After months of waiting, the day of reckoning is finally close at hand. Season 3 of the Gfinity Elite Series is here, and there's no shortage of storylines and intrigue to come. Four teams from the first two seasons are joined by six new squads, all with their own history and prestige. A brand new game further changes the dynamic, as FIFA 18 joins the fun on Friday nights and SFV as a result gets a new Saturday night primetime slot. So with rosters locked in and the season just days away from starting, here's your full breakdown of Gfinity Elite Series Season 3 – and a look at all the Week 1 fixtures for this weekend.
FIFA 18With an entirely new game comes a voyage into the unknown for the Elite Series. Unlike the other games, there aren’t two seasons of results and form to look back on – further complicated by six new teams joining the four survivors from Seasons 1 and 2. However, what we can predict with reasonable accuracy are two of the likely favourites to win the Season 3 FIFA 18 trophy: UNILAD and Hashtag United. Given that both teams have built so much of their esports legacy on FIFA, they will come in with a huge amount of expectation to succeed in this league. In UNILAD’s camp, you have the reigning FIFA Interactive World Champion (Gorilla), the 2017 Ultimate Team Championship Series finalist (Shellz) AND the services of a former Ultimate Team Championship Series Europe winner in Tass, on loan from FaZe Clan. For Hashtag you have the settled squad of Hashtag Harry and Ryan, a man widely regarded as one of the greatest FIFA players of all time (Boras), another former FIFA Interactive World Champion (Agge) and a super-strong draft pick in FerPerry who has plenty of experience competing in the Gfinity Arena. The fact of the matter is this: as strong as other FIFA rosters might look, none of them on paper compare to these two. It will be a huge surprise if UNILAD and Hashtag aren’t lining up opposite each other in the finals – and from there it's anyone's guess who will come out on top.
However, they face two teams who could upset the applecart in a big way in Week 1. Hashtag United get the season underway with an intriguing clash against Vitality, whose lineup features experienced stagers in Brian and Ty – but crucially won't feature Rocky, who unquestionably will be a huge loss. Brian and his squad have big shoes to fill, but a victory over one of the league favourites in Week 1 would be an absolutely huge statement of intent. Meanwhile, UNILAD get their campaign underway against Epsilon, a team looking to return to past glories across the board and boasting a solid squad of Fully, Mover and Dingo. In theory this should be a relatively simple victory for UNILAD – but the Elite Series has always been a happy hunting ground for upset victories, and none would be bigger than toppling UNILAD on the opening day of FIFA 18.The other two fixtures in Week 1 include a matchup between two of the 'original' Elite Series teams as Envy and exceL do battle. Both have competed at the top level of worldwide FIFA competition for many years, so whilst their FIFA rosters went under the radar somewhat on announcement day there's still heaps of potential in their ranks. Challenger Series graduates like Klutch_TI will be looking to make an impact right out of the gate especially as the condensed league format means less time to recover from early losses than in previous seasons. Finally, Method tackle FNATIC with both teams looking to bed new signings and draft picks in quickly with a confidence-boosting win.
Rocket LeagueLast season was all about the dominant Reason side going unbeaten and lifting the trophy in spectacular style. But with their departure and two of the architects of that amazing season joining another former champion at Method, the entire Rocket League landscape in Elite Series has been blown wide open again.First, it would be foolish of us not to put Method's new all-star lineup as favourites for the title. How can you not? Two-thirds of Reason's invincibles in Rix Ronday and Borito B, teaming up with Shakahron who won the Season 1 title with Endpoint and finished a close runner-up in the Season 2 final? With the signing of this trio, Method have made it perfectly clear: no more punching below their weight. They intend to go all the way – and have the lineup to do it.However, with such an increased depth of talent, the chances of another unbeaten season are slim at best. Shakahron's former teammates Tinny and Cheerio will lead ARES' squad, linking up with former Prophecy standout Sebadam. Meanwhile, Hashtag United's signing of Doomsee alongside Data and Flarke turned a lot of heads. Their potential as a unit is unlimited. If Doomsee can rediscover his Season 1 form and all three are feeling it, the trophy could be theirs for the taking.
Then there's the new squads arriving with huge pedigree in RLCS who could blindside everyone; teams like Vitality, managed by veteran caster Gregan and featuring players like Fairy Peak and Freakii described as potentially the very best in Europe. Then there's FNATIC: if their core unit of Snaski, Sikii, Maestro and Lauty are favourites for the upcoming RLCS, then it stands to reason that they will right up there come playoff time in the Elite Series.In short, the field is wide open, and Week 1 will be absolutely fascinating. Vitality kick off the fixtures against Nordavind, looking to make a statement with an opening day win – but Elite Series veterans Al Dente and Sniper will have something to say about that, along with Challenger Series graduate Reganam. Hashtag United launch their campaign against Envy in a contest that could hinge largey on how well Envy's new lineup gels together. Individually there's no doubting the talents of Mout, EyeIgnite and (the wall of) Waffle, so if they can find good chemistry in the opening round they could cause Hashtag's all-stars some big problems. UNILAD will be looking to derail the Method hype train as they meet in the third fixture, with Epsilon's new-look squad of Challenger Series draftees taking on ARES in the final match of Week 1.
Street Fighter VThe only league where we have a team back to defend their trophy, Envy return to Elite Series action ready to once again blow away the competition with their spectacular blend of skill, pop-offs and charisma. The Season 2 champions are largely unchanged for Season 3, because why fix what isn't broken? But whilst they have recruited some strong reserves including JonesArcade, one major change sees TKR move over to Vitality. No doubt this is a big loss for Envy, but with the mainstays of Layo, Nassim-Claw, Mr Crimson and Confz still steering the ship, they have every chance of making their third straight Elite Series final and defending their gold. Eternal rivals exceL also return with mostly the same squad as last season, with Brian, Infexious and Hurricane looking for their second title and to avenge the spectacularly close semi-final defeat from last season. These two titans of Elite Series SFV are guaranteed to meet at least once in the group stage – a second meeting in the playoffs is once again highly likely, too.Much like Rocket League though, the depth of talent is strong across the entire division, making predicting favourites to win the title incredibly difficult. Method have rebuilt their SFV team with some strong pickups. Perhaps the most successful Challenger Series graduate ever, Broski hooks up with Packz and the duo of Imstilldadaddy and Gun Slinga, who made back-to-back semi-finals as part of Infused. Similarly, FNATIC have recruited incredibly well. The duo of Zera and Akainu lead Prophecy to the Season 2 final, and will line up alongside Shakz and Brick. Nordavind could be the darkest horses of all, with a trio of players in Veggey, Phenom and Momi who have done very well on the Capcom Pro Tour teaming up with Elite Series veterans in Shivryuken and SaltyKid. If this lineup comes together strongly, they could wreak havoc through the division and forge a path to the finals.With all this in mind, Week 1 looks set to mark SFV's debut on Saturday nights with four absolutely cracking matchups. We kick off with what should be a very entertaining contest as UNILAD take on ARES, as 'the people's champions' face off against a team of exciting young prospects. The spectacular entertainment value from the likes of Undacuva and Ki113r_7, as well as the battle between Challenger Series graduates past and present Boltstrike and YogaPatate, will be worth the price of admission on their own – which by the way, is the grand total of FREE. The second match sees Epsilon take on the highly rated FNATIC team, with the brothers Takamura and Keftaroz once again leading Epsilon into battle and hoping to march back to the finals they made in Season 1.Remember what we said earlier about TKR leaving Envy for Vitality? He won't have to wait long for a reunion with his former teammates, as the two sides meet in Week 1's third fixture. Overall Envy should have enough to prevail, but if TKR can bring his best form and help coax the best out of the likes of Linkexelo and WireMan, this will be a close – and possibly emotionally charged – contest. We conclude Week 1 with a big-time main event as exceL go head-to-head with Nordavind. Proven experience and success versus a potentially thrilling squad, this match will tell us a lot about how well (or not) the two teams will do in the upcoming season.
With so many unpredictable elements in the upcoming season, the one thing we can be certain of is this; it'll be thrill-a-minute action from first week to last. Are you ready? Get your FREE tickets to come and watch all the action in the Gfinity Arena here.