This article is part of our FIFA Recap series.
Friday kicked off the FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series Finals in Berlin, Germany, the culmination of months of FIFA competition. Thirty-two competitors began the day in the hunt for a piece of the $400,000 prize pool. Just eight remain.
There's no place like home
It's no secret that many of the top FIFA players in the world reside in Europe, but no one could have expected European domination of this scale. Of the 16 players to advance to the knockout round, just three were located from some where other than Europe: Rafael Salles "PSG Rafifa13" Leite Fortes (Brazil), Lucas "LucasRep98" Da Costa (Brazil) and Reinhard "rein10" Krause (Mexico).
It's clear the other regions will need to up their game in the next iteration of FIFA in order for them to make any noise in an otherwise Europe-centric esports division.
Regional winners struggle
Six regional winners from Stage 1 and 2 took to the stage on Friday. Just one, the Season 1 Americas champion, PSG Rafifa 13, is left standing. It was a tough day for the favorites overall, but the six champions throughout the year took the biggest falls, as one after another, their previous success was undermined by a dismal showing in the FUT Championships.
The biggest of the regional champions to fall? That would be Tassal "Hashtag Tass" Rushan, who took home the Season 1 European Regional championship, and was considered the odds-on-favorite to win in Berlin.
The man with arguably the best defense in competitive FIFA was undone by an excellent performance from Chevrey "Vitality_RocKy" Corentin in the knockout quarterfinals, and then fell out of the tournament altogether in a similar pace game to Marcel "Marlut" Lutz.
Surprise still standing
Favorites falling like flies led to a handful of surprising names vaulting into the final eight, none more so than Shaun 'Shellzz' Springette. Shellzz's resume certainly didn't stand tall compared to many of his fellow European competitors, as he would make his live competitive debut just a handful of months ago, but yet Shellzz still managed to make it through to the knockout stage.
But the surprising run wouldn't stop there, as he would knock off Cihan "S04_Cihan" Yasarlar in his first match of the knockout stage, and then PS4 favorite Lucas "LucasRep98" Costa in the quarterfinals in similarly nail-biting games.
And then there's Timo "TimoX" Siep. While TimoX wouldn't be considered an underdog, having made it to the ESWC Paris finals last season, the young gamer hadn't had quite as much success in 2017. He'll have a chance to make this year memorable, however, after earning a near miraculous win in the second round of the lower bracket.
Needing a goal to keep his tournament hopes alive, TimoX would pick up a red card, forcing him to play the remainder of the match 11-on-10. Undeterred, TimoX would force overtime, and then survive long enough to push the game into penalty kicks. Capping off the improbably run, TimoX would connect on enough penalty kicks to secure the win.
The finals kick off tomorrow at 11 a.m. on ESPN2.