With the end of the LCS Summer playoffs around the corner, one of the league’s biggest stories hasn’t involved TSM, CLG, or Team Liquid (at least not in the starring role), but a surprising underdog.
Clutch Gaming, in just its second year in existence, has reached and advanced through the playoffs, having moved past TSM in the quarterfinals. To have reached the playoffs twice in two years is an incredible achievement for such a new org. Especially one which has been off the radar for much of the season, and was completely absent from contention during the Spring 2019 split.
There are teams with far more storied histories than Clutch in the LCS who can barely claim to have had similar success. And yet even now, standing under the more notable Team Dignitas umbrella, Clutch still retains its underdog status. So when Clutch faced off against TL for a spot in the finals last weekend, things went far better than expected for the team.
Clutch picked up game two, and then game four, outplaying a Team Liquid which looked shell-shocked by their opponent’s exceptional play. During the series TL made mistakes across the board, and Clutch picked the pieces to secure victories. But Clutch wasn’t just relying on their opponents to gift them a finals spot; they were pushing them to the limit to do so. And in the process, forced TL into a thrilling game five situation.
Sadly, facing this final hurdle, Clutch were unable to claim victory. Liquid defeated them after one of the best LCS playoff series in recent memory. Mistakes plagued TL throughout, and Clutch had many moments when it could have turned things around and seized the upset victory.
Ultimately, it was not to be, and yet Clutch showed they’re more than just a whipping boy for the eternal top teams of the LCS to dominate. Against CLG on Saturday, the team will be looking for third place against a shaky CLG side. One that’s underperformed for most of the year, rarely taking a straight win in a best of two series.
Beyond this, Clutch has already qualified for the LCS 2019 Regional Finals. There they’ll face a TSM team they’ve already proven themselves superior to, a Flyquest squad that failed to qualify for this split’s playoffs, and a rematch versus CLG. What’s more, if they defeat CLG, they’ll bypass the first round, gifting them a cleaner run to the finals.
It really is too early to hope that this team reaches Worlds. But as the narrative develops, Clutch Gaming are fast becoming a fantastic candidate to be the next ‘hope’ for North America. The region has struggled on the world stage, never achieving the victories it’s rabid fanbase expects. Perhaps an underdog, with nothing to prove but everything to play for, is exactly what NA needs?