ESL officially announced the invited CS:GO teams for the IEM Cologne event today, setting up a stacked group stage and play-in stage that’s set to begin July 5 at what’s known as the “Cathedral of Counter-Strike.”
Invites were determined based on the ESL Pro Tour rankings, which award points to teams based on their performances at recent events on the Tour. The top six European teams and the top two North American teams will begin their IEM Cologne run in the group stage: FaZe Clan, Na’Vi, G2, Cloud9, Ninjas in Pyjamas, ENCE, FURIA, and Team Liquid.
Joining these eight teams will be the eight survivors of the play-in bracket, a 16-team double-elimination bracket that features the lower-ranked NA and EU teams, plus teams from Asia, South America, and Oceania that have qualified either through the Pro Tour rankings or via ESL’s World rankings.
The group stage will consist of two groups of eight teams playing in their own double-elimination bracket, with the top three from each group moving to on playoffs. Like at the recently concluded IEM Dallas event, the top seed from each group will advance directly to the semifinals.
IEM Cologne also represents the latest stop in the Intel Grand Slam, which is currently in its fourth season. The first team to win four events that qualify as Grand Slam events will take home the championship trophy and a $1 million prize. FaZe currently sits in the lead with two wins at IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League Season 16, but their victory at the PGL Antwerp Major doesn’t count toward the Intel Grand Slam. Cloud9 and Vitality each have one IEM victory themselves.
Play-in stage play begins on July 5, and the event will conclude in the grand finals inside the Lanxess-Arena in Cologne on July 17.