Through just four days of action, the 2019 DCI Summer Tour is already bursting with compelling competitive storylines across the board.

While the sample size may still be small as World and Open Class corps across the country wrap up their spring training and head out on tour, here are five key things to know about the already red-hot competition taking place:


Vanguard’s title defense is on. 

Over the past decade or so, there’s been an uncanny trend that each time a corps other than the Blue Devils has taken home the title, that corps has fallen out of the top three in the ensuing season. The Concord corps, in turn, has taken back the title of gold medalist.

Vanguard, of course, would love to snap that streak. An opening weekend with three wins in three days is a pretty good start.

This weekend, things were air tight at the top out west. Vanguard won all three of its head-to-head meetings with the Blue Devils, but never by very wide margins. Friday and Saturday night’s matchups featured spreads of 0.65, but the Concord corps cut the gap to just four tenths of a point Sunday in Sacramento.

Between the two, Vanguard’s major strength as of now is in the music caption. In Sacramento, while Blue Devils defeated the Santa Clara corps by 0.4 in general effect, SCV led by 0.65 in music, with a slight edge (0.15) in visual as well.

Watch Blue Devils and Santa Clara Vanguard perform in Pasadena

After five full days without competing, the 2017 and 2018 gold and silver medalists will face off three times in a row, with shows in Vista, Pasadena and San Bernardino. Once that set of events is over, however, the two won’t meet again for another two weeks.

It’s early, but this coming weekend looks to be important.


Mandarins’ 2018 breakout was no flash in the pan.

Each of the three times in the past 10 years that a corps has pushed its way into the DCI World Championship Finals — either for the first time ever or the first time in a long time — they’ve ended up back outside the Top 12 by the end of the following season.

Mandarins, in 2018, of course, became the latest corps to make its Finals debut, soaring all the way to 10th and notching its all-time best score of 88.663.

So, 2019 is the corps’ chance to prove it wasn’t a one-hit wonder. Early returns suggest that’s the case, emphatically so.

It’s hard to gauge where the Sacramento corps sits compared to its recent close competitors because they’ve yet to face the likes of Blue Stars, Phantom Regiment, Blue Knights, etc., but early-season stats stick out nonetheless.

For one, Mandarins nearly cracked 70 points (69.700) Sunday in Sacramento. That was June 23. In 2018, the corps’ first 70 came on June 30.

But furthermore, Mandarins’ Sunday night distances from three perennial contenders, Santa Clara Vanguard (4.6), Blue Devils (4.2) and The Cavaliers (2.4) were all-time lows. Even last year, Mandarins didn’t even come within six points of either Bay Area corps.

So, if you’re in the business of extrapolating, this corps could be poised to fight its way into the top eight. But there’s plenty of season left, and it’s all speculation this early in the game.

Regardless, you’ll want to keep an eye on the corps from California’s capital.


Blue Stars are sneaking up on history

Arguably lost in the mix of Mandarins exploding into the Top 12, Boston Crusaders jumping into the Top 5 and Santa Clara Vanguard winning its first title since 1999, Blue Stars were one of the more noteworthy success stories in 2018.

Driven by consistently impressive visual scores, Blue Stars fought their way into the Top 8, a place they hadn’t been since 2008, 2009 and 2010 — and before that, since 1978. The Wisconsin corps’ eighth-place finish marked an improvement of two positions from 2017.

Blue Stars haven’t exactly made major waves in the young 2019 season, but — again, probably somewhat unnoticed — the corps has begun to sneak up behind The Cadets, recently scoring within just 1.15 points of the Allentown organization Sunday in Zionsville.

This year, it’s those visual scores again; Sunday, Blue Stars topped The Cadets in the visual proficiency and color guard captions, en route to a close win in total visual.

That 1.15-point gap is the closest the two corps have been in at least 30 years. It’s yet to be seen if Blue Stars can further move in on a historic upset, but it’s clear they’ve built upon 2018’s strong showing.


Boston is a legitimate contender for a medal

12th in 2016, sixth in 2017, fifth in 2018. Boston Crusaders’ rapid rise certainly hasn’t gone undiscussed over the past 24 months.

There’s still ground to make up if Boston’s going to keep moving upward, but the notable closeness at the top of the DCI Tour Premiere scoresheet certainly inspires confidence in the Crusaders’ hopes to continue the climb.

In Detroit, the corps scored a 70.050, which was its best first output since 2010. More notably, Boston scored within 1.1 points of Bluecoats; the closest those two have been since 2011. That season, Bluecoats finished seventh to the Crusaders’ eighth.

This year, the Canton corps is fresh off a bronze medal. And Boston, once again, isn’t all that far behind.


The Cavaliers are kicking it up a notch

Over the last three years, The Cavaliers have hovered just outside the top three, earning fifth in 2016, fourth in 2017 and sixth in 2018.

In taking a trip to the west coast to start the 2019 season, though, the Rosemont corps has had the opportunity to at least compete with two of last year’s medalists from the get-go. And while the corps hasn’t pulled off any leapfrogs, it’s certainly held its own, especially against the Blue Devils.

In all three west coast events this past weekend, The Cavaliers finished within two points of the 18-time world champions. Most recently, in Sacramento.

Here’s the kicker — all three times, the Green Machine defeated the Concord corps in total music, with three specific wins in brass as well. To find the last time either of those has happened, you have to go all the way back to 2011.

Yes, that’s the last time The Cavaliers earned a medal.

View upcoming events on the 2019 DCI Tour

Watch select 2019 events live online