Record viewership, an X-Games nod, and $250,000 prize pools: It’s pretty obvious Counter-Strike is growing, and fast. But while League of Legends, Starcraft, and now Halo all deliver a season-long competitive leagues, Global Offensive has been limited to one-off big-money competitions. Until now.
International esports giant ESL officially announced today it will launch a European CS:GO league that will provide seasonal structure to the often segmented CS scene. The announcement follows numerous successes for competitive Counter Strike this year under the ESL banner, including unprecedented viewership numbers during ESL One in Cologne, Germany.
The league will consist of three competitive tiers: The ESL Pro League, Major League, and Open League. The Pro League will represent the top level of competition, featuring eight invited participants and eight qualifiers for a total of 16 teams. Each season will culminate in an offline final with $48,000 in prizes for top finishers.
The ESL Major League will feature 32 teams in a second-tier competition fighting for a spot in the Pro League. Top finishers will earn their place in the top flight of competition in addition to a piece of a $2,000 prize pool.
The lowest tier, the Open League, will serve as the entry point to the pro ranks for up-and-comers—essentially anyone can compete for a spot. Registration is open to the public, and teams compete in a series of pool play and tournament matches to determine the top finisher. There’s no money at this level, but first place will move up to the second tier and, from there, have a shot at the very top.
The move is a big first step toward ubiquitous structured play in Counter-Strike, focusing on the heart of the game’s competitive scene: Europe. If successful, the new competition will mark yet another win for one of esports oldest and fastest growing franchises.