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2024 Las Vegas Open Event Preview, NXL Season Opener Kicks off at Craig Ranch Park



For the first time since the COVID shortened season of 2020, the Major League of Paintball will kick off the biggest competitive paintball tournament series in the world in Las Vegas. For years, players have been asking for the season opener to move back to the historic Craig Ranch Park site where the NXL has hosted many events throughout the year; WE. ARE. BACK!


Since the leagues inception in 2015, Las Vegas has played host to five major NXL events was historically always the critical first step in any teams aspirations for a Season Championship, and now the event will be bigger than ever. Breaking every previous record for a season opener, 320 total teams comprised of more than 2600 competitive paintball players will converge on Las Vegas on March 7th to fight for their respective divisional and pro trophies. With a near 40% increase in participation year over year, this is looking like it will be the biggest season of competitive paintball in the sports 40 year history.


The Venue and Layout



Sitting in the center of North Las Vegas, Craig Ranch regional park is a 170 acre venue sprawled among the historic backdrop of the Neon City. 


The layout for the Las Vegas Open is something we have never quite seen across all the divisions in the NXL’s near decade history. The layout, the way the bunkers are arranged on the field, is typically done in a symmetrical and linear path where both sides of the fields mirror each other respectively. For event one, NXL Commissioner and layout designer Jason Trosen has built a field based on diagonal symmetry. After a weekend of practice on the layout, many professionals and divisional players alike commented on the aggressive posture a team can take on the field, but also were quick to note its potential in more drawn out matches on Sunday. 


Both the snake and dorito side of the field swap once a player crosses the centerline of the field and it is helping the games most versatile players to shine through practice weekend. Defensive teams may struggle to contain the league's top offenses in the pro division such as XFactor, Houston Heat, but top defensive squads like Dynasty and Damage could become increasingly dangerous with their best in class break-shooting and lane discipline. While many layouts tend to move towards more consistent breakouts through the weekend, this layout looks primed to bring a large variety of strategy and approach from the best teams in the world. 


Pro Division Preview, Where we left off:



When the dust settled on a wild 2023 season, it was San Diego Dynasty standing atop paintball’s mountain, winning three events, their fourth straight Champions Cup, and yet another season title. However, many of the league’s top programs spent the offseason bolstering their rosters in preparation for the addition of even more snake beams to the bunker set. Free agent offensive players commanded the most attention with some of the league’s best like Axel Gaudin, Dany Schonauer, and LJ Parrish all finding new programs for 2024.


While Dynasty stills boasts the league's most impressive roster, Damage, XFactor, and Heat are all closing in for their shot at the title. However, with more parity than ever in the NXLs best division with the emergence of legendary franchise Aftershock, and many other teams improving their roster, 2024 may bring the biggest change in the pro hierarchy in years. 


Top Pro teams to Watch:


San Diego Dynasty
Player to Watch: Dany Schonauer

Dynasty returns to the 2024 Pro season coming off their fourth straight World Cup victory and three event wins in 2023. After spending the offseason adding star snake player, Dany Schonauer, Dynasty brings even more offensive potency to pair with Chris Schehr and Harrison Frye  after establishing themselves as the league's premiere defensive unit last season behind Marcello Margott and Ryan Greenspan. Schonauer is the player to watch for Dynasty; with an elite team around him, he finally will have the support he needs to be a truly elite offensive player for San Diego.  



Houston Heat

Player to Watch: Conner Kelley


Yet again, Houston Heat had a relatively quiet offseason per usual, minus the release of Head Coach Todd Martinez and the return of Ryan Smith to the Head Coach role. Heat may be the most intriguing team coming into the year as they are one of the most versatile offensive units in the league. With the emergence of Conner Kelley late last season as a premiere snake threat and a healthy Chad George, Heat seems most poised to take advantage of the additional snake beams to this year's bunker set, and this layout in particular should fit their versatility well. 



San Antonio XFactor

Player to Watch: Axel Gaudin


XFactor has been out of the winners circle for a few years now but don’t let that fool you; this is still one of the league's elite programs and the offseason addition of the best player in Europe, Axel Gaudin, makes this already potent team incredibly dangerous. Paired alongside Billy Bernacchia, they may form the most devastating offensive 1-2 punch in the league, and with a backline anchored by Demtri Ninios, 2024 may be the year of emergence for this titan of the pro division once again. 



Dark Horse: Los Angeles Ironmen 
Player to Watch: Damian Vazquez

The Ironmen have been taxing to watch the last few seasons; since their 2020 Vegas win, the league's oldest franchise has struggled to find any traction as a program, narrowly avoiding relegation the past two seasons. 2024 is the year of change for Los Angeles however; after releasing their entire 2023 roster and retooling with star players Stephen Omara, Tom Guest, and Henry Sentz, the Ironmen finally look legitimate. Damian Vazquez will finally get an opportunity to shine with the Ironmen after spending two seasons on the Dynasty bench learning from the best players in the World. He is an athletic and versatile player who can play at all levels of the field and could be a breakout player this season. 



Picks to Win from Quinn @ Iconic.


Pro: Houston Heat

“Houston Heat looks very dangerous offensively this season; the layout has been practicing well for teams that can press the attack behind their guns and the veteran attackers of Heat will be hard to slow down. Conner Kelley and Tyler Harmon will be a deadly combo alongside Chad George and I think Heat takes down Dynasty to win this one”


Semi Pro: Noobies

“The best team from 2023 not named Paintball Fit or Blast Camp, the Noobies program has aspirations of a season title and pro spot in 2024. After losing Damian Vazquez to the Ironmen in the offseason, they brought back snake player Tyler Hunter and added paintball legend Nicky Cuba to the coaching staff. I like the Noobies to win this one.” 


WNXL: Heroines

“As if this team wasn’t already talented enough, the addition of the Blanco sisters instantly makes the Heroines the best offensive team in the WNXL. They have so many options to create pressure wide and down the field; I can realistically see a scenario in which they win every event this season in the Women’s Pro division and I think they start here in Vegas with a win over the Cheetahs.”



The Summit and Awards



New for this season, the Major League of Paintball has spearheaded a new initiative to grow the sport behind the leadership of Tom Cole and his staff. The Summit comes to Vegas as a 3 day long, industry only trade show aimed at growing relationships across the industry and giving companies a platform to build. With paintball companies from all over the World set to join the Summit from March 11-13th, it should be the next critical step in worldwide growth of the game. 


In addition, the MLPB will also debut the Summit Awards, a partnership with Iconic Paintball to honor the best players and industry members of the sport in one unforgettable night. Hosted at the Sahara Casino Resort at the Azilo Pool Club, the night will feature nearly 60 awards, the Hall of Icons 2024 induction class, and the biggest party in paintball. Come join the NXL and the sports biggest stars at 7PM on March 10th; tickets available here.


Paintball is Back! Don't miss a second.


The season is ready to kick off for the biggest opener in paintball history and with nearly 3000 players descending on Las Vegas, season title aspirations will either start with a rapid rise, or be crushed before they ever begin. Come join the NXL from March 8th-10th to see the biggest names in paintball fight for the title of NXL Las Vegas Open Champions. You can catch all the action live from the pro field at GoSports.com and follow the action on the premiere field on the Major League of Paintball Youtube. 

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