I thought it might be fun to take a look at this year's efforts at so-called major league paintball series before the season officially kicks off. This year's candidates are the PSP, the NPPL (fingers crossed), the MS and, making its first appearance here, the CPS (champions paintball series) based in Italy and organized by one of the former ECS promoters. (I think. Maybe it was the Centurio or the Grand Tour. Whatever.) Which is interesting because of a move made earlier this week by the EPBF. More on that in a second.
The PSP opened registration today for Dallas--which will give all those D4 kids something to focus on instead of asking the same questions over and over in the Champions & Challengers thread at PBN. (Kidding. Kinda. It's not just D4 kids, d'oh!)
The PSP move to Champions & Challengers will, in time, deliver exciting brutal and unforgiving hardcore paintball action across the pro bracket that will actively draw the best teams in the world. And if there was any doubt before about the preeminent league in the world this move cements the PSP's place on top. That said I predict this first season won't be all peaches & cream--and that the naysayers and hand-wringers will have occasion to whine anonymously on the internet--but that in the end the pieces will fall into place. Imagine the suspense at the once an afterthought fourth event when all the pro teams will be fighting for the 10 Champions spots and a shot at a World Cup title. In the meantime divisional hasn't been forgotten as a new rule book is in the works along with a focus on consistency and continuity for all teams and players regardless of field or division. After some (apparent) delays registration has opened and there are currently 81 teams signed up. Last year Galveston has 150+. Anything in that neighborhood would be a solid success.
Regulars know I'm not bullish on the NPPL, particularly at the "pro" level simply because the league has diluted the quality of the pro competition instead of accepting reduced numbers and appears ready to do so again in 2013. In what I think is a positive move the league returns to its bread-and-butter 7-man format while mostly giving up their race to variants (which largely amounted to more divisions, smaller divisions, less competition, smaller prize packages, more prize packages.) (Of course the league hasn't actually posted any prize package details in over a year so they may or may not be following the percentage formulas they once offered.) Along with those changes there is the inclusion of minor events (no pro division participation) and some venue changes and additions. While perhaps sounding good the venue changes suggest that league leadership--such as it is--is disconnected from reality with minor events in Hawaii, Vancouver (let's try this again!) and majors in Tampa and Denver. Registration opened on the Hawaii minor 23 days prior to the event dates--and there was no hue and cry 'cus nobody is going to be there unless you're from Hawaii to begin--a factoid I can't confirm 'cus registration no longer appears to allow access to an event team list. The Tampa venue of old was (and is) an excellent one but there isn't a 7-man field in the whole state of Florida and hasn't been for years. I am not, like so many others, calling for the NPPL to go the way of the dodo or stay to "help grow the sport" [I feel dumber just saying that], just that it's a poorly run series with a format that interests a minority of tourney players at best. Besides, when I asked the Magic 8-Ball if the NPPL was gonna run all 8 scheduled events it said, "No way, Jose."
The MS appears relatively unchanged, for better or worse, with no word of a rulebook coming from either the MS or the EPBF despite promises dating back to last year. (And beyond.) Given that registration for the first event, the Mediterranean Cup, hasn't opened yet there are no solid indicators yet as to how the teams will respond this season but if last year is anything to go by the Millennium should enjoy another strong year. It should also be interesting to see what adjustments Houston Heat make in taking over the GI Sportz spot in the CPL--and who, if anyone, they add to their roster to replace the missing Russians in Euroland. While Heat needn't be a player in the player sweepstakes right now I can see them making moves in the near future and perhaps using the European tourney option year to bring in players they have a longer term interest in. Or maybe not.
Now we come to the surprise entry this year. (Btw, for those who want to make a case for PALS--at least the World Cup Asia given the Intercontinental Cup competition--it doesn't qualify as it's a one off without either a series or a standard for qualifying. What do you mean it doesn't qualify? Which one is not the others? 'Kay?) Couple of (three?) years ago VFTD kept tabs on the Grand Tour, which evolved out of the merger of the Centurio and ECS, more or less, because they had a modest, but real, pro division. Last year was the first (second?) season for the CPS with a top division called the Super League--and, over the course of the season a few established pro teams competed. And if that was all they could offer this season I probably would have left it off the preseason review. But instead, it turns out the Super League is drawing a significant pro team participation with names like Art Chaos, Edmonton Impact, Nexus, Icon, Outrage, TonTons and Vision to name some of the pros joining the party. Half the current Super League is MS pro teams plus Impact so it looks like it's time to start paying attention. Besides, they have had events in awesome places like Venice [okay, Mestre on the mainland but still ..] Vienna and apparently have plans to add a Paris event this season.
Remember the EPBF mention earlier? It seems the federation sanctioned one of the CPS events last year and that the league filed for recognition for the whole series this season. Turns out the EPBF (within literal days and hours) of the filing has declared the CPS anathema--or the paintball federation equivalent. No indications yet as to just why. A paperwork snafu wouldn't merit the statement the EPBF put out. One can't help but wonder if it isn't the political reality of the EPBF at work perceiving a potential threat all of a sudden and acting to cut them off at the knees. While the "federation" idea remains a high concept the fact remains that those currently in positions of power within the EPBF have their own paintball fiefdoms to protect.
The stage is set. VFTD will revisit the major leagues over the course of the season as events unfold.