CS:GO players, teams, and fans have waited over two years for the return of the Major, the most important tournament in the scene. The prestigious competition is back after several Regional Major Ranking (RMR) events that decided the 24 squads that will play in Stockholm, Sweden, in the second Major organized by PGL.
To compensate teams for the Majors that didn’t happen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Valve has raised the stakes. The PGL Stockholm Major will have a $2 million prize pool up for grabs.
The competition will run from Oct. 26 to Nov. 7 with three different stages, and the playoffs will take place in the Avicii Arena in front of a live audience. It’ll be the first premier CS:GO tournament played with an audience after the coronavirus pandemic started, and there couldn’t be a better occasion for it.
Here are our power rankings for each team attending the PGL Stockholm Major.
TYLOO have historically been the best CS:GO team in Asia and they were the utter favorites to take the only Major spot available for the region. Even though the all-Chinese roster does well at a domestic level, the last time they competed against teams from another continent was at ESL Pro League Europe season 11, which took place in March and April 2020. TYLOO finished in last place on that occasion, and it’s hard to imagine them doing better against some of the best teams in the world.
Sharks surprised just about everyone when they beat MIBR at the IEM Fall South America lower bracket final to qualify for the Major. Their opponents spent the majority of the 10 months of the year practicing and playing in Europe and were expected to dominate in the regional qualifier. Sharks have been one of the best teams in Brazil, especially after the addition of Romeu “zevy” Rocco in February 2021, and certainly have the aim needed to compete against European and CIS squads. They will most likely feel the lack of experience overseas and some tactical aspects of the game, however, and Sharks will likely struggle to win matches in the Challengers Stage.
22) paiN Gaming
Of the teams listed at the bottom of our power rankings, we believe paiN are the one who can upset some bigger teams. They have firepower in Rafael “saffee” Costa, who is probably the best Brazilian AWPer at the moment, and in the rifler Rodrigo “biguzera” Bittencourt. They spent the majority of the year playing against the teams in North America and fans will get to see how well paiN fare against the rest of the world. It’s most likely that they will upset one team or another, rather than qualify for the Legends Stage.
21) Evil Geniuses
Yes, one of the eight teams with Legends status is at the bottom of our power rankings. EG have gone through a rough time in 2021, having lost Ethan Arnold, one of their stars, to VALORANT in February. Without him, the team had mediocre campaigns in both editions of ESL Pro League and at IEM Cologne, where they didn’t even make it into the main event. They are not in shape but took one of the Legends spots thanks to the Major coefficient that still rates North America higher than the region may deserve. Everything that went wrong this year would have to suddenly start working and players like Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte and Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov would have to return to their prime form, but that doesn’t look possible for the tournament.
The coronavirus pandemic was a major setback for the Australian boys, who stopped participating in most of the premier tournaments because of the travel restrictions. All they had to do for most of the time was attend local tournaments, in which they dominated. Things started going back to normal in 2021, and Renegades attended international events. They showed promise at IEM Cologne in July, where they qualified for the main event and took a map from Na’Vi, who ended up lifting the trophy. The Australians are up for a tough task again, but it’s not impossible for them to survive the Challengers stage and go further in the competition.
19) Movistar Riders
Movistar Riders have definitely been surprising as of late. The organization made major changes during the summer player break and moved away from an international team to assemble an all-Spanish roster. Raúl “DeathZz” Jordán, David “dav1g” Granado Bermudo, and especially the AWPer Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia caused a nearly immediate impact by helping the team finish fifth at IEM Fall Europe and qualify for the Major, even though Movistar Riders had zero RMR points prior to the event. They seem to have the talent to fight against top opponents, but the question is if they can repeat those positive results on a much bigger stage.
Entropiq becoming a solid team after all the problems they faced earlier this year is quite impressive. The Russian squad unilaterally terminated their contracts with Winstrike in March due to breaches of contractual obligations and saw a deal with another organization fall through prior to joining Entropiq. Even though the team was plagued with issues unrelated with CS:GO, they pulled through and carved a spot in the ESL Pro League season 14, which served to gain experience against some of the best teams in the world, such as NiP, Liquid, and Gambit. They most recently defeated Virtus Pro, one of the region’s higher-ranked teams, at IEM Fall CIS. The Russians have the firepower and could secure a spot in the Legend stage if they have prepared well for the Major.
Former SK Gaming and MIBR players Epitácio “TACO” de Melo and João “felps” Vasconcellos took a step back in their careers earlier this year. They stopped playing with some of the most well-known players in Brazil to form a team with three talented youngsters in Bruno “latto” Rebelatto, Bruno “b4rtiN” Câmara, and Eduardo “dumau” Wolkmer under the GODSENT banner. The team played several tournaments in Europe for experience and in the past weeks grew into a solid squad, having most notably finished as runners-up at IEM Fall North America to qualify for the Major. It seems that TACO and felps are developing the next generation of Brazilian players and the PGL Stockholm Major could be the start of a beautiful story if they fare well against European and CIS teams.
16) Copenhagen Flames
Some teams’ advancement to the Major came as surprises, and Copenhagen Flames were one of them. The Danish side was a second-tier roster for most of 2021. To play at IEM Fall Europe, they first needed to go through the closed qualifier. The team later surprised many Europeans by reaching the playoffs at the cost of BIG and MOUZ. The team barely made it to the Major thanks to their impressive skill and a bit of luck. Playing at this year’s most important event is a success in itself, and we wouldn’t expect them to go any further.
15) Team Spirit
While expectations for Na’Vi, Gambit, and VP are high, their two CIS brothers, Team Spirit and Entropiq, are here to present themselves to the world. When it comes to the former, the team have already shown they’re capable of pulling off an upset here and there. Still, those were mostly singular cases. Now it’s time for Spirit to come out of the shadow of the CIS’ big three, with names like mir and degster surely ready based on their recent numbers. They got a 1.20 and 1.15 rating in the past three months, respectively. Nonetheless, the squad as a whole have failed to find stability, which is needed at a tournament of this importance. Even when their players shine and put up a star-like performance, it might not be enough to go evenly against the world’s top teams.
If the tournament was held a year ago, BIG would stand among the favorites to win the competition. The players of the German organization have gotten worse since losing XANTARES, however, and fell in the rankings as a result. The team attended almost every major tournament as of late but served as a background character on all of them. This time, it’s looking like history will repeat itself. Yet, the Germans proved last year they can consistently beat the world’s best, and doing so again is still possible, especially if players like tabseN and syrsoN show up in their best form in Sweden.
The European roster failed to make it to the top eight at IEM Fall Europe, ESL Pro League season 14, or IEM Cologne 2021. MOUZ will start their adventure at the PGL Stockholm Major in the Challengers stage, and advancing to the Legends stage is the only expectation we have with ropz’s team. But with players of Estonian’s or frozen’s caliber, aiming high is the only thing you should go for. It’s within MOUZ’s grasp to reclaim their title as one of the world’s best teams, and there won’t be a better place to show it than the Major.
12) Virtus Pro
It’s tough to find success in a region full of top-tier teams such as CIS in 2021. With Gambit and Natus Vincere right next to them, it’s unsurprising that Virtus Pro haven’t won many trophies this year. Their chances of finding success are even slimmer with a last-minute switch to FL1T at the cost of Sanji. Still, Virtus Pro have shown throughout 2021 that they’re competitive, consistently fighting for the top spots in the most prestigious tournament. They have proved that making an upset is well within their reach, and pulling one in Sweden would be just another day in the office for them.
11) FaZe Clan
This roster is stacked with veteran names such as olofmeister, karrigan, and rain. The experience under FaZe Clan’s belt is immeasurable, with possibly no other team at the Stockholm Major being that well-qualified. Yet, the squad failed at IEM Fall Europe by missing out on playoffs. On the other hand, they advanced to the BLAST Premier Fall finals and finished top four at IEM Cologne 2021.
With this year’s Major being an offline tournament, in which players such as karrigan and olofmeister excel the most, FaZe can reach the top ranks. Them ending up as a middle-of-the-pack team wouldn’t surprise many fans, though.
FURIA take the No. 10 seed in our power rankings, making themselves the highest-noted Brazilian squad in it—and deservedly so. No one could take a map off them during the North American IEM Fall 2021, where FURIA claimed first place in style. Yet they failed to impress the international audiences in the last few tournaments, like in the last season of the EPL, so they’re not the highest-ranked NA team on our list. Nevertheless, their impressive form and experience undoubtedly will be their ace in the hole.
ENCE are coming in hot into the PGL Stockholm Major. The team’s performance has been nothing short of solid lately. They claimed second place at IEM Fall 2021: Europe, put up a satisfying fight at ESL Pro League season 14—where they made it to the top eight—and qualified for the IEM Winter 2021. Since the addition of Polish sniper hades, the team has been improving with every event, slowly preparing themselves to fight for the mantle of the best international roster in Europe. That’s why we expect ENCE to once again prove their worth, but they may stumble and fall with the Major being the biggest stage yet for many of their players.
8) G2 Esports
G2 are another team that look great on paper and should be higher on this list, but they just can’t find consistency. The NiKo era started very slowly, with the group taking a long time to find their footing, but the team eventually improved after bringing JACKZ back into the roster. They had a solid string of events during the summer, ending with a grand finals run at IEM Cologne on LAN, but looked lifeless a month later in an 0-5 showing at ESL Pro League.
Their showings before Stockholm shouldn’t be that much cause for alarm. Pro League was all best-of-ones, and they didn’t need to go all out at IEM Fall to get their Legends status. Stockholm will be the setting where G2 finally answers the question of whether they are an elite team.
7) Team Liquid
Behind Astralis, Team Liquid have the most combined Major victories on the roster (three between FalleN and Stewie) and are the only other team with multiple Major winning players on the lineup. While this alone doesn’t put them into a category along with Na’Vi, Vitality, or Gambit, it can be a factor in separating them from other teams that have been fighting for consistency this year. It’s been a while since any team has played in front of a large crowd, and some of the players participating have never even done it. A smart team with talent and experience will do best in this environment, and that’s what Liquid is.
No team has had quite the experience that Heroic have had these past two years. During the 2020 online era, they were widely considered the best team in the world—and had the results to prove it. Then in 2021, they made a surprising roster swap, won ESL Pro League season 14 via perhaps the greatest CS:GO play ever, then got caught up in a multi-leveled controversy involving their coach, sharing strats, and cheating allegations. Their only troubles came at IEM events, which means they fell out of the Legends stage and into Challengers. They’re still a great team that’s proven to be capable of pulling off plays that can only be described as heroic.
5) Team Vitality
The idea of saving the best for last is an apt description for Team Vitality. To end 2020, they went on a blistering run that cemented ZywOo’s player-of-the-year campaign, but they got off to a dismal start in 2021. Even after numerous roster tweaks, the entire first half of this year was brutal, with no placings above seventh across six straight events. But just like in 2020, things have improved near the year’s end, with three straight top-three finishes at ESL Pro League season 14, BLAST Premier Fall, and IEM Fall. Their IEM Fall performance was even good enough to snag a Legends spot for Stockholm. ZywOo looks to be back to his superstar level, and the new additions in misutaaa and Kyojin are looking better and better.
The four-time Major winners and three-time reigning champions find themselves in a very unfamiliar setting. Astralis are not the clear-cut favorites. They’re starting in the New Challengers Stage and are without their star AWPer at a Major for the first time. But even considering all this, fans can expect them to reach the New Legends Stage and the playoffs. Outside of their new young AWPer in Lucky, this is still the same championship roster that plays its best on the biggest stage.
In late 2020, the Gambit Youngsters had their training wheels removed and were all promoted up to the Gambit main roster. The group of under-21’s had recently been supplemented with their sole veteran presence, PGL Krakow winner Hobbit. With higher expectations heading into 2021, the team went above and beyond with a breakout year and a collection of major victories, including IEM Katowice and two different CIS RMR events. Their greatest opponent might be their regional counterparts in Na’Vi, but if they can shake off s1mple, the Major trophy is wide open for them.
2) Ninjas in Pyjamas
After slowly parting ways with the legendary roster that brought them so much success, NiP spent the past few years cultivating young talent before locking them down with extended contracts. Satisfied with the foundation they built, NiP brought in another legend still in his peak this year, four-time Major-winning AWPer dev1ce. A dazzling debut at Flashpoint Three and an impressive first-place finish at IEM Fall have NiP sitting atop the EU RMR rankings heading into Stockholm. The dev1ce acquisition turned NiP from a promising youth movement to genuine title contenders, and Stockholm could be the site of NiP’s first Major win since 2014.
1) Natus Vincere
The only team in the entire field to receive a unanimous ranking from all three of our writers, Na’Vi is the favorite heading into PGL Stockholm. After just narrowly losing player of the year from HLTV the past two years, s1mple has been locked in for all of 2021. But it’s not just the s1mple show. The entire squad have been clicking and have been the best performing team during major international competitions this year. Having rookie B1T join the group and instantly produce feels like a bonus, with the 18-year-old able to relieve a little bit of pressure off the rest of the team. There’s no better time than now than for one of CS:GO’s GOAT candidates to finally claim that elusive Major trophy.