRX had to go through the group stage in Tokyo and went 2-1. LOUD, of course, are also the reigning Champions winners. Both teams have a lot of potential, and at least one if not both of these teams should make it through to the bracket stage.

Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games

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