After most squads took last week off, elite club teams from across the country are back in action this weekend at the Chesapeake Invite just outside of Washington, D.C. In the Open division, 11 of the 16 teams in attendance currently sit in the top 20 of USA Ultimate’s club rankings, making it arguably the best competition at any regular season tournament outside the Emerald City Classic this year.
The spectrum of teams competing makes the matchups this weekend even more intriguing. Top seeds and annual contenders Ironside (Boston), Chain Lightning (Atlanta), and Ring of Fire (Raleigh) are sure to get every opponent’s best shot. For teams in the hunt for a wildcard bid – like PoNY (New York), Streetgang (San Diego) and GOAT (Toronto) – the sanctioned results from this weekend could make or break the season. With so much on the line at the top East Coast tournament of the year, the Invite is sure to produce some thrilling showdowns.
Here are just a few of the stories we will be following at this weekend’s Chesapeake Invite.
1. Will Ironside keep on cruising?
Boston’s finest have put together quite a run the past couple years. Ironside has lost only one game this season – on universe point in the first round to a Rhino (Portland) team that refused to be beaten that day – and only three times since the beginning of last season. They enter the Invite this weekend as USA Ultimate’s #1 club in the nation and the clear team to beat. With every team gunning to knock Ironside off the top, it should be a battle for the squad to keep rolling and collect its fourth tournament title of the season.
2. How will Cash Crop stack up against the big boys?
The 19th ranked team in the nation will be playing the Invite with a little piece of motivation no other club will have: Cash Crop had to win its way in. Three weeks ago, the North Carolina-based squad topped the field at the Chesapeake Open to secure the final bid to this weekend’s Invite. It’s safe to assume Cash Crop will come out looking to prove they can hang and it shouldn’t take long to see if that’s true. The team will face off against PoNY and Chain Lightning in its first two games of pool play – a victory over either would be huge for this rising club.
3. Boost Mobile, Condors & Streetgang?
What are we supposed to make of these three Southwest region clubs? Boost Mobile (Stanford), the Condors (Santa Barbara) and Streetgang enter the Invite ranked 9th, 11th and 17th in the Open division but their actual records leave much to be desired. The three California-based teams have combined for a total of three top 20 victories this season – and they are all from games against one another. That is going to have to change if these SW teams want to bring a wildcard bid (or two?) to their region and the strong field at the Invite is the perfect place to start. Results from this weekend could end up having a big impact of these teams’ seasons.
4. Who will be the bid winners?
As we saw after the Emerald City Classic, USA Ultimate’s club rankings can be dramatically altered by a single weekend of elite competition. The Chesapeake Invite won’t have quite the same effect now that most teams have a handful of sanctioned games on record but there is potential for its impact on the allocation of wildcard bids to be enormous. Three of the four pools are made up of teams each representing different regions — only Pool B breaks the mold with two Southeast teams, one Northeast team, and one Southwest team.
The big story here: with regions spread out among pools, a strong regional performance on Saturday could reap huge dividends in the strength bid battle. For example, even if the top seeds hold, if the three SW teams upset the two seeds in their pools, they would all guarantee bracket play on Sunday and give their region a better shot at more bids. You could tell a similar story for the Northeast (3 teams), the Mid-Atlantic (3 teams), or the Southeast (5 teams).
Lots more to come from the Chesapeake Invite, including our Mixed and Women’s preview and full tournament coverage throughout the weekend.