One botched play—and a seized opportunity—sent a power team into the lower division.
screenshot courtesy Psyonix
The Rocket League Championship Series returns next weekend with the start of League Play, and, thanks to the new lower-tier Rival Series division, there are twice as many North American and European playing each week. This weekend's play-in tournament determined which teams would fall into which divisions, and Sunday's European event ended with a particularly tense overtime contest and a surprising upset.
The Leftovers, who finished fourth at the World Championship in June, were expected to cruise into another season of RLCS League Play. However, they were swept by a new squad, Frontline—led by their dropped former teammate, Victor "Ferra" Francal—earlier in the day. Ultimately, the 5th-seeded Leftovers ended up against 8th-seeded Aeriality to determine who would get the RLCS spot, and who would be headed to Rival Series.
Aeriality took the first two games, but then The Leftovers clawed back and won the next two, setting up a pivotal game five showdown. Regulation wouldn't provide enough time, as the teams played defensively and notched more than five minutes of back-and-forth overtime. And then this happened:
New Leftovers member Nicolai "Maestro" Bang served up a quick, twirling pass in front of the goal, but Alexander "Sikii" Karelin missed the tricky shot. Maestro recovered and sent it over to Sikii, who opted to loft it backfield to captain Nicolai "Snaski" Andersen—but something went wrong. Maybe Sikii put too strong of a touch on the ball, or perhaps Snaski was too far upfield, but the captain wasn't in a position to get to the soaring ball.
Instead, Aeriality's Stephen "Tylacto" Griffin beat Snaski to the ball, flipped his car over, and used his tires to put a soft touch on the ball and send in the winning goal. With that, the play-in tournament was complete, and Aeriality had punched their ticket into RLCS League Play for the season ahead.
The Leftovers, on the other hand, will have to fight it out in the Rival Series and try to finish in the Top 2 in Europe, which will offer them a chance to earn their way back into the main Championship Series division for next season. As Snaski tweeted after the match, "Guess we gotta go through RLRS to show everyone that we definitely don't belong there."