Image via Street Fighter (Licensed)
For those hoping to qualify for the Capcom Cup, all roads to Anaheim go through Milan.
Milan Games Week in Milan, Italy is the site of this year's Capcom Pro Tour European Regional Final. The event is the first of four regional finals to take place this season, all of which will follow the same format. Fourteen players have earned direct qualification into Sunday's 16-player finale, the winner of which will earn a trip to Anaheim to compete in the Capcom Cup. The final two spots will be determined in a last chance qualifier held on Saturday.
For those already assured of a place in the Capcom Cup, this weekend is a chance to face tough competition in a short-tournament format. For those on the outside looking in, this event represents one of the final opportunities for players to earn a spot in the season championship and compete for a share of nearly $350,000. In fact, for everyone unable to travel outside of Europe, this will be the final opportunity to win a place in the season championship.
Here are the three big questions for the European Regional Final, which begins on Saturday at 6am ET/3am PT on twitch.tv/capcomfighters.
Will the favorites once again rise to the top?
Much has been made about the supposed lack of consistency in Street Fighter V tournament results. The European leg of this season’s Pro Tour provides a counter to that idea, as Olivier "Luffy" Hay, Younes "CCL" Lazaar, and Nathan "Mister Crimson" Massol have been familiar faces at the top of Pro Tour results lists. The three players have combined for six wins - two each - and 17 top-four finishes at European Ranking events this season.
This consistency has officially assured Luffy and CCL of Capcom Cup berths, and Mister Crimson is all but certain to join them. None of these players really need to win this weekend, but a victory would be a nice confidence boost heading into the season championship. The $6,000 first-place prize awarded to this weekend's champion wouldn't hurt, either.
Can Asia score another victory on European soil?
Europe has been nothing if not gracious hosts for its Asian visitors, as players from Asia have won five of the region's 14 Ranking events. Ho Kun Xian of Singapore won at Moscow Fighting Arena, while another former Evo champion, Umehara Daigo of Japan, scored a victory at Lockdown in Portugal last month. Egami "MOV" Joe, Daigo's countryman, won Pro Tour events in Spain, Poland, and the United Arab Emirates (which, although in Asia, is part of the Pro Tour's European region). All three players will be in Milan this weekend in hopes of bringing a sixth European trophy to their home continent.
Xian, Daigo, and MOV are not alone, however. Three Japanese players are scheduled to compete in Saturday's last chance qualifier, where the top two finishers will earn a spot in Sunday's finale. Naoto Sako, Kumada "Itabashi Zangief" Hiromiki, and Takahashi "Bonchan" Masato will all be hunting for victory on Saturday. Sako may be the most dangerous of the three, as he recently finished fourth at the loaded South East Asia Major.
Will anyone do Ryan Hart a solid?
You'll have to forgive Ryan Hart's recent absence from the Pro Tour. He earned a spot in this weekend's European final but withdrew to attend a friend's wedding. This comes a week after he skipped both of last weekend's vital European tournaments in favor of a slightly-more-important event: his own wedding. Obviously a lifetime of happiness is far more important than a place in this year's Capcom Cup, but his absence does not help his chances at earning a trip to Anaheim.
However, Hart still has a chance to earn a place in the season championship. In order to earn a trip to Anaheim, Hart will need five of the six players ahead of him in the European standings to qualify for the championship event through either Premier event wins, regional finals wins, or the global leaderboard. The most likely path to that result would require either Mister Crimson or Benjamin "Problem X" Simon to win the European final. A victory for either man in Milan, coupled with Arman "Phenom" Hanjani's earlier Premier win and Luffy, CCL, and MOV hanging on to their global points spots, would mean a massive wedding gift for Mr. Hart.