7 weeks. That’s all the time left until the main event for The International 2016 begins. In preparation for the event, Valve has recently announced the teams that are directly invited.
Only six teams received direct invites this year, as compared to ten for last year. We can speculate that Valve’s intention was for teams to prove their prowess to ensure that only the best of the best attends The International 2016. The six teams to receive direct invites are: OG, Team Liquid, Newbee, LGD Gaming, MVP Phoenix, and Natus Vincere.
Of the six teams, LGD Gaming is the only controversial one for me. Since The International 2015, they have only ranked highly in two notable tournaments: 2nd at World Cyber Arena 2015 and 4th at The Manila Major. The other five teams have sufficiently proven themselves throughout this season.
Considering a North American team, Evil Geniuses, won The International 2015, it would have been appropriate for at least one North American team to be directly invited. Speaking of Evil Geniuses, many people found it weird that they didn’t receive a direct invite, despite their poor performance lately. Newbee, the champions of The International 2014, was directly invited to The International 2015 despite terrible placements in tournaments prior to the event. They proceeded to get demolished by the competition, and ended in 13th-16th place. Perhaps Valve didn’t invite the struggling Evil Geniuses squad after realizing their mistake last year.
Six direct invites means that ten slots remain. The 1st and 2nd place team in each Regional Qualifier will secure their spot in The International 2016 main event, while the 3rd place team from each qualifier has to play in a Wild Card tournament. The two best teams in the Wild Card tournament will also qualify for the main event.
The Regional Qualifiers will occur very soon, lasting from June 25th to June 28th. Each Regional Qualifier has two open slots for teams participating in the Open Qualifier to compete for. The verified teams playing in each Regional Qualifier can be seen in the image below:
The Open Qualifiers’ spots will be filled as soon as the Open Qualifiers end on June 24th. Quickly scanning through the lists of teams will reveal that two of the most famous teams are missing: Evil Geniuses from the American Qualifiers and Team Secret from the European Qualifiers. Both teams have had lackluster performances in recent tournaments, but I don’t believe anyone could have predicted that they wouldn’t even be directly invited to the Regional Qualifiers. In their places are teams which many Dota 2 players won’t even recognize.
There is only one reasonable explanation I could conceive. Throughout the 2016 season, Evil Geniuses and Team Secret refused to play in smaller tournaments. This approach appeared to work, considering Team Secret’s absolute domination in the period shortly after The International 2015. However, as other teams adjusted to their new players, Team Secret became a relatively irrelevant team. Valve might have opted to not invite either team because they have not played enough official matches in this season. Whatever the reason might be for the missing invites, Evil Geniuses and Team Secret are expected to cruise through the Open Qualifiers and obtain their “chance to break into the professional scene”, as Valve puts it.
That about summarizes what’s happening in the Dota 2 scene right now leading up to The International 2016. An article predicting the final sixteen teams to attend The International 2016 will be published soon, so make sure to watch out for that. Finally, let us know in the comments below your thoughts on this year’s direct invites!