Red Bull Home Ground begins on Friday, with eight of VALORANT's elite descending on Manchester for the third iteration of the tournament.
For the first time, teams from North America will take on the top EMEA sides, making for a rare chance to see North American and European teams locking horns.
Group A houses Team Vitality, FOKUS, KRU Esports and Cloud9, while Team Liquid, 100 Thieves, Team Heretics and FUT Esports will fight out in Group B. The top three teams from each group will advance to a single-elimination bracket, where $100,000 will be up for grabs.
The opening clash sees North America and Europe begin their duel as 100 Thieves cross the Atlantic to take on Team Heretics.
100 Thieves created a big impression when fighting their way through the Last Chance qualifier to make it into VCT: Champions 2022. Defeating FNATIC 2-1 in their opening match, they looked set for a big run, but subsequent defeats to DRX and FNATIC saw them exit the tournament at the group stage.
They will be hungry to prove that they are better than that showing and, given their roster, you would argue they are. They will need the likes of bang and Asuna to really step up if they are to make a dent at this tournament, but they first must dispose of Heretics.
Led by the former G2 pairing of Mixwell and keloqz, Heretics made the Grand Final of the GXR IN Invitational in late November. They were no match for Paper Rex on that occasion, but it was a bold showing that proved they can mix it with the top sides in the world.
Will that be enough to defeat 100 Thieves? It seems unlikely, but Mixwell and keloqz could make the difference and if they are able to put up the sort of numbers we know they are capable of, this game could easily go the distance.
The biggest mismatch in the opening round of matches, according to the numbers, is Cloud9 taking on FOKUS.
The only recent official matches for FOKUS came at the FEL Cup, where they lost in the Grand Final to a team called OnlyFins, who are ranked 33 in Europe. That sort of form would suggest they can't go toe-to-toe with Cloud9.
Cloud9 are one of the top teams from North America and they have recently undergone a massive roster overhaul. Their star transfer was Jaccob "yay" Whiteaker, who is widely considered as the best in the world.
He is joined by Jordan "Zellsis" Montemurro, another of the world's finest players, which makes them perhaps the most talented core that North America currently has to offer.
This is their first official since this roster took shape, but that factor alone is nowhere near enough to give FOKUS a chance in this match. The odds are perfectly correct and a 2-0 for Cloud9 seems inevitable.
This is an interesting market, with Team Vitality strongly favoured over KRU Esports, which might not be the way this match pans out on the server.
KRU have been a mainstay on the world stage since VALORANT first began and although they failed to make it out of the VCT: Champions 2022 group stage, they still deserve respect in this match.
Vitality are somewhat of an unknown quantity, with their most recent matches coming at G-Loot Clash, where they made the Grand Finals. They failed to win that particular match, but Natus Vincere have acquired FunPlus Phoenix's former roster so there was no shame in that defeat.
Despite what the odds might suggest, this is going to be a very close match. Both sides have merit to their claims and this could easily go the distance too.
What: Team Liquid v FUT Esports
Where: Manchester, UK
When: 13:00, Friday 9th December 2022
How to watch: YouTube and Twitch
Odds: Team Liquid 3/10, FUT Esports
Team Liquid won this tournament 12 months ago but they will be defending their title with an overhauled roster.
Swedish duo Meddo and Sayf have been brought in to fill the void left by ScreaM and Nivera, which has to be a concern given how close to the tournament it happened.
We have not seen Liquid since their lower bracket defeat at VCT: Champions 2022 and they are unlikely to have had much practice time with this newly-formed roster.
They take on Turkish side FUT Esports, who have done plenty of winning in recent months. That includes a win at VLR 2022, where they defeated Team Vitality in a tense final. Recent defeats to Parla and Divinity do not bode quite as well, however.
Liquid are the class side in this match and are deserving of their skinny odds, but FUT should not be underestimated and it would be no real surprise if they managed to claim a map off their opponents.