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Paintball World Cup
Red Legion - 2006 NXL Champions
Baltimore Trauma - First Place Intercontinental Cup
The paintball World Cup stands as the end of the season for the professional teams of the NXL and the divisional teams of the PSP. The six tournament season started in Texas and made its way through Las Vegas, Chicago, Southern California and South Carolina before heading to Florida. For over a decade the Orlando, Florida area has been host to the Paintball World Cup, and every year the event sees changes. This year would be no different. Divisional and pro teams played alongside the 5-Man X-Ball, young guns, NXL X-Ball and the Masters division, with some X-Ball divisions playing X-Ball Lite.
Kicking things off was the Intercontinental Cup. Prior to the PSP/NPPL split in 2003, it was commonplace to see a lot of the top North American teams on the European fields of the Millennium series. With two nation wide professional leagues in the states, few teams had the resources to play all three series, making the face-offs between European and American teams less common. Bringing back that excitement was the Intercontinental Cup. This tournament kicked off the World Cup activities on Tuesday by pitting four leading NXL teams against four leading Millennium Series teams. Played in a variation of the European X-Ball-Lite format (X-Ball rules, playing against a single round 15 minute clock to a maximum of 5 points) the event began with four games, each between an American and European team. Single elimination format from there meant the entire competition could be over in a day.
While all of the NXL and divisional games were to be played with the same field layout, a separate bunker pattern was used for the Intercontinental Cup. The design was distributed to the eight competing teams prior to the tournament, but otherwise kept top-secret, not because it would be bad for fans to know about it in advance, but to avoid possible confusion for the hundreds of teams that would be playing on the main event field layout.
The Intercontinental Cup games started quickly and moved quickly. The preliminary round was dominated by the NXL teams.
The first game of the event pitted the Miami Raiders against Oslo Menace. The Raiders were victorious 5 to 0. Manchester Shockwave scored a point against Boston Red Legion who won their game with 5 points. The Philly Americans defeated Frankfurt Syndicate 5 to 0. Baltimore Trauma also took down the Toulouse TonTons 5 to 0.
While not so immediately apparent to the spectators in the stands, the Millennium teams were competing with two notable disadvantages. With NXL teams not playing the Millennium, their players are free to play as guests on Millennium teams, and this often happens. For the Intercontinental Cup however, players on World Cup NXL rosters could not play for any other teams – this meant that some power players often seen in the Millennium would only be playing on the NXL side of the field. The other challenge facing the four Millennium teams came in the form of the game clock.
Millennium X-Ball Lite uses a 3-minute time-out after each point, allowing teams time to reload before they head back to the starting box. For the Intercontinental cup, a 2-minute break as used in traditional X-Ball was utilized. Several times, Millennium teams didn't make the turn-around fast enough, and started into a new point one player short – a situation as bad as receiving a penalty, and in some ways worse, because there was no chance of a fresh player popping onto the field when the penalty expired. In the Philly vs. Frankfurt game Frankfurt felt even more of the pinch with a major penalty putting one of their players in the penalty box until the last point was played. This gave Frankfurt just 4 men on the field for the majority of the game. Steve Porterfield from Baltimore Trauma had an exciting point against Ton Tons' Voulot where they circled the field, trying to get a shot on each other.
The winners from the prelims moved on to the semifinal round, and agreed to step up the pace of the tournament, reducing the time between games to avoid the possibility of playing under the predicted afternoon rains. In the semifinals Boston Red Legion defeated Miami Raiders 5 to 0, and Baltimore Trauma beat the Philly Americans 4 to 1, in the first game of the competition that actually ran down the 15 minute clock. This put Boston in the finals game against Baltimore Trauma. This game also ran down the clock with Trauma winning 4 to 3 and becoming the first ever Intercontinental Cup Champions for an all NXL win, Baltimore Trauma first, Boston Red Legion second, Miami Raiders third and Philadelphia Americans in fourth.
On Wednesday, the World Cup proper got into full swing. Under partly clouded skies in the 70s, the teams of the NXL and X-Ball divisions began playing their preliminary rounds.
The NXL of course competed with NXL teams only – those that owned franchises in the league, and those invited to compete at the beginning of the season based on their performance in other pro leagues. Division-I X-Ball was replaced with “open class” allowing teams that play as pro and semi-pro and D-I elsewhere. This boosted the size of the division which has been small recently, to 13 teams. Division II filled out to 33 teams, and Division III brought out 62 teams.
The Masters Division added a fun aspect to the tournament. While it only had 7 teams, its minimum age requirement of 40 made it stand out. Many well known players who had gone into retirement or coaching roles were back in the game. Notable players and paintball industry people on the rosters included Steve Rabackoff, Mike Giles, Gerwin Henn, Ed Poorman, Dennis Ashley, Mike Bogolub, Bob Long, Robert “Rosie” Rose, Gary Shows and Lane Wright went at it in an X-Ball lite style game format. Unlike the Intercontinental Cup, the Masters had 3 minutes to get geared up and back on the field between points. Simply playing in a round robin format without finals, the Ego Maniacs finished as the first ever Masters Division winners.
NXL games were all played on the event's grandstand field – surrounded on three sides by grandstands, and shielded from view outside the stands and team staging areas. Wednesday morning Boston Red Legion received heavy resistance from X-Factor, defeating them 8 to 7. Philly Americans took down Ultimate 9 to 3. Similarly, the LA Ironmen took apart Less Than Zero 11 to 6. Miami Raiders beat Oakland Assassins 10 to 5. Detroit Strange doubled San Diego Legacy's score 8 to 4. Baltimore Trauma, one day after winning the Intercontinental Cup, fell to Chicago Aftershock 5 to 10, and Dynasty beat New York Xtreme 9 to 8.
As has been tradition for over ten years, even though the Paintball World Cup is no longer held next to Old Town Kissimmee, the small town themed open air mall with its gift shops, restaurants and bars - especially Sun On The Beach, was a popular location for players to gather after the sun had set and games were over. Wednesday night a ProCaps Direct sponsored spectacle - midget wrestling - drew mixed responses from spectators. Much along the lines of a train wreck, some thought it disturbing, but couldn't help but watch. "I felt dirty," commented Berger, one of the NXL refs, after the event was over.
Thursday's games kicked off under cloudless skies, the temperature still in the 70s. On the grandstand field, the day started out with the Naughty Dogs defeating the Philly Americans 8 to 5. With two wins under their belt, Dogs' captain Rocky Knuth commented on the NXL field's grandstands providing much more of a showcase for the games than in years past, as well as the tournament's overall layout working very effectively. In the next NXL game Chicago Aftershock fell to the LA Ironmen 6 to 8. New York Xtreme took Miami Raiders 9 to 5. Detroit Strange defeated X-Factor 7 to 4. XSV took Ultimate 8 to 2, and Baltimore rolled over 15 to 4. Dynasty and Oakland had a close game 6 to 5. In the last NXL game of the day Boston Red Legion hammered San Diego Legacy 20 to 5.
As the preliminary round games progressed, the event trade show was in full swing. Smaller vendor booths filled the spaces between large trucks from the major companies in the sport, and new product releases caught much attention. DraXxus was showing the new Grill mask from V-Force and their Pulse loader with it's cartridge based force feed mechanism and radio frequency activation technology. New mid-cost paintguns turned heads, including the Proto Rail from DYE, Epiphany from Smart Parts, Mini from Invert, X7 from Tippmann and Special Ops Paintball, and Bob Long's Onyx.
The same weather held through the day on Friday, as the tournament site swelled with people. Not only was the NXL going, but 5-man X-Ball teams were playing on the divisional fields, while teams competing in the traditional 5-man format on the weekend got the lay of the land in preparation for their games.
The NXL games started bright and early with Dynasty taking down the Miami Raiders 9 to 5. Oakland defeated New York Xtreme 8 to 4. Baltimore Trauma beat the Los Angeles Ironmen 13 to 4 and Chicago Aftershock beat Las Vegas LTZ 7 to 4. Philly Americans fell to XSV 5 to 9, and Portland Naughty Dogs beat Ultimate 11 to 7. Boston Red Legion had an 8 to 3 victory over Detroit Strange and the last game of the day saw San Diego Legacy defeating X-Factor 12 to 8.
Division 3 X-Ball teams took the top 24 teams from their prelims into their ochofinals, where they were split into groups of three to play 2 games each, to be ranked for advancement.
From the ochos, the X-Ball teams went on to the quarterfinals. Here D-II and D-III ran in groups of 3, to play two games – the top four going on to the semifinals. The NXL quarterfinals narrowed down the top eight teams out of the prelims into four semifinal/finalists in a single elimination round. Baltimore Trauma defeated Chicago Aftershock 6 to 4. Boston Red Legion rolled through New York Xtreme 16 to 1, and the Portland Naughty Dogs beat Detroit Strange 8 to 3. It was Sacramento XSV that knocked out Dynasty 9 to 6.
Five-man X-Ball was rolling at full tilt by this point – and had to in order to get all of their games in during daylight hours. Efficient reffing was needed to keep the games turning around on schedule, and despite the size of the competition the event ran smoothly. Thirty teams played Division II 5-man, and were broken into six groups of 5 teams each for their preliminary round. Each team was matched up against the four other teams from their group, and for each pairing they played three back to back games of 5-man centerflag paintball. This gave them a total of 12 games in the round, though ranking depended on the totals of their top 2 scores from each pairing.
Sixty-two teams played Division 3 5-Man X-Ball in 5 groups of 5, and two groups of 6, similarly running 12 games for the prelims. The monster division, and entry level for new tournament teams was Division IV 5-Man X-Ball with 130 teams turning out. Rounding out the 5-man side of things were 13 young guns teams – new tournament players limited by age to young teens and pre-teens, playing round robin. This was a total of 235 5-man teams playing 2,820 games making just the 5-man portion of the World Cup by itself larger than some of the next largest paintball tournaments in the world.
Division IV 5-Man X-Ball, as large as it was would play two more elimination rounds before they got to the ochofinals. In the first of these rounds their 130 teams were trimmed down to the top 64 teams from the prelim, playing in 16 groups of four each, playing 3 games in the round.
While Sunday started off with clouds in the sky and a very light drizzle, the clouds soon parted to warm blue skies and sunshine. The NXL grandstand field was the center of action for high profile finals games. Both Baltimore Trauma and Sacramento XSV fell in the NXL semifinals, and that pitted them against each other for a lunch time match. XSV was the winner 8 to 7, giving them third place in the tournament.
The 5-Man teams in Divisions II, II and IV each had 3 games to play against the three other teams in their group. The eight quarterfinalists from each division were divided into groups of four, with the top two teams from each moving on to the semifinals and finals.
The Young Guns Teams, their prelims being smaller, had bypassed the additional rounds and gone straight to semifinals and finals. There they took on the best 2 out of 3 game format. Team Rush fell to CrossFire Indoor Black their first game, but won the second two, while Naughty Dogs Jr. beat Fox Young Guns their first game, dropped the second and won the third. In the finals Fox Young Guns posted back to back wins over Cross Fire Indoor Black for a third place finish. Team Rush beat Naughty Dogs Jr. twice in a row, securing the first place Young Guns trophy and prize package.
Division IV 5-man saw Final Justice beating Angers twice in the semifinals, and PBD Allstars dropping their first game to DBS Kidz, but winning the next two. In the finals DBS Kidz took down Angers two times for third place. Final Justice played through two back to back wins over PBD Allstars for first place.
In Division III 5-man Team Predators won their first semifinal game against EAS, but lost the next and won the third. TX Justice League won twice in a row against Who Too. In the finals Who Two was beaten by EAS in their first game, but came back for the next two and finished the tournament in third place. TX Justice League took it to Team Predators twice in a row and won the tournament.
The pinnacle of 5-man competition at World Cup was Division-II. In their semifinals SplatAttack.com beat BMFK twice in a row while RNT Allstarz won their first game against Part-Time Ninjas, but lost the second and won the third. In the finals BMFK had double wins over Part-Time Ninjas for third place. RNT Allstarz beat SplatAttack.com twice in a row for first place.
In divisional X-Ball semifinals, the top ranked quarterfinalist played the bottom ranked, while the second and third ranked played each other. Winners of this round went to play the finals for first and second place, while losers competed for third and fourth. In D-III East Coast Killers took down Toronto Mavericks 3 to 2, and Dynasty Entourage beat PBC Gridlock with the same score. In their finals matches Gridlock took down the Mavericks 4 to 3 for third place. Dynasty Entourage earned 4 points against East Coast Killers' 3, taking home the first place trophy for the division.
In Division II semifinals Team Speed powered through Quiet Storm NY 7 to 1, and Gridlock PBC beat Voltage 5 to 4. In the finals round Voltage posted a one point victory over Quiet Storm, 7 to 6 for third place. Gridlock PBC finished in first place by beating second place Team Speed 5 to 4.
For the Open Class teams the competition of the prelims sorted things down to the four semifinalists. In the semifinal round San Diego Aftermath beat Miami Rage / Str8killas 4 to 3. Team Impact took down Gridlock 7 to 5. In their finals games Rage/Str8killas bested Gridlock 8 to 4 for third place. San Diego Aftermath took home the first place trophy by beating Team Impact 9 to 2.
The NXL finals game came down to Boston Red Legion against the Portland Naughty Dogs. Legion had already won in Vegas and the So Cal Open, and still finished with high rankings at Chicago and Texas. The Dogs did not have as strong a season coming in to cup, their best previous NXL finish being 5th place. For the World Cup though, they pulled through into the top four, and the finals game. That match went to Boston with an 11 to 3 score, giving Naughty Dogs second place in the tournament and the Legion first. As their third NXL win of the year, Boston Red Legion nailed down their position from the strong odds on favorite, to the accomplished 2006 NXL World Champions.
Three hundred and sixty-six teams competed in World Cup2007, in a week kicked off by the 8-team Intercontinental Cup. Central Florida saw a virtual city of paintball players, fans and industry quickly grow at the Disney Wide World of Sports. With the 2006 season complete, plans are already underway to build 2007 even bigger.