How did an ESEA Open team become Team USA at IESF?
Today confusion and consternation have spread across Twitter as NA's largest semi-professional teams have learned of the underwhelming and largely undeserved team representing the USA at the IESF World Esports Championship in Bali, Indonesia. The team, known as BUDSQUAD, are an ESEA Open squad that seemingly claimed the spot with very little fanfare and largely fell flat on their face in their international outing.
Following an investigation by Dust2.us, the unlikely and confusing origins of this squad's call-up to the $100,000 LAN event have been determined. The story primarily revolves around classic NA elements of incompetence, dereliction of duty, and questionable decision-making.
The story begins back in November 2018 when The United States Esports Federation (USEF) was chosen to be the official esports federation for the United States, at least as far as the IESF was concerned. If you have no idea who the USEF are, don't worry as you are likely not alone. Outside of an inactive website, YouTube account, and an infrequently updated Instagram account, the group are fairly incognito in the esports space.
Looking at the USEF's leadership team, it leans more heavily towards old media and Web 2.0 types, but does feature some esports bona fides, albeit no one with direct experience in CS:GO with one notable exception. The organization's former president until early 2022, Vlad Marinescu, was doing double duty as IESF's president, a fairly high-profile entanglement for the inexperienced USEF.
Flash forward to 2021 as the world comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic, IESF was set to return from a two-year hiatus to host IESF 2021 in Eilat, Israel. USEF, as an IESF partner, posted about this exciting opportunity and their plans to send representatives to compete in the CS:GO and Dota 2 tournaments. This is where the wheels seemingly start to fall off the wagon as USEF don't publicly mention their plans to send an American delegation ever again, leading to Team Mexico being the sole North American representatives at the event.
Despite having months to prepare for this event, Dust2.us understands a mixture of COVID-19 related difficulties and a lack of confirmation if they were going to be able to field a CS:GO team left USEF waiting in the wings until shortly before IESF 2021 was set to start. Due to a lack of expertise from within USEF and the short time table, USEF enlisted a consultant, Robert Dyche, to help expediate the process of either establishing a qualifier or finding a team to represent Team USA. While Robert Dyche currently works as a consultant for Bads Agency, a gambling, e-commerce and crypto marketing agency, he told Dust2.us that he has a background in competitive Counter-Strike: Source and has kept up with the CS:GO scene.
Dust2.us had a chance to interview Dyche back in July about the decision to send BUDSQUAD to IESF 2021 and later IESF 2022. Dyche claims that he had very short notice to find a team for USEF and essentially went down a list of applicable ECL and Advanced teams until he hit a brick wall. This led him to Joke, an inactive former Advanced player and friend of Dyche, who he was able to convince to form a squad for the purposes of playing IESF with a view on becoming a serious team in the NA scene.
This would form the nucleus of the current BUDSQUAD team which we see at IESF 2022 today. Unfortunately for Joke, SAUCY, and the rest of BUDSQUAD despite investing in passports, scrims, and the other expenses needed for IESF 2021, the team ultimately could not go due to Israel's COVID-19 policies being untenable for an American team due to differing vaccination requirements.
Post-IESF 2021, and with the announcement of IESF 2022, USEF were expected to hold a qualifier and put more effort into Team USA as they no longer had to deal with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 era. However, despite claiming in a press release they were "planning to send an elite team", BUDSQUAD ended up being the sole candidate for IESF 2022 and the pre-qualifier/invitational held in Bueno Aries. How did this happen again?
Once again, USEF gave Dyche the responsibility of finding a team for IESF. To make up for BUDSQUAD's inability to attend last year's event in Israel, Dyche ultimately opted to send BUDSQUAD to IESF 2022 in Bali. While a noble gesture, it seems like a waste when a qualifier would've yielded a far stronger team than a semi-retired squad playing ESEA Open.
Unfortunately it is hard to verify Dyche's claims due to a lack of specifics regarding what teams he attempted to invite as well as a lack of details on USEF's end on their relationship with Dyche due to not responding to request for comment. Ultimately however, Dyche seems to have a made a decision to value friendship and a verbal agreement over fielding a truly elite squad via an equitable and competitive qualification process.
While Dyche himself bears some responsibility for his decisions, a question remains about whether USEF shared his vision for Team USA and why they would co-sign a project that gave a consultant what seems like unilateral authority. It paints a picture of an organization that is largely in over their heads and incompetent at completing the task at hand, which bodes poorly for their future as "official governing body for eSports [sic] in the USA".
So beyond it all, how are our boys doing in Bali? Quite frankly, they're getting their asses kicked. Team USA started their campaign out with a 16-4 stomping by Team Austria before taking a quite embarrassing 16-3 loss to Team Hong Kong. Team USA will attempt to make something of their Asian excursion tonight at 11:40PM against Team Namibia. While the match is only for pride, Team USA losing to a country that has never produced a pro CS:GO player would be incredibly embarrassing. But, perhaps that would be the cherry on top of the incompetent show USEF decided to put on.