LONDON - Atlanta United came into Championship Sunday of the FIFA Global Series (FGS) Team of the Season Cup (TOTS) as the only eSports team from a football-soccer organization still alive in the competition. Fellow MLS club Houston Dynamo was eliminated in Round 1 of the Lower Bracket on Saturday, same as Dutch club AFC Ajax, while CF Montréal lost in the Round 1 of the Upper Bracket; Italian Inter eSports, from Inter Milan, were eliminated on Friday in the Group Stage.
Paulo Neto and Vini Leiva, ATL UTD gamer duo, made Sunday's final day of the competition via the Upper Bracket by defeating favorites Excel eSports, from England, 1-0, and Argentinians Krü eSports by 3-0.
Only six teams out of 32 made it to Championship Sunday, four in the Upper Bracket semifinals and two in the Lower Bracket semifinals. The winers of the Upper Bracket matches will go on to the final, while the other two teams will fill the remaining spots in the Lower Bracket semifinal match-ups to later have two finals, one in each bracket. The winners of each final play the Grand Final for a chance to earn a direct spot in the FIFAe Club World Cup and $100 thousand.
The Upper Bracket, nicknamed the "winners' bracket", includes teams who topped their corresponding group in the first stage of the competition played on Friday. The Lower Bracket included the teams that finished third in their groups and has been added the teams that lose their matches in the Upper Bracket since the knockout-rounds started on Saturday.
Semifinals - Upper Bracket
Atlanta United faced Mkers Sweden in the semifinals of the Upper Bracket, the team that had scored the most amount of goals throughout the competition. It was a match that it all from beginning to end in both legs.
Paulo and Vini scored first surprising their opponents in the 23th minute of the first leg, by combining their players very well inside the box. A few minutes later, however, luck did not favor ATL UTD as a pass back to the goalkeeper ended up with an own goal.
The game continued to be extremely two-sided as both teams tried to score to take an advantage for the second leg, but were not successful until the 90th minute, when Mkers managed to score a late winner due to some space left in the back by ATL UTD. Mkers Sweden won the first leg 2-1.
Confidence did not die down on Paulo and Vini and they came into the second leg fired up to tie the series. A goal in the 10th minute gave ATL UTD a boost of energy needed to continue their path in the Upper Bracket.
Mkers tied the game a few minutes later after another mistake from ATL UTD in the back, but just before halftime Paulo and Vini tied the series once more time with once again great coordination in their rivals' box. After Mkers scored another goal in the second half to take the lead 4-3 in the series, Atlanta went full on attack mode and had five clear chances that were either shut down by Mkers' goalkeeper or lacked shooting power to score, including three consecutive corner kicks in added time.
With the result, Mkers Sweden advances to the Final of the Upper Bracket, while Atlanta United gets sent to the Lower Bracket where they will face DUX Gaming from Spain.
Quarterfinals - Lower Bracket
Atlanta United continued to their promising run in the FGS TOTS Cup against DUX Gaming from Spain, one of the top 5 teams in the world.
The first half of the first leg was a possession game, just as if we were witnessing a live-action match between the best national team versions of Spain and Brazil. Different to their real-life counterparts, however, DUX Gaming and ATL UTD did not produce any high impact chances in the first period of the match.
Atlanta reacted quick in the second half and scored the first goal from an open play finding a player near the top of the box through the left in the 52nd minute.
Since then, Paulo and Vini dominated the match and in the 58th minute a one-two between the virtual version of Pelé and Kylian Mbappé found the back of the net for the second goal of the match. Just when things seemed to be over with a 2-0 lead in the first leg, Atlanta took advantage of a free kick in added time to score a third after a scramble inside the box by DUX.
The momentum continued into the second leg and luck struck in Atlanta United's favor when a long-range shot from outside the box bounced off the post and fell into an ATL UTD player for an easy tap-in. The match continued on with Atlanta controlling the possession and generating a few more chance than DUX who tried to make formation changes with thirty (virtual) minutes to go before the final whistle.
Paulo and Vini reacted to DUX's arrangements and quickly found the back of the net once more in the 64th minute, killing off a counter attack by their opponent. DUX could not recover from that goal and close to the end of the match, Atlanta scored a sixth goal to wrap up the series where they were far more superior than their opponent.
Atlanta United won 6-0 on aggregate and now advances to the Lower Bracket Semifinal where they will play New Zealand's Dire Wolves, and secures a top 4 finish in the tournament.
The winner of the Lower Bracket Semifinal will play the losing team of the Upper Bracket Final (Mkers Sweden and Team Heretics), for a chance to qualify to the FGS TOTS Cup Grand Final, the trophy and $100 thousand.
Semifinals - Lower Bracket
With the Top 4 secured in the competition, Paulo and Vini faced a very consistent Dire Wolves team, which beat eSports powerhouse Fnatic with a score of 6-4 in the Quarterfinals. It was definitely the toughest match the team faced in the entire tournament.
The first leg was a game where both teams played to not make any mistakes and it wasn't until the clock marked the second minute of added time that Dire Wolves scored the opening goal. With the result, the New Zealander team took the advantage in the series.
Atlanta then faced one more leg, to either go home or continue in the competition, for one more chance at winning it all.
Paulo and Vini understood the assignment right away, and came into the second leg with incredible force. At the 29th minute, they scored their first goal of the series with an incredible build-up between the four fearsome attacking players.
The score held up until the end of regulation time, despite Atlanta United having important chances to score which meant the match would be decided in extra time.
It was déjà vu for ATLUTD as Dire Wolves scored a goal in the dying second of the first half of extra time to tie the second leg, which gave them the lead by 2-1 on aggregate. However, Paulo and Vini reacted almost immediately as the last 15 (virtual) minutes of the match were starting, and scored another series-tying goal which forced the match to be decided in penalty shootouts.
It was the fourth match of the competition that Atlanta United had to decide on PKs, and as luck would have it, they couldn't score either one of their three shots. Paulo and Vini managed to save one shot from Dire Wolves, but the New Zealanders scored three to advance into the Lower Bracket Final.
Being in the Top-4 of the competition means Atlanta United has positioned itself as a powerhouse in the FIFAe circuit, having won a FGS Master Series this year as a duo, as well as the 2022 eMLS Cup by Paulo Neto. ATLUTD eSports duo will come back to London in July 1-3 for the FGS Playoffs, looking to secure a spot in the FIFAe Club World Cup.