Lessons learned from the 2021 Summer Unified Grand Prix

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The 2021 Unified Grand Prix summer event served as a last-chance qualifier for the Proving Grounds summer. Ten places for the 16-team Proving Grounds summer event have already been decided prior to this tournament. The top six teams from the Academy and the top four amateur teams from the level 2 circuit automatically qualified. This event saw the last four Academy teams and the remaining 12 top amateur teams battle for the remaining six places.

Here’s what we learned from the final tournament ahead of the NA Amateur Championships.

CLG Academy fails Proving Grounds in summer

Starting in 2021, Riot Games has been working to bridge the gap between the amateur scene and Academy teams. But theoretically, the best amateur talent would still be found in Academy teams. While there have been some amateur teams that have done better than the Academy teams, all Academy teams have at least qualified for the first Academy / Amateur Championships, Proving Grounds in the spring. Ten of the 16 teams attending this event were the ten B teams of the League of Legends Championship Series. However, at Proving Grounds in the summer, that number will only be nine.

The Counter Logic Gaming Academy team has struggled tremendously throughout the year. Even during the Spring Division, CLG.A finished eighth in the Academy season, then got knocked out early in the 2021 Unified Grand Prix tournament. CLG.A needed the last-ditch qualification to participate at the Proving Grounds Spring Event. But there was no safety net this time.

The 2021 Unified Grand Prix summer tournament determined which final teams would qualify for the Proving Grounds summer. The 16-team tournament featured the last four teams from the Academy while the other six automatically qualified. TSM, Golden Guardians and Dignitas all had their Academy teams done well at the UGP summer event. CLG.A suffered an early loss to Zoos Gaming in the winner’s camp, then immediately lost to Supernova in the losers. CLG.A finished in ninth place, thus ending their season.

For the first time, an Academy team failed to qualify for the main Proving Grounds event.

The University of Maryville almost became the first collegiate team to qualify for Proving Grounds

Outside of the academic and amateur scene, the college scene is the third pillar of the emerging talent circuit, but it is often overlooked. Good players have moved from the college scene to the pro scene and have successful careers, but when it comes to competition, the college scene has often been the third wheel.

College teams have been competitive against other parts of the amateur scene. But they haven’t been consistent enough to deserve attention. While many people know that Winthrop University and Maryville University were at the top of Collegiate Mountain, neither qualified for the Spring Proving Grounds. University champion of 2021, Winthrop missed a streak of qualifying for the 16-team invite in the spring, but it wasn’t enough. Over the summer, Winthrop didn’t even try to qualify, but college championship finalists Maryville did.

At the PMU summer event, the University of Maryville entered as the eighth seed. They did a little surprise against the seventh seed AOE Randoms in the first round. After losing to TSM Academy, Maryville faced TSM’s amateur team in the loser category. After a quick 2-0 win, a win over ninth seed Supernova would give them their first Proving Grounds birth in collegiate League of Legends history. Unfortunately, they couldn’t do it. Supernova won the series 2-0.

Like Winthrop in the spring, Maryville only missed a series of competitions at Proving Grounds. Even though both teams have failed, the collegiate scene is a striking distance from making noise in the North American amateur circuit.

Academy lower level teams are always better than intermediate level amateur teams

It makes sense that the best players from amateur teams are on the Academy’s rosters. This is because LCS teams draw directly from their amateur teams for talent. However, in the spring of Proving Grounds, it was shown that the best teams in the amateur scene weren’t necessarily Academy teams. An amateur team, No Org, won the spring event at Proving Grounds. Their victory further pushed the story “not all the best players are at the Academy”. As summer approached, all eyes were on the Academy teams who were embarrassed in the spring. In the first tournament that mixed Academy and amateur teams, the UGP summer event stopped the Academy’s bleeding.

The six teams that traveled to Proving Grounds Summer from this event were split. Three Academy teams and three amateur teams. However, all three Academy teams swept the podium.

Zoos Gaming, the top-ranked amateur team at the PMU summer event, gave Academy teams a run for their money. They took TSM and Golden Guardians at final game situations. But overall, the lower level Academy teams outperformed the intermediate level amateur teams.



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