After the first LAN tournament in over 500 days at IEM Cologne, CS:GO returns with the next major event, the ESL Pro League Season 14.
Starting on 16th August, the tournament is a lengthy one, running for almost a month, with the final scheduled to be held on 12th September. 24 teams will be participating, with a mix of the top-ranked ESL World Rankings teams and the top teams from the ESEA Premier.
Initially, the teams will compete in a round-robin group stage, with four groups of six teams each, from which the top three teams from each group will advance to the 12-team playoffs.
The top teams from the groups will advance then to the quarterfinals, post which the semi-finals and finals will take place.
With the best in the world competing against each other and a chance to book a spot at the BLAST Premier World Final 2021, along with the prize money of $175,000, the teams will be looking to bring their A-game right from the start.
With the tournament getting underway, let’s take a quick look at the teams and their respective groups.
Group A (August 16 – August 20) – Heroic, Astralis, Team Vitality, Team Spirit, ENCE and Bad News Bear
Defending champions Heroic and Astralis are two of the favourites to finish the group 1-2 with Vitality having an edge over the others.
Heroic were a little rusty at Cologne, but heading back to the online stage, they will want to repeat the Season 13 heroics, with high hopes from cadiaN, after his tremendous clutch at the previous Pro League that saw Heroic seal the championship. Astralis on the other hand will be looking to build on what has been a slow start for the Danes, and after the departure of their superstar AWPer dev1ce, Astralis struggled to make it to the finals of Cologne, getting knocked out in the semis. With new recruit Bubzkji looking promising and Lucky being drafted in as dev1ce’s replacement, Astralis will be looking to reclaim their glory days with a strong show at the major.
Other than the two favourites, the French team Vitality have been struggling and will look for a strong show, and with the likes of ZywOo, shox and apEX, the French team have all the firepower needed to bring them the trophies. While Team Spirit will be trying a repeat of their best major result since IEM Katowice, it will be hard for both ENCE and Bad News Bears to make it out of Group A.
Group B (August 21 – August 26) – G2 Esports, Virtus Pro, Complexity, OG, forZe and Sinners Esports
After finishing runner-up at IEM Cologne, G2 will look to go one step further. G2 had taken down Astralis, BIG, Gambit and Complexity at Cologne, but the French-Bosnian side will look up to their entire roster to step up rather than depend heavily on their superstar NiKo.
Virtus Pro, who started the year strongly with a finals appearance at Katowice, have had a horrid run since and will look to desperately turn their fortunes around and like Virtus Pro, OG are another team in dire need of turning their fortunes around after getting knocked out cheaply by Renegades at Cologne.
The final two spots will be filled by Sinner Esports, who will be the dark horses looking to secure a shock playoff spot, and forZe, who replaced Renegades at last moment after the Australian team pulled out due to COVID travel restrictions.
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Group C (August 27 – August 31) – Natus Vincere, FaZe Clan, BIG, mousesports, Fnatic and Evil Geniuses
Coming off a triumphant LAN return, NaVi will now look to carry on that form into the online era and secure themselves as one of the all-time great rosters. With s1mple being in breathtaking form that is even ridiculous for his unbelievable standards, Cologne saw team NaVi win, rather than s1mple carrying them. With the likes of Perfecto, b1t and electronic all coming to the fore, it will be hard to look past the Ukrainian side as one of the favourites not only to top the group but take the major itself.
Apart from the World No.1 team, FaZe clan are another team who will expect a strong result from the majors. With their new pairing of Twistzz and karrigan getting off to a good start, FaZe will fancy their chance to make it to the playoffs.
Mousesports and BIG will be looking for consistent results, with BIG looking to impress their new coach daps with a strong show. Fnatic on the other hand are complete dark horses, with a completely new roster, and even though there aren’t high expectations from them, beware if they conjure up some shock results.
Group D (September 1 – September 5) – Gambit, FURIA, Team Liquid, Team One, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Entropiq
Gambit will be welcoming the return of online play, with the team having won IEM Katowice, IEM Summer, BLAST Spring Finals and EPIC CIS League Spring off late. As good as their online form has been, they suffered a terrible LAN return at Cologne, getting knocked out in the group stages.
NiP, who recently merged with ESV5, will be looking to get their new era off to a strong start and with the services of dev1ce, who joined the team earlier this year, they will look to go the distance after losing in the final four last Pro League.
Group D also sees a mini-Brazilian reunion with both Brazilian teams, Team FURIA and Team One, in the same group as well as Team Liquid’s FalleN. Liquid hold the edge over the other two, but all three will know that the slightest of slip ups can cause major repercussions.
Entropiq is the final team in the group and will need to pull out a remarkable performance to see themselves through to the playoffs,
As gaming returns, keep yourself updated with the matches on HLTV or watch them live on ESL’s Twitch channel.