With the field now set for the Fall season’s biggest Counter-Strike tournament, some fascinating storylines are already taking shape.
The full list of 16 teams resolved when the North American qualifier ended with favorites Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming emerging victorious. Those 16 squads will now compete for ESL’s prize pool of $250,000 at ESL One Cologne in Germany.
Cloud9’s entry is no surprise. The premier American team has had a revelatory summer season, finishing as runners-up at the ESL Pro League final, Faceit final, and ESWC. Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham and Michael “Schoud” Grzesiak have established themselves among the world’s top talents in the game, leading Cloud9 to a resounding qualifying victory over Elevate.
Counter Logic Gaming haven’t had quite the success of Cloud9, but have managed victories this year over top opponents like Fnatic, Envy, and Titan. Their path to qualification was more difficult, as they had to best fellow American contender Team Liquid to move on.
Fnatic will be among the favorites in Cologne, though they’ve rarely looked as vulnerable in the past year as they do now—in spite of their recent victories. Losses to Counter Logic Gaming, Cloud9, and Team SoloMid have shown chinks in the Swedish power’s armor, though it’s still difficult to argue against their being the world’s top Counter-Strike team.
SoloMid are likely the only squad capable of making a similar claim, and the Danes have had an even more up-and-down summer than their Swedish rivals.
After a series of tournament victories established the side as second-to-none on the international stage, SoloMid bottomed out and finished last in two of their past three competitions. But sandwiched between those lackluster results was yet another tournament victory at the Faceit final, reminding fans and opponents alike that even as they struggle to maintain consistency, Finn “Karrigan” Andersen’s squad remains as dangerous as ever.
Two teams whose contending status seems more difficult to predict are Envy and Titan. The two French sides swapped multiple players in a major roster reshuffling, most notably leaving Kenny “Kenny S” Schrub to star at Envy while Richard “Shox” Papillon seeks to counter him at Titan in spite of a potentially uneasy alliance with Titan captain Kevin “Ex6tenz” Droolans.
This still leaves surging European sides Kinguin and Mousesports, dangerous Australian squad Renegades and their countrymen at Immunity, and other teams hoping to break through on the world’s biggest stage.
The most noteworthy team still needing a breakthrough is Ninjas in Pyjamas. Once considered the absolute class of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and bearing one of the most storied team names in Counter-Strike, Ninjas have steadily fallen in form over the past year and now for the first time have fans questioning whether they’re a truly elite team.
The Ninjas will carry an exemplary record at major competitions into ESL Cologne. But if the past several months have shown us anything, it’s that past achievements will do nothing to buoy the Swedish organization’s efforts in the modern game. If the team fails yet again to produce results, pressure will grow on players like Adam Friberg and the team’s latest addition, Aleksi “Allu” Jalli.