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Linus “Pipsqueak” Nordin is currently the second-best Super Smash Bros. Melee player in Sweden and ranked top three in all of Europe. But since he rose to prominence over quarantine, he has never been on the MPGR top 100, a global ranking that has not been updated since 2019.

Though Pipsqueak was already confirmed for Smash Summit 13 in Los Angeles and was making plans to attend The Function 2 in New York, he confided in members of the Melee Stats team that he wanted to attend more American events in 2022. Little did he know, Melee Stats had already been planning a project that could make his desire a reality.

“Lo and behold, the day after, I get a DM,” Pipsqueak said. “It says, ‘Yo, do we have an offer for you?’ And I went, ‘Do you? Okay, I’m all ears.’ It was pretty much like I instantly accepted it because, of course, why wouldn’t I?”

Pipsqueak will be the first participant in the Melee Stats Free Agent Showcase. All throughout this year, Melee Stats will send lesser-known, unsponsored players to major tournaments in hopes of providing the stepping stone needed to springboard them to the next stages of their Melee careers.

The birth of the Melee Stats Free Agent Showcase

Once a private Discord server for a small group of hardcore Melee fans, Melee Stats became a public-facing organization focused on creating data-driven content in 2018. Now, the organization is headed up by Anokh “EdwinBudding” Palakurthi, Brendan “GimmeDatWheat” Malone and Eryk “Ambisinister” Banatt. Melee Stats produces a range of written and long-form video content, alongside daily results threads on Twitter.

“As we’ve evolved throughout the years, we just keep trying to redefine what Melee Stats is, what the brand is and what we can be doing,” GimmeDatWheat said.

Since the inception of Melee Stats, its members have joked about the prospect of sending players to events like a professional esports organization. But, only recently did the idea make enough sense for GimmeDatWheat to start taking action to make it happen.

Over the past two years, the Melee Stats leaders have had few operational costs, besides occasionally paying freelancers to do work for them. Meanwhile, money has piled up from the Melee Stats YouTube and Patreon, allowing its members to fund the Free Agent Showcase without incurring any financial losses themselves.

“With 2022 currently slated to be a year that hopefully has a lot of big events, I see this as a perfect opportunity to really go all in,” GimmeDatWheat said. “I saw the hunger of all these players [competing] online. The scene is trying to merge the two separate things, the online and the in-person, and I think that this is kind of a perfect time for [the Free Agent Showcase].”

One of the motivations behind the Free Agent Showcase is ensuring that players who are skilled enough to make the top 100 are able to go to enough events to actually qualify for the top 100.

In addition, the Showcase will particularly focus on supporting international players, since attending tournaments in the United States is a de facto requirement for anyone looking to secure a high position on the MPGR.

“I think the ‘ideal’ Melee Stats free agent is anyone with high potential who’s really interested in competing and contributing to the scene, but doesn’t necessarily have the opportunities to do so or gain recognition from the rest of the community,” EdwinBudding said.

GimmeDatWheat has a spreadsheet with the names of about 30 potential free agents, how much it would cost to get them to any of eight specific tournaments, and links to flights that could get them to those events. However, as a long-time friend of the Melee Stats members, Pipsqueak was an easy first choice for the Showcase.

Pipsqueak’s time to shine

The Free Agent Showcase will officially begin on April 22 at Pound 2022, which will be Pipsqueak’s first open-bracket major in the United States since Genesis 5 in January of 2018. Pipsqueak will travel to Maryland, Texas, New York and California for four large tournaments on four consecutive weekends.

“It’s intentionally scheduled in a way where it’s probably a little bit too much for me,” Pipsqueak said. “This was a conscious decision by me, that I would rather book too much so I know where my limit is than schedule in too few events.”

Melee Stats is paying for Pipsqueak’s flights and connected him with other Smash players who could house him during the weekdays when he’s not competing. As a result, Pipsqueak’s only responsibility was finding housing for Pound and Low Tide City 2022.

Although he finished in the top eight of the Smash World Tour Melee Championship last year, Pipsqueak said he is still unsure how he stacks up against the majority of top Melee players. While he said he expects to place in the top 16 of every event he enters, it’s not a goalpost he feels obligated to meet.

“That’s where my current estimate is and if it’s incorrect, well, I’ll adjust and I’ll come back stronger next time,” Pipsqueak said. “Since I’m bundling so many events together, there’s no point in me overvaluing one over the other. So, I’m not particularly stressed about a single event.”

Obscure players get the spotlight

Pipsqueak said other Europeans like Juhana “Solobattle” S., Elliot “Frenzy” Grossman and Patrick “Kingu” K. would be good picks for the Free Agent Showcase, along with Chile’s Vicente “Chape” Sánchez. He also said he’d like to see more of a spotlight on Australia’s Jacob “Sock” Hunter and, to a lesser extent, Josh “Sora” Lyras.

“I really want Sora to get more of a chance, but at this point, I’m pretty sure he can just sub goal it and get it sorted that way,” Pipsqueak said.

As the Melee Stats members continue to announce new players for the Free Agent Showcase, they recognize the potential it has to draw positive attention to their organization and their content.

“The dream would be, going into each major, there is a slight buzz about, ‘Who’s it going to be?’” GimmeDatWheat said.

Even so, their goal is for the project to benefit the community as a whole more so than it benefits them.

“Melee Stats is all about doing cool things for the scene,” EdwinBudding said. “Giving opportunities to people who we think are cool competitors and who could benefit from working [with] us helps make the scene and its tournaments cooler.”

Going forward, GimmeDatWheat hopes to send at least one person — and potentially more — to every Melee major this year. Ideally, Melee Stats can “tee them up for success” by exposing the players to bigger esports organizations. But, regardless of the outcome for the individual players or the organization as a whole, executing the Free Agent Showcase is a victory in and of itself for Melee Stats.

“We’ve always been fans of the obscure players,” GimmeDatWheat said. “We’ve always been fans of the international players. So, if we’re able to bring these obscure players out into the light, get them more recognition, then that’s enough for me. That’s success right there.”