The Unified Grand Prix 2021 summer event served as the last chance qualifier for Proving Grounds summer. Ten spots at the 16-team Proving Grounds summer event were already decided before this tournament. The top six Academy teams and top four amateur teams from the Tier 2 circuit automatically qualified. This event had the bottom four Academy teams and the remaining top 12 amateur teams fight for the remaining six spots.
Here is what we learned from the final tournament before the NA Amateur championships.
CLG Academy fails to make it to Proving Grounds summer
Starting in 2021, Riot Games has made an effort to help bridge the gap between the amateur scene and the Academy teams. But theoretically, the top amateur talent would still lie in the Academy teams. Although there have been amateur teams that have done better than the Academy teams, all the Academy teams at the very least qualified for the first Academy/amateur championships, Proving Grounds spring. Ten of the 16 teams at that event were the ten League of legends Championship Series B-teams. However, at Proving Grounds summer that number will only be nine.
Counter Logic Gaming’s Academy team has struggled immensely all year. Even during the spring split, CLG.A finished eighth in the Academy season and then proceeded to get knocked out early at the Unified Grand Prix 2021 tournament. CLG.A needed the last chance qualifier to get into the Proving Grounds spring event. But there was no safety net this time.
The Unified Grand Prix 2021 summer tournament determined which final six teams would qualify for Proving Grounds summer. The 16-team tournament featured the bottom four Academy teams as the other six automatically qualified. TSM, Golden Guardians, and Dignitas all had their Academy teams do well at the UGP summer event. CLG.A took an early loss to Zoos Gaming in the winner’s side of the bracket and then immediately lost to Supernova in losers. CLG.A finished in ninth place, ending their season.
For the first time, an Academy team has failed to qualify for the main Proving Grounds event.
Maryville University almost became the first collegiate team to qualify for Proving Grounds
Outside the Academy and amateur scene, the collegiate scene is the third pillar in the rising talent circuit, but it’s often ignored. Good players have gone from collegiate into the pro scene and have successful careers but when it comes to competing, the collegiate scene has often been the third wheel.
Collegiate teams have been competitive against the other parts of the amateur scene. But they haven’t been consistent enough to warrant attention. Although many people know that Winthrop University and Maryville University have been at the top of the collegiate mountain, neither qualified for Proving Grounds spring. The 2021 collegiate champs, Winthrop did come one series short of qualifying for the 16-team invitational in the spring but it wasn’t enough. In the summer Winthrop didn’t even try to qualify, but the collegiate championship runner-ups, Maryville, did.
At the UGP summer event, Maryville University entered as the eighth seed. They made a small upset against the seventh-seeded AOE Randoms in the first round. After losing to TSM Academy, Maryville matched up with TSM’s amateur team in the losers bracket. After a swift 2-0 victory, a win against the ninth seeded Supernova would give them their first Proving Grounds birth in the history of collegiate League of Legends. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get it done. Supernova won the series 2-0.
Like Winthrop in the spring, Maryville came just one series short of competing at Proving Grounds. Even though both teams fell short, the collegiate scene is within striking distance of making noise in the North American amateur circuit.
Bottom tier Academy teams are still better than mid tier amateur teams
It makes sense that the best players in the amateur teams would be on the Academy rosters. That’s because the LCS teams draw directly from their amateur squads for talent. However, in Proving Grounds spring, it was shown that the best teams in the amateur scene weren’t necessarily the Academy teams. An amateur team, No Org, won the Proving Grounds spring event. Their win further pushed the “not all the best players are in Academy,” narrative. Going into summer, all eyes were on the Academy teams who were embarrassed in the spring. In the first tournament that mixed Academy teams and amateur teams, the UGP summer event did stop the Academy bleeding.
The six teams going to Proving Grounds Summer from this event were split. Three Academy teams and three amateur teams. However, the three Academy teams swept the podium.
Zoos Gaming, the highest placing Amateur team at the UGP summer event, did give the Academy teams a run for their money. They took TSM and Golden Guardians to final game situations. But overall, the bottom-tier Academy teams outclassed the mid-tier amateur teams.