The ESL Pro League Finals is set to kick off in Dallas, Texas. Teams from the Pro Leagues around the world are set to compete for the championship title.
The ESL Pro League Finals is set to kick off next Monday (May 14 – May 20). Sixteen teams are set to compete for their shot to perform on stage in the Verizon Theatre, a chunk of a $750,000 prize pool, and most importantly, the title of Season 7 Pro League Finals champions.
Seven teams from Europe, six teams from North America, two teams from the Asian-Pacific region, and one team from South America will head to Dallas to compete.
The teams competing in the Pro League Finals is as follows:
- Ninjas in Pyjamas
- Natus Vincere
- FaZe Clan
- Space Soldiers
- Team Liquid
- NRG Esports
- OpTic Gaming
- SK Gaming
- MVP PK
- Grayhound Gaming
Group Stage Format
The group stage format will follow the one used at IEM Sydney. Each group consists of eight teams, with seeding based off of the online placements. The initial matches are a best of one contest, with the remainder of the matches being a best of three contest.
The winners of the group stage will proceed directly to the semifinals, with the group stage runners-up securing the high seed in the quarterfinals. The teams that finish third in the group stage will proceed to the quarterfinals as the low seed.
With the final eight teams decided, the playoffs will be played in front of the crowd in a single elimination bracket, with the quarterfinals and semifinals being a best of three contest.
The grand finals will be a best of five contest.
Context headed into Dallas
This is the first time in the Pro League Finals that the APAC and South American regions have been added to the tournament. This gives teams from the Asia-Pacific region and the South American region a chance to compete amongst the world’s best teams. Off of the back of IEM Sydney, teams such as mousesports, Astralis, FaZe, NRG, Renegades, and Grayhound have all impressed, whereas other prominent names such as SK Gaming and Cloud9 suffered disappointing exits.
We have yet to see much from the newer iteration of OpTic Gaming, who lost stanislaw and ShahZaM after some controversy within the OpTic lineup. Since then, OpTic has chosen to adopt a completely Danish line up, which will be interesting to see in action.
Simultaneously, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Liquid, HellRaisers, Space Soldiers, Na’Vi, and MVP will be looking to make their mark in this tournament in their own way.
Teams such as mousesports, Astralis and FaZe will be looking to add on to their recent glory and high tournament placings. Astralis has recently captured the Dreamhack Marseille championship, and FaZe Clan was able to claim IEM Sydney for themselves. Mousesports have been placing well in top-tier tournaments, and watching them play their explosive style of Counter-Strike is always enjoyable.
The Renegades will be looking to build on their impressive run at IEM Sydney, where they beat FaZe Clan to ensure they would qualify for the playoff stages. The mixed team put up a stellar fight against mousesports, and will be looking to secure more playoff berths in the future.
Opening Group Stage Matches
The opening group stage matches for the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals have already been announced, and are as follows:
- mousesports vs. Sharks
- FaZe Clan vs. Cloud9
- NRG vs. HellRaisers
- Natus Vincere vs. MVP PK
- Team Liquid vs. Grayhound Gaming
- Space Soldiers vs. Renegades
- OpTic Gaming vs. Astralis
- Ninjas in Pyjamas vs. SK Gaming
The Teams to Watch
With a tournament like this, there are many teams that should be on the radar, and rightfully so. For the APAC teams, it provides them with another international stage to play on and compete against the best and prove that the region is not as underwhelming as it appears to be.
Otherwise, the teams on the watchlist are as follows:
FaZe Clan has had a string of top four finishes throughout the initial stages of 2018, barring Dreamhack Marseille and IEM Sydney, which they clinched in a superb fashion. IEM Sydney was by far one of the hardest competitions for the European side, considering they found themselves in the lower bracket of their group after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Renegades. FaZe were able to oust Grayhound and Cloud9 to secure their match against Fnatic in the quarterfinals.
FaZe were able to overcome Fnatic 2-0, and secured their match vs. TyLoo in the semifinals, which they won 2-0. In the finals, they came up against an unstoppable looking Astralis. The Danish side has looked unbeatable, and with FaZe Clan coming into this tournament looking rather underwhelming, many thought that this was Astralis’ title for the taking.
After a thrilling contest, FaZe came out on top 3-0 in the BO5 Finals. Heroic performances from Guardian, rain, and NiKo helped get FaZe over the line. FaZe Clan had actually looked rather lethal in the finals. All eyes will be on the European side to see if they can build on this IEM Sydney victory.
There was doubt about how well NRG Esports would do in this tournament. The team had traveled to IEM Sydney together for their first offline tournament together, and they showed massive potential.
NRG took Danish heavyweights Astralis to overtime on Overpass and were able to go toe to toe with G2 Esports in a best of three contest. The individual talent on that team was on display, and it did not disappoint. NathE, Brehze and Cerq displayed many moments of brilliance to bail NRG out of tough situations, or to open up the site and subsequently get them the round. This team of talent, under daps’ leadership, seemed incredibly promising, and at IEM Sydney, they were able to deliver on some of that promise.
NRG will look to continue to build on their experience at IEM Sydney, and hopefully, make a mark on home soil in Dallas. Now that the audience, analysts, and players are aware of what NRG is capable of, it will be interesting to see if they can continue to impress.
SK Gaming has undergone another change. The change, this time, is a role change, with coldzera taking on the in-game leading role instead of FalleN. This raises several questions for this line-up in terms of how the team will be structured. With coldzera taking the reigns, how drastic the change will be, and will FalleN still have any input? Furthermore, the standard question of how the in-game leading role will impact coldzera as a player.
As most Counter-Strike fans are aware, coldzera has been one of SK Gaming’s most consistent and heavy-hitting performers. His performances have fallen off since the departure of TACO, so having a big “question mark” around the SK Gaming that will attend this tournament is certainly going to make for interesting viewing.
The Renegades impressed at IEM Sydney. They impressed in the group stages, beating FaZe Clan in a breathtaking contest, which ended 2-1 to relegate the European superpower to the lower bracket, and ensured the Renegades survived. A loss to TyLoo meant that they were not able to automatically qualify for the semifinals, but were still able to secure a spot in the quarterfinals.
The Nifty-led side came up against mousesports in the quarterfinals. The first map, Mirage, was easily won by mousesports. The following maps, Inferno and Train, were simply breathtaking. Renegades came out on top on Inferno, winning 25-23, and were a clutch away from securing the win in regulation on Train. Unfortunate circumstances and an overwhelmingly aggressive mousesports quickly ended the overtime affair and the Renegades’ run in the tournament.
Nevertheless, it was an impressive run from the Renegades and the first time that they have played in front of a decently sized crowd in quite a while.
Without a doubt, Renegades will be looking to build on their success at IEM Sydney, and the Pro League Finals in Dallas is the perfect place to do so.
It has been an exciting past few months in Counter-Strike. The uncertainty era remains; teams are still trying new things out while others are getting stronger. It is a truly exciting time for Counter-Strike, and it is sure to continue through and past the Pro League Finals.