If you haven't already heard, the Gfinity Elite Series is taking on a brand new format for Season 3. With the series expanding from eight teams to ten, the single league/top-4 playoff format of old is out and a brand new two-league system featuring quarter finals and byes for league winners is in. Today we're going to take a closer look at how the system works and break down how it could change the way teams approach the competition.
Shorter League = Less Margin For Error
With the teams split into two groups of five the league portion of the season is reduced from seven weeks to five. This means that with only four matches and one bye week, there is far less margin for error for teams hoping to qualify for playoffs. Take, for example, Endpoint in Rocket League Season 2. The reigning champions had a slow start, losing their first two games, yet were able to turn things around and win their remaining five league games to still qualify for playoffs comfortably. Under the new format, those two losses could have derailed their entire season before it even began, with far less time to turn things around. Conversely, Prophecy's Rocket League squad won their first four games back to back and lost the remaining three. In the new system that would've seen them through the group stage comfortably unbeaten.
The compressed league format will definitely suit teams who can start fast and hit the ground running. Conversely, just one loss can be much harder to recover from.
Every Bonus Point Counts
Though this was certainly true under the old system, a shorter league means bonus points count more than ever to help separate the teams. If a team has to eat a loss, a bonus point in defeat could be the difference between them staying in the race for playoffs and sitting out the final portion of the season.
Expanded Playoffs = More Qualifying Spots
In one sense, qualifying for playoffs will actually be easier than ever. Previously, the top four in an eight-team league made playoffs, whereas coming into Season 3 the top three in each five-team league will go through. It could be argued that the quarter-finals section of the competition effectively replaces the final two weeks of league play under the old format. Regardless, more playoff spots on offer and fewer wins needed to make it there does, in one sense, make it easier to qualify for playoffs.
However, if you want to avoid the quarter-finals altogether...
Greater Reward for League Winners
A common criticism of playoff formats in sport is a perceived lack of reward for teams finishing top of the league, and such could be said of the old format for the Elite Series. Even if a team went unbeaten in the league season, finishing some distance ahead of their rivals, all would be reset once the semi-finals arrived. That issue is addressed with the new format, with teams being rewarded for winning their league with a bye through to the semi-finals and missing the quarter-final stage altogether. One less knockout round to negotiate could be huge for a team's chances of overall victory, so expect the fight for first place in each division to hotly contested every single week. This should also have the added effect of giving teams already qualified for the playoffs something to play for right down to the final week of the league season.
Playoffs Will See Fresh Matchups
In past seasons, every team would play every other team at least once. Meaning that by the time playoffs rolled around, every team that qualified would have met each other once already in the league portion of the season. This time around, that won't be the case. The first quarter-final will see the 2nd place team from Group A take on the 3rd place team from Group B, and vice versa for the second quarter-final. Depending on how results go in the quarter-finals, we could also see fresh matchups in the semi-finals and grand final too.
All of this means there's a much greater chance of teams encountering opponents that they wouldn't have already faced earlier in the season, particularly as the four veteran Elite Series teams have also been kept apart; Envy and exceL will be in Group A, with Epsilon and Method in Group B. It all adds an element of intrigue: for fans, there's extra mystery and excitement as the Elite Series' biggest stars clash for the first time in playoffs. For teams, scouting and preparation becomes more important than ever; they won't have the experience gained from previous meetings to fall back on.
What do you think of the new format, and how do you think it will change things as we head into Season 3?
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