Team Liquid announced their VALORANT roster Friday, with the popular and successful European five-stack of former unsigned team fish123 now donning the iconic blue and white jerseys with the horse head logo.
Adam "ec1s" Eccles, Dom "soulcas" Sulcas, James "Kryptix" Affleck, Travis "L1NK" Mendoza and Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom have been competing under the fish123 banner, most recently at the Mandatory Cup as well as the WePlay! VALORANT Invitational, where the team placed second. All five players have backgrounds in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive professional scene.
In Europe, top orgs have been slower to make moves in VALORANT than their North American counterparts. Victor Goossens, the founder and co-owner of Team Liquid, said his org wanted to get into Riot Games' new first-person shooter prior to the game's closed beta but took its time to find a roster that fit.
Team Liquid's approach was to survey the scene, seek out talent and then wait for the right moment.
"We've been talking to valid players and looking around for quite a while," Goossens said. "I mean, these things don't really happen just that just overnight. We'd be paying keen attention to ScreaM, his skill level, just what he was showing to the world. He's really one of the world's best players, if not the best player in the world. We've been talking to him for some time."
When Ardiis "ardiis" Svarenieks left fish123 to join the G2 Esports VALORANT roster, ScreaM began to play tournaments with the remaining four, and the five-stack played well. Goossens saw this as a perfect opportunity.
"That basically was the dream from our perspective," Gossens said. "On the one hand, you have a legend and a veteran in ScreaM; he can really be a role model. On the other hand, a couple of the players are still really young and have a ton of room to grow. And we think it's a really, really healthy mix for a long term roster."
Goossens said Team Liquid had been speaking with both the fish123 roster and ScreaM for upward of three to four months before a deal was presented. Though Goossens declined to answer if there was a bidding war for the players' services, he did note "if you're shooting for the best teams in the world, you're competing for those guys."
Team Liquid's VALORANT squad will compete in Europe, but the possibility of a team in another region is still possible. T1, for example, operates two a Tier 1 roster and academy program in North America and another pro squad in South Korea.
"I think we're actually open to maybe seeing if we can still have a North American lineup," Goossens said. "I wouldn't rule that out per se, maybe having players in both regions. But when you have a strategy for a region, you've got to find the right players. And so we really had that with fish 123 and ScreaM, just super thrilled that we get to work with them."
Multiple teams around the world, though, may come to a halt eventually. While Year 1 of competitive VALORANT has a less structured esports ecosystem, Year 2 and beyond might be quite different: Rumors of franchising and a more officially structured competitive offering from Riot always loom over the VALORANT landscape.
Goossens said investing in a VALORANT presence now doesn't guarantee you anything in the future, whatever may come.
"I think we're all just reacting to how we have gotten to know Riot and who they are and what they stand for," Goossens said. "I mean, is there a component that if you're a good business partner in one place that you might be seen as a good one in the next? Yeah, certainly. I think that's kind of how the world works. But nothing more than that now."