Written by Quinn Nadu, Iconic Paintball | NXLPaintball.com
Photo of LJ Parrish & Corey Hall, Los Angeles Ironmen
World Cup; two words that carry a heavy weight in the world of competitive paintball. Since 1989, the Paintball World Cup has been the premiere professional paintball tournament that every player dreams of winning. Under the NXL it has become one of the largest single outdoor sports tournaments in history; nearly 500 competitive teams and 5000 players all competing for a coveted World Cup title.
Florida has been the historic host to this epic paintball battle at the end of each season for decades, and Kissimmee Sports has provided one of the best venues in the World for the adrenaline packed sport of competitive paintball. With an advanced live streaming platform on GoSports.com, fans from all over the World have been able to enjoy this event and see every second of wild, action packed play.
Put simply, this event is the most critical point of the season. For teams, they have the chance to win cash prizes, trophies and rings, and most importantly, write their names into the book of paintball greatness.
Photo by Gary Baum, PaintballPhotography.com
“This place is a paintball player’s paradise, it’s like it was meant to host this event.” Players have been vocal over the last few seasons about the experience that Kissimmee Sports has provided players in partnership with the NXL. They have provided elite playing surfaces, a lively trade show, and an atmosphere that is unmatched; it feels different here.
Set on nearly 65 acres of pristine grass, adjacent to the historic Gaylord Palms Resort, this venue has been home to the NXL World Cup since 2015 and has been well received by players and fans alike; “The grass at Cup is incredible, it's the sort of playing surface you can only dream of as a player. The venue just has this truly special feeling about it as you walk through the trade show.” said one player competing at the event. When it comes to outdoor sports venues, the grounds in Kissimmee are some of the best in the world and the NXL has set a new bar in securing this venue each season.
Photo of Tyler Harmon, Houston Heat
The singular focus of nearly every player as they step onto the World Cup venue is directed at one goal, “WWC”, or, “Win World Cup”, an acronym that has been used by players for decades in the sport of pro paintball. It's a resolute and simple message, but powerful nonetheless. For four professional teams, those words bear extra weight, as the race for the season title is closer than ever with Edmonton Impact, San Diego Dynasty, Los Angeles Infamous, and Houston Heat all in contention to take home the season championship. A World Cup victory from any four of these teams would catapult them to the top of the season-long leaderboard and all but guarantee their ascension as the kings of pro paintball.
Competitive paintball players compete in multiple stages of events throughout the year; from March to November the NXL hosts 4 Major events and 2 minor events, all culminating in an epic finish at the World Cup. There are a variety of divisions in competitive paintball, which sort players into different levels of skill and class. From professional, all the way down to Division 5, the World Cup offers players of all skill types to compete for paintball glory and have fun while doing it.
However, not everything at the final event of the NXL season is so cheerful. For a handful of professional teams, they face the potential of relegation from the professional division, similar to MLS soccer relegation. AC Dallas, Sacramento DMG, and the MLKings are all battling for their professional paintball lives, as the lowest ranked team of the season will be removed from the pro division and replaced by the top semi-pro team in their stead. As these teams fight to keep their head above water, they are sure to provide some of their best play of the season as they try to remain in the pro division.
A dramatic finish for the Professional Division
Photo of Ryan Brand, San Antonio X-Factor (Head Coach)
Edmonton Impact has been at the head of the pro division all season and has set the bar on consistent play throughout the year. Behind their incredibly versatile, superstar player, Alex Goldman, as well as other elite players like Justin Rabackoff, Nick Levial, and Alex Rodriguez, Impact has posted a top two finish in all but one event this year, and had an event win to open the season in March. This team is incredibly disciplined and they should continue to grind down pro teams with their impressive roster depth and top-notch coaching from Dave Bains.
For Impact, this event is just another chance to assert the same message; they are one of the greatest teams in professional paintball history. But, with the race for the top spot so close this year, will we see Impact fold to the pressure from other top programs at their heels?
For other teams in the pro division, the World Cup offers the chance to catapult their organization into the discussion as one of the best teams in the world. Columbus LVL, in just their second season, has suddenly found a winning formula after struggling early in their journey through the pro league. Justin Politi and Dany Schonauer have been great for them all season and should thrive on this aggressive Cup layout.
After an inspired performance at the Windy City Major tournament in Chicago last month, LVL has all the makings of a pro team on the verge of a breakout. Placing highly at the final event of the year, or even having the audacity to outright win the event, has major implications for the future of this program and could launch them into the discussion as the future of the NXL pro division. Can they prove Chicago wasn’t a fluke, and that they are destined for paintball greatness?
On the brink of losing all they have fought for this season, ac Dallas is in a precarious situation entering the World Cup. They are potentially facing the end of their status as a professional team after a season plagued by underperformance at the sharp disparity of the pro division. There is no easy setting in professional paintball, and it is very much a game of win or go home. Sitting in last place in the season standings, Dallas faces an intense uphill battle if they want to remain in the pro division and prove all the doubters that they are here to stay.
Paintball is an interesting sport, in that teams will lose events a substantial amount more than they will win, but that just makes hoisting the first place trophy as the conquering tribe all the better. ac Dallas will need to play an inspired event of paintball to avoid losing their status. They can have every loss, every mistake, every fault, erased in a moment if they can make a deep run at the World Cup. They can change the narrative completely; that is what is so great about this sport, any team can win on any given day.
The Expert’s Picks
Photo by Rob Moore, Iconic Paintball
Pro Division Champion:
“Los Angeles Infamous has been playing incredibly consistently all season long. The layout looks to play very aggressive, a perfect fit for the best offensive team in paintball. Thomas Taylor continues to have a renaissance year, and Cody Mickowski should be dangerous down the middle of the field. The win will guarantee LA the Season Championship and further establish their position as one of the NXL’s elite teams. Greg Siewers is playing the final event of his pro career, and fans won’t want to miss his final, walk-off performance.”
Potential Pro Upset Team:
“Tampa Bay Damage has underperformed all year, after starting the year with a third place, they have since posted finishes all outside the top 10. However, Damage has the home crowd advantage at the World Cup, and by all accounts, they are working harder than ever. Keith Brown will dominate this snake side, and Jason and Jacob Edwards should provide a spark down the dorito side. Look for Damage to meet Infamous in the finals, and don’t be surprised when it happens.”
To win the Semi-Pro division:
“The Noobies have shown they have what it takes to earn a spot in the pro division. They have had a consistent season behind veterans Andy Schoemaker and Ryan Rodriguez, and the emergence of Damian Vazquez and Dominic DeVivo as future stars in the pro paintball league has pushed them to fourth place in the season standings. They play a style of paintball based around discipline and unbreakable defense, and with Vazquez relentlessly attacking down the dorito side, I expect the Noobies to win this division and potentially a pro spot.”
To win Division 2:
“It would take a true doubter to not pick Austin Notorious to win Division 2. They have been on fire all season, and with a roster full of pro-level talent from players like Ty Bateman, and the incredibly aggressive Mark Frans Jr., this program is a near lock to win the event and season title in Division 2. A brutal offensive style from Notorious has been tough on opponents all year, and other than maybe New Jersey Leverage, I don’t see any other team even close to Austin in terms of pure talent.”
To win Division 3:
“Divisional paintball in 2021 has been exciting, and Division 3 is no exception. When the Philadelphia A’s returned to paintball this season, they immediately became my favorite to win the season title. Loaded with former pro and top level 7-man players, this team has all the poise and experience needed. Look for Jesse Vandeboe to aggressively attack through the center and Connor Gallagher to hold a strong guard from the back line on their way to a World Cup win.”
To win Division 4:
“This division has quietly had one of the best battles of the NXL season. Five major and minor events, and each final has featured either Coalition or SLT fighting for first place. For SLT, they have fallen short three times, earning a second place each time. The story for Coalition is the opposite. They have been nothing short of dominant in Division 4; three first place wins in three events played and first in the season standings. Fans can only hope to see Coalition and SLT go head to head in the finals on Sunday and provide one last exciting battle in D4.
Photo Credit: Rob Moore, Quinn Nadu of Iconic Paintball.
The NXL World Cup has held the hopes and dreams of players in the sport of competitive paintball for decades, and this weekend should be no different. Teams have a chance at prestige, glory, and even redemption at the last event of the season. Fans can watch the event from November 11th - November 14th LIVE on-site (5990 W Osceola Pkwy, Kissimmee, FL) and on the webcast at GoSports.com all weekend! Experience the excitement of one of the largest sporting events on Earth as the storybook closes on the incredible 2021 season.