Four big storylines heading into the HCS NA Anaheim Regional

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Credit: David Doran

On Friday 16 of the best North American teams in Halo infinite will face each other in the pool play of the first LAN in the 2022 calendar. All 16 will then progress onwards to the weekend’s Champions Bracket as we get another look at how these teams stack up to each other on LAN.

Here’s a rundown of the most exciting storylines to look forward to

Cloud9 pushing for a 6th consecutive win ahead of the KC Major

While the opening few weeks of Halo Infinite saw Cloud9 fall behind OpTic into second place, since the Raleigh Kick-Off Major Cloud9 has been untouchable.

Their 4-1 grand-final victory over eUnited at the Major was followed up with four back-to-back wins in the Pro Series, dropping just seven maps total -- two each against eUnited and FaZe, and one each from OpTic, SSG, and Sentinels.

Prior to this Cloud9 also won the last ever World Championship for Halo 5 almost four years ago. The team is a dynasty at this point and will be hoping to continue this success by becoming the official NA champions in Halo Infinite and entering the Kansas City Major as the top seed. Can anyone challenge them for this title?

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Sentinels back to full strength

Cloud9’s main rivals coming into Halo Infinite was undeniably the Sentinels roster after the team won both the 2016 and 2017 Halo World Championships as well as the 2018 HCS Finals.

The team hit quite a snag in their plans to continue the domination into Infinite after Mathew "Royal2" Fiorante was banned for seven weeks for geo-filtering just ahead of the Raleigh Major. Since then the team played with Matthew "FormaL" Piper standing in meaning this weekend will be the first high-stakes tournament since Halo 5 that will see the full roster compete.

This is both a chance for Sentinels to prove how good they really are and will be excellent to watch for the fans. Even better is that Sentinels and Cloud9 are both in Group A meaning they’re set to play at 5pm PT on Friday on the Halo Twitch channel, this is undoubtedly the matchup to watch.

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Can eUnited perform again on LAN?

Undeniably the biggest surprise of the Raleigh Major was eUnited’s performance. While all four players have a lot of high-level experience, they weren’t considered real contenders coming into the tournament and yet managed to knock out FaZe Clan in a tight 3-2 to finish in second place.

Since then we haven’t seen this level of quality from them with three joint-fifth finishes in a row. This means the players will be eager this weekend to prove that it wasn’t a fluke performance with the LAN environment possibly being their key missing piece.

In Raleigh we caught up with eUnited to take a deeper look into one aspect of their success:

"We just want to win": Spartan, RyaNoob's past animosity has turned to teamwork in Infinite

After a weak start Fnatic’s looking to finally crack the top-eight

The last of the nine partnered HCS organizations joined Halo Infinite last month as Fnatic picked up the Team WaR lineup. On paper this was a curious move that somewhat contradicted their prior stated recruitment aims and their results since have not matched up to their partnered counterparts.

The team notably failed to qualify for the third Pro Series tournament and narrowly made it through the Anaheim qualifiers with Complexity besting them in both cases. The team has a lot to prove as well as a lot to live up to considering the fame of the Fnatic organization.

A good first step in doing this would be to get a good performance in their group this weekend in which they are matched up against FaZe Clan, Spacestation Gaming, and Gamers First. It’s a tough ask but one that fans of the Fnatic organization would definitely expect from them.

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XSET’s possible upset material

Finally, looking at the other rosters that had to come in via the open qualifiers, XSET stands out as one to watch.

Since adding in Uriah "Artic" Legorreta and Don "Suppressed" to the roster in January the team has looked reborn, finishing fourth in the second Pro Series tournament ahead of eU and Pioneers among others before losing to these same two teams in 1-2 results during Pro Series 3.

Most recently the team bested both UYU and Esports Arena Red -- both of which made it via the lower-bracket -- to qualify for Anaheim and now is set to meet eU and Pioneers once again in Group C.

These will be tough matches for XSET but they’ve been improving quickly and have taken them close beforehand. Even in scrimmages, they’ve put up strong results against the likes of Sentinels, G2, and Oxygen. EU and Pioneers will still likely win the group but there’s definitely upset potential to watch out for here.

These games kick off tomorrow. You can find out details surrounding the schedule, format, and teams in our handy preview guide.