We stand today at the precipice of a grand reckoning — one that will potentially shape our future for seasons to come. Once the old man of North American TF2 finally gives up the ghost, which league will stand to take its place?
Presently, there are four options: the recently announced NACL, sigafoo’s RGL, Sidular’s TFCL, and the established UGC. A brief overview of each of the leagues is compiled below:
Hyped to become the next big platform for competitive TF2, ESL Play was met with refrigerated reception following its first European cups. Despite attempts by mitch to garner support for a North American league on the platform, interest numbers fell short, with ESL Play dropping support for Team Fortress 2 altogether.
North American Competitive League (NACL)
Originally announced by the “New Beginnings” team, NACL completes one of the two tenets of their platform: to create a league as a distillation of community desires, along the same vein as ETF2L and ozfortress, and to form a global organization to unite and sustain the global TF2 scene.
The league is led by community veterans erynn, tsc, and twiikuu, who have all previously been involved in the development of PUG platforms, with erynn and tsc building the acclaimed PugChamp, and twiikuu being the primary architect behind TF2PL's Discord integration.
Despite the league's tenured leadership and general positive reception of the project as a whole, NACL's comparatively late official announcement has yet to reassure confidence. Still, since the platform is both under development and open to community feedback, the league may still yet capture hearts and minds.
Recharge Gaming League (RGL)
The brainchild of famed Highlander player and Engineer main sigafoo, RGL has been a polarizing venture. The league originally began as a test-bed for sigafoo's 7v7 "Prolander" format, before expanding to other gamemodes such as Highlander and "No Restriction Sixes". Despite its controversies, RGL has seen wide success, having created a successful Highlander league and holding claim to being the largest league in North America.
Once ESEA announced the closure of its TF2 league, RGL swiftly announced its own "Traditional Sixes" league, whose initial form featured certain departures from ESEA that proved controversial. Although RGL altered many of these aspects of the league according to community feedback, some remain wary. Nevertheless, as one of the most established and ambitious leagues in North America, and thanks to its hefty prize pools and collection of committed top-level teams, RGL remains the community favorite for replacing ESEA.
Team Fortress Competitive League (TFCL)
TFCL was originally established in late 2016 as a free, alternative league appealing to all skill levels. Despite garnering decent attention for its Ultiduo league, the league has been fairly dormant and small for most of its history, remaining an overall minor player in comparison to UGC and ESEA.
With ESEA now gone, TFCL hopes to finally breakthrough and become a major league in the North American scene by more closely replicating the ESEA experience, in contrast to RGL's then-progressive ruleset, and offering the promise of automation. However, TFCL's approach has somewhat subdued, with the league choosing to forgo its Rank S tier, which they had advertised in previous seasons.
United Gaming Clan (UGC)
Despite all the competition around the player-base ESEA will leave behind, UGC will steadfastly hold the niche they have held for all these years. The league plans to continue along their current trajectory without deviation to maintain their grasp on the players unwilling to pay fees to play competitive. A pillar of the competitive community for nearly a decade, UGC remains one of the oldest competitive institutions and an alternative for those who seek to casually compete for free.
While each league and its organizers have different goals, concerns, and visions for the competitive community, they all hope to provide the best service possible for their users and are dedicated to supporting TF2 far into the foreseeable future. What remains, then, is for individuals to pick their poison according to its unique idiosyncrasies, which are as follows:
Currently, all leagues will feature the following staple maps:
Beyond those, each league adds some additional supplemental maps.
UGC remains the only league to use cp_kalinka. Meanwhile, cp_badlands is used by both NACL and TFCL, with the latter also including cp_granary and cp_propaganda to include the entire ESEA map pool. Propaganda is also included the map pools of RGL and UGC, making NACL the only league where players cannot enjoy and/or tolerate it. Finally, TFCL, along with RGL, will also augment their pool with koth_clearcut, the first time this map will be featured in a competitive environment.
All leagues, including RGL, have committed to the Global Whitelist, in accordance with other national leagues. Originally, RGL intended on using a modified version of ESEA's current whitelist, but chose to align with the Global Whitelist following community feedback.
NACL is the only league to make a major break from the ESEA ruleset, forgoing a two half system for the typical North American scrimmage and LAN ruleset. This features a 5 round winlimit and 30 minute timelimit for 5CP maps and a 3 round winlimit for KOTH.
All other leagues will be retaining the three major standouts of the ESEA ruleset: a two-half system, five round winlimit for Control Point maps, and four round winlimit for King of the Hill maps. However, there are some minor differences surrounding when the half breaks between the leagues.
For 5CP matches, RGL and TFCL will call halftime when one team reaches three rounds won, while UGC will break at four rounds won. Meanwhile, for KOTH matches, halftime will occur at 2 rounds won in RGL, while taking place 3 rounds won instead within TFCL and UGC.
Invite (ESEA Invite) – $0
Advanced (High ESEA Intermediate) – $0
Intermediate (High ESEA Open - Low ESEA Intermediate) – $0
Novice (Low ESEA Open) – $0
Invite (ESEA Invite) – $40
Advanced (High ESEA Intermediate - ESEA Invite) – $30
Main (ESEA Intermediate) – $20
IM (Mid ESEA Open - Low ESEA Intermediate) – $15
Open (Low ESEA Open) – $0
Fresh Meat (Beginners) – $0
A (ESEA Intermediate) – $30
B (ESEA Open) – $15
C (Low ESEA Open) – $0
Platinum (High ESEA Open - Low ESEA IM) – $0
Silver (Mid-High ESEA Open) – $0
Steel (Low ESEA Open) – $0
Both UGC and NACL are completely free for entry, while only the lowest divisions are free among their competitors. However, while the former lacks prizes accordingly, NACL plans the allocate prize money depending on potential sponsorships.
For prizes among the paid leagues, RGL is expecting a $6,000–$8,000 prize pool to be split among its four paid divisions. Meanwhile, TFCL will be offering a $3,000 pot between its A and B divisions, with an additional $150 prize for its free C division.
Beyond the major points of interest for most players, each league also presents fringe benefits that may be appealing. For instance, TFCL is working to automate matches and pick-up games on their platform, which may be appealing to some users. Meanwhile, RGL is presenting a unique point system to determine placement, incorporating the rounds won and lost in a match as opposed to win-loss with runoff. Most importantly of all, however, RGL, TFCL, and UGC will also be giving out badges to participants, which will be unlikely to occur for NACL participants due to Valve’s new stricter badge policy.
The latest UGC season has already begun, lasting until around August 14th.
The RGL signups can be found on their website, lasting until August 9th.
The TFCL signups can be found on their website, lasting until July 30th.
The NACL signups can be found on their website, lasting until August 11th
This article has been altered to correctly display NACL's map pool.
This article has been further altered with the new RGL registration deadline.