It’s the biggest event of the year, plain and simple. The World Cup of Paintball hosted by the National Xball League is just a few short weeks away and major professional programs are facing uncertainty leading into the final event of the year. With the threat of relegation from the pro ranks a constant pressure on ac Dallas, Columbus LVL, Sacramento DMG, and the MLKings all year, the World Cup has the potential to be a life raft that can float them to safety, or the anchor that drags them into the depths. Threatened with the danger of playing their final pro event in Kissimmee, Florida in just a few weeks, the one thought on these four teams' minds going into World Cup is simple; anywhere but here.
Relegation and its effect on the NXL Pro Division.
After a shortened season in 2020 due to COVID-19 and a temporary freeze on the relegation rules, the NXL is back to the normal rule-set in which the lowest ranking pro team will be relegated from the pro division, and the top semi-pro team will be promoted in their place. Throughout the history of the NXL since 2015, relegation has played a part in shaping the landscape of the NXL and creating new professional programs that have impacted the league upon their arrival to the division.
Most recently, we saw Scottsdale Elevation relegated from the pro ranks at the conclusion of the 2019 season, a year in which they placed last in four out of five events. Their relegation saw most of their roster fade away from the pro division, with the exception of Hao Vanta, who joined DMG, and Marc Berolo, who has since become an effective and athletic snake player for Seattle Thunder.
The departure of Elevation from the pro division also saw the addition of ac Diesel after an incredibly successful season in the semi-pro division. Greg Pauley built and brought together the old Texas Storm core, and with elite coaching, they were able to play consistently and finish in the top five of every event of the season. It wasn’t known at the time, but their inclusion in the pro division would make waves, and in less than two seasons, they have become a fiercely aggressive and competitive program built around Mark Johnson, Clint Johnson, and Benjamin Heninburg.
Columbus LVL, Current Season Rank: 17. Total Points: 155
Columbus LVL has been in the pro division for a few seasons, and during that time they have shown flashes of brilliance. Their attack heavy style of play mixed with an athletic and versatile roster has benefitted them greatly on fast fields, but they still lack the crucial veteran experience needed to slow down the game.
Dan Schonauer and the rest of the LVL crew is really starting to find their identity though, and could potentially play as the dark horse spoiler team to the major programs at the World Cup. Their deep Sunday trip at the Windy City Major looks to be enough for them to avoid relegation, but if they perform poorly at the World Cup, they are still at risk of potentially falling into the last place spot.
How they avoid relegation:
LVL certainly benefited from the fast and aggressive layout in Chicago. To avoid relegation they will need to find a way to slow down their game effectively to beat the veteran teams of the division. If they are able to place 6th or higher, they guarantee their safety from relegation without any help from other teams. However, if they aren't able to place that high, they will need both ac Dallas and the MLKings to finish 14th place or worse to guarantee their safety.
Sacramento DMG, Current Season Rank: 18, Total Points: 132
DMG hasn’t quite had the year they had hoped for going into the 2021 season. Built around the versatile and effective Boyum brothers, their roster is the most balanced and experienced among the four teams facing relegation. They have shown flashes of great play this season but they seem to lack the firepower needed to beat the top teams at their own game and typically favor an aggressive style in order to overwhelm more experienced opponents. Currently, their 13th place finish in Philadelphia is helping to buoy their hopes in the season point standings, and alongside LVL, are the least likely of the four teams to see relegation come to pass.
How they avoid relegation:
DMG needs to do a few simple things in order to avoid being pushed out of the pro division. If they are able to finish in the top 5, they completely secure their spot and avoid demotion into the semi-pro division. However, based on the season so far that may be a tall task. If they are unable to secure a top 5 finish, they will need ac Dallas to finish 17th or worse in order to guarantee their safety. DMG seems to have one of the most promising young cores of all the teams facing relegation, and would benefit greatly by remaining in the pro division and developing this roster.
MLKings, Current Season Rank: 19, Current Points: 116
The MLKings are the longest standing organization of the four teams facing relegation, with professional roots in Europe stretching all the way back to 2013. As a team, the MLKings have struggled the last few seasons in the US NXL league, but they have had bright spots and gave tough matches to top pro teams, proving they belong in the pro division in the process. They certainly have the most seasoned roster of the four teams and a genuine elite player in Kyle Barry. Their other veteran star, Greg Montalvo, should be incredibly motivated to retain his pro status and will likely be a major point of attack for the MLKings at Cup.
How they avoid relegation:
Like ac Dallas, the MLKings face the biggest uphill battle in defending their pro spot, but their 26 point lead in the season standings over ac helps their cause. To avoid relegation they will need to complete one simple task; ensure they place better than ac Dallas in the final event. They can completely guarantee their safety from demotion if they place 3rd or higher. In a more realistic scenario, even if ac Dallas puts in their best result of the season and places 15th, the MLKings would only need to place 17th or better to avoid relegation.
ac Dallas, Current Season Rank: 20, Current Points: 90
ac Dallas has had a very tough rookie season in the pro division of the NXL. At the start of the year, Greg Pauley had high hopes for this roster that was created from the D2 team, PBFit. But those hopes were quickly crushed by the reality of the pro division; it is incredibly hard to win against the best paintball athletes in the World. They have not found much success thus far through three events, winning just 1 of their 12 total matches they have played thus far. They will need to come into the World Cup and assert themselves in a fairly dominant fashion, or else this experiment with the old PBFit roster in the pro division may be over before it truly begun.
How they avoid relegation:
Of every team facing relegation, ac Dallas has, by far, the toughest road to stay in the pro division. In order to avoid being demoted down into semi-pro they have a few roads; a first place finish at World Cup will all but guarantee their safety, although it would also require the MLKings to finish 3rd place or worse. In a more realistic scenario, they will need to secure a placing of 18th or higher, while the MLKings would need to finish in last place for them to avoid losing their pro spot. However, in almost any scenario, placing in the bottom two spots will guarantee their elimination from the pro division.
The Biggest Test is coming.
On the fields of the NXL World Cup the fate of one of these four teams will be decided and the waves created through relegation will ripple across the pro league for years. Will the young and aggressive LVL have another Cinderella performance? Will ac Dallas be able to lock in and have their first great performance of the season on the games biggest stage? Tune in on GoSports.com to see all the action from the final NXL event of the year and see who will keep, and who will lose, their pro spot!