Article written in partnership with Iconic Paintball, Quinn Nadu
It has been nearly three years of uncertainty and change since the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic started; it brought along with it a shutdown of all nearly all organized sporting activities in Europe and paintball was not immune to this. However, much of that is now in the rear-view mirror as NXL Europe, the premier professional paintball league in the EU, has been led back to a steady path of growth under the Major League of Paintball and the NXL.
With an expanded professional franchise roster for 2023, the league is seeing a highly elevated level of growth with the largest field of pro teams in NXL Europe’s near decade-long history. The introduction of a season-long Semi-Pro and WNXL division also brings a new level of intrigue and participation, with more than twenty new season franchises looking to make their mark on European paintball.
The Major League of Paintball, the new worldwide organization bringing paintball leagues around the world together, has been led by industry veteran Tom Cole and expanded its reach with the inclusion of the NXL Europe under its umbrella. This will bring an unprecedented level of support for both players and companies as Tom Cole has been a staunch advocate for players and their teams around the globe since he became the NXL President in 2015, and the MLPB CEO from its inception. Laurent Hamet has also been hired to the MLPB as the Vice President of NXL Europe, and one of the longest tenured tournament organizers in the industry will bring vital experience and expertise to the league.
The 2023 season in Europe is about to bloom, and with it, a new invigoration for competitive paintball in one of the largest paintball regions in the World. With arguably some of the best venues in the sport, the 2023 season is looking to bring some of the best events in nearly a decade and the fiercest competition in the leagues history.
The Idyllic Venues of the 2023 Season
European paintball events have always been known for their incredible venues, pristine fields, and top notch event support staff. For the 2023 season, the NXL will make stops in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Paris for the EU Championship at the end of the season. Each event will play a critical role in determining the Season Champion, as well as bring clarity to which four teams will earn an invite to the NXL World Cup in November hosted in Kissimmee, Florida.
The first stop of the season will guide players to Adventure Paradise, an outdoor sports facility located in Sevenum, Netherlands surrounded by lush green forests. The facility features two fully turfed NXL regulation paintball fields, field length pit areas, and an expansive vendor area for both fans and players to enjoy. The opening event of the year will take place from 26-28 May and will provide early insight into which teams will make the strongest run at a season title.
The premier facility in the United Kingdom, CPPS will play host to the second NXL Europe event of 2023 on 7-9 July. Tucked away in the scenic farmlands of Birmingham, the field offers arguably the best grass paintball fields in the World. With five grass NXL fields and one fully turfed field, the venue is the UK’s largest facility and gives players the quintessential tournament paintball experience that Europe is known for. Event two is the penultimate step of each team's journey to a season championship, and the best chance for semi-pro teams to solidify their place in the standings to earn a pro spot in 2024.
A paintball experience like no other in Europe, the final stop of the 2023 season brings players back to Paris, France for the European Championships; the fully turfed paintball stadium surrounded by stands has become the venue that makes or breaks a teams season. Additionally, it will also host the Nation’s Cup that takes place during the European Championships that hosts National teams from all over the World together to compete for bragging rights as the best in the World. It is here, from August 31st-September 3rd that teams will have their chance to be crowned the European Champion and earn their ticket to the World Cup of Paintball hosted in Kissimmee Florida in November. The final event of the year also brings an expanded divisional presence, with D3, D4, Amateur, and Novice divisions all being offered.
Top Pro Teams to Watch in 2023
Toulouse TonTons, 2022 Rank: 1st (tie), Notable Events: 2022 European Championship 1st Place 🥇
Player to Watch: Axel Gaudin
The European Champion of 2022 returns to defend their title behind one of the strongest rosters in Europe. One of the longest tenured pro franchises in history, the TonTons have always been known for their aggressive, offensive presence on the field backed by an elite level of veteran poise. Axel Gaudin, the transatlantic star for the TonTons who also plays in the NXL US pro division for Edmonton Impact, is the unquestioned leader of the team his father helped build. In his 15th season as a pro, Axel has been one of the best players to ever come from Europe and will be a must–watch player all year long because of his highly nuanced and fearless style of play at the attack position.
Breakout Spa, 2022 Rank: 1st (tie), Notable Events: 2022 British Invitational, 1st Place 🥇
Player to Watch: Alan Goulding
Breakout Spa was an intriguing team last season; flanking a first place victory at the British Invitational with two early Sunday exits hinted at flashes of inconsistency on the biggest stages. However, this is a team that has been on the Pro EU scene for nearly a decade and full of top level talent. Their balanced style of play allows them to quickly react at all levels of the field and can be difficult to counter when they are at their best. The player to watch is Alan Goulding; Goulding is one of the most individually skilled players in all of Europe, and alongside Axel Knauf, leads one of the most precise, veteran rosters of the pro division. He spent years honing his skill with the Los Angeles Ironmen in the United States and brings together the talented roster from Belgium.
Camp Pendleton Raiders, 2022 Rank: 6th, Notable Events: 2022 German Invitional 1st Place 🥇
Player to Watch: Marcello Margott
Led by arguably the best player in the world, Marcello Margott, the Camp Pendleton Raiders are a team of USA divisional players who made a major statement in 2022 when they won the season opener in Germany. Playing a much more methodical and defensively postured style, the Raiders were a difficult team to cede control of the field from last season and should bring an even tighter style of player in 2023. Marcello Margott is the player to watch; an illustrious pro career backed by more than two dozen wins, six World Cup titles, and back to back Defensive Player of the Year awards, he gives the Raiders an incredible level of talent and leadership that forces teams to gameplan around him.
Gladiatori Unicusano, 2022 Rank: 3rd, Notable Events: 2022 NXL EU German Invitational 3rd Place 🥉
Player to Watch: Pavel Mares
One of the most consistent teams of the 2022 season, Gladiatori Unicusano placed 6th or higher in every event of the year and made deep Sunday runs in both the season opener in Germany and the World Championships in Paris. Although they fell short of winning an event, this team is a must-watch in 2023. The roster is a unified group of EU and US pro players and brings a diverse style to the field behind the versatility of Kyle Barry, and the commanding presence of Czech Pro Pavel Mares. Mares is the player to watch for Gladiatori; it's not common to see a pro player under 30 with a near decade of pro paintball experience, but Pavel is not a common talent. His strong abilities as a shooter off the break and reactive style to fill gaps in the opposing teams defense at all levels of the field makes him a strong player to watch in 2023.
As Event One Nears, Pro’s Prepare for the Netherlands Invitational
The Major League of Paintball will commence its opening event of the NXL Europe season in just over a month. With some of the best players in all the World looking to make their mark on Europe in 2023, the highest growth season in NXL EU history will be one to remember. As teams prepare for the Netherlands Invitational on 26-28 May, fans of the game can watch the entire event on NXL Live and follow along all the action and see which pro team will take the early lead in the season standings for 2023.
@nxleurope | www.nxlpaintball.com