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The current format for Call of Duty League Champs has been hotly debated this year after the league moved to exclude the bottom four teams from competing at the tournament.

Before franchising in 2020, the Call of Duty League was formerly known as the Call of Duty World League. Tournaments included group stages for major teams and an open bracket for any other amateur team in the world to play in for the chance to face the big dogs. At Champs, all teams would start at the same position regardless of how they did throughout the year. This often led to shocking upsets, like when Gen.G Esports were eliminated during the group stage of Champs in 2019 when they failed to win a single series.

Initially, the Call of Duty League intended to have only the top eight teams perform at Champs during the 2020 season. This was later recanted after the season was moved online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Teams like OpTic Gaming LA, now the LA Thieves, rose to the occasion and placed just outside the top four after starting in the losers bracket. That sort of surprise performance is more likely if all twelve teams are present at the championship tournament

The second Call of Duty League season changed Champs

The second season of the Call of Duty League changed the format of the final tournament so that only the best eight teams would compete. The bottom four teams: London, Paris, Seattle and Los Angeles will sit out. On top of that, teams who have been performing well throughout the whole year will have an easier path to the trophy. Atlanta FaZe, for example, only has to win two games to take the championship home.

Call of Duty League Champs bracket for the 2021 season
Call of Duty League Champs bracket for the 2021 season. | Provided by CDL

“I understand the concerns,” said Atlanta FaZe SMG player Tyler “aBeZy” Pharris. “But I don’t think all teams should make it. It throws away the point of the whole year. The standings, the teams to make the top eight. It’d be different if it was the playoffs and then Champs. That’s not how the format works this year. It’d be counterintuitive.”

Players like aBeZy and Dillon “Attach” Price believe the League should have broken the postseason into two tournaments.

Should there be a separate playoff tournament?

“We should change “CoD Champs” to CDL Playoffs where 8 teams qualify like it is now,” Attach said in a tweet. “And A CoD Champs where all 12 CDL teams are there along with the 4-8 of the top challenger teams and use points from the Challengers events to qualify.”

Attach echoed this sentiment when speaking about the current format, explaining that the bottom teams didn’t deserve to attend based on their performance earlier in the year. 

Attach and his teammates on Minnesota ROKKR celebrating their Stage 5 Major win
Attach and his teammates on Minnesota Røkkr celebrate their Stage 5 Major win. | Provided by Esports Stadium

“For this year, I personally don’t think all twelve teams should go,” Attach said. “Because we have seen the matches recently and it’s kind of been blowouts, like not even close. You’re really seeing the teams separate themselves and seeing which teams are good and bad. All 12 teams going? No, I definitely don’t think that needs to happen.”

Players have begun to question the format of the championship tournament itself. Right now several teams will start in the loser’s bracket, giving them only one chance to win. Some players think there shouldn’t be a loser’s bracket, making the tournament a single-elimination event.

No teams should start in the loser’s bracket

“I don’t think the seventh and eighth seed should start in the losers bracket,” Attach said. “Since there are only eight teams there, we should watch as much Call of Duty as possible. Being the first and second seed, your advantage should be playing the seventh and eighth seed, the ‘worse’ teams. Champs has always been known for the grind, but it’s a whole different format now with the CDL. For this one, I think eight teams going is perfect because it incentivizes that you have to do well this season. You don’t just get a free ride to Champs if you’ve been getting shit on all year.”

Seattle Surge assault rifle player Sam “Octane” Larew is a long-standing pro in the Call of Duty scene and has had outstanding performances at previous Champs, but won’t be able to compete this year. One of Octane’s biggest issues with the format is how it’s structured to favor the top teams.

“I don’t think the format currently is good,” Octane said in YouTube video. “FaZe has to win like two f****** series again [to win Champs]. I don’t think that having to win that amount of series for a World Championship is something that should ever be a thing, ever.”

Octane and Seattle Surge coach Nubzy during the Stage 5 Major
Octane and Seattle Surge coach Nubzy during the Stage 5 Major. | Provided by CDL

Seattle only managed to win 11 series out of the 36 that they played this season. While they had more wins than teams like the London Royal Ravens, Paris Legion and Los Angeles Guerrillas, they were still one of the four teams that struggled in the early days of online play. It wasn’t until the league moved back to LAN that the team began producing results. During the Stage 5 Major, Seattle upset Atlanta and shocked everyone in the Esports Arena in Arlington. That win proved that Seattle could – theoretically – make waves at Champs this year despite their poor regular season performance.

“I understand the principle behind it,” Octane said. “Like why would you have a dog s*** team throughout the entirety of the regular season go to the World Championship, I understand that concept.”

As the Call of Duty League continues to grow, there will undoubtedly be changes to the championship format. Especially if new teams join the league and the number of teams expands beyond 12. Fans could see more evolution, like the return of an open bracket that would make it easier for players to get noticed. But for now, players like Octane will have to miss out on the biggest tournament of the year. 


Danny Appleford is an esports journalist for Upcomer that started writing for Daily Esports in 2020. He now specializes in articles surrounding League of Legends, Call of Duty, and Valorant. When Danny is not writing about all the latest news, he can be found on the 100 Thieves / Seattle Surge Discord or playing Call of Duty.


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