Last week, Intel announced the Intel World Open, a national-team based esports competition that will take place just days before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Rocket League and Street Fighter V competitors will both have the opportunity to compete for $250,000 and the chance to represent their country on a global stage.
While the tournament isn’t an official Olympic event, it’s just about as close as esports can be to the Olympics without being actually included. This is a pretty big deal for esports in general — the live events in Tokyo will be an excellent opportunity to present esports to the general public as the city becomes the center of the world’s attention.
It’s an even bigger deal for Rocket League fans for one reason in particular: In true Olympic fashion, this event will be the first major event where teams are organized by nation. Anyone who follows soccer knows how interesting team dynamics can get as players from rival squads come together as teammates on their respective national teams. Players have to quickly adjust to new tactics and teamwork styles in addition to the extra pressure of representing your nation.
Partially because of these new challenges, international soccer creates some incredible stories. You might remember Iceland’s fairy tale run in the 2016 Euros where an underdog Iceland team defeated England to reach the quarterfinals, apparently fueled by passion and national pride alone. The idea of high level play presented in an all-new way, combined with esports fans’ penchant for the underdog, has Rocket League fans ecstatic.