The best Counter-Strike teams from all around the world are convening in Katowice, Poland for the biggest CS:GO tournament of 2021 so far. The annual showcase serving as the Intel Extreme Masters World Championship is expanding both its prize pool and field of teams this year.
The prize pool has doubled from $500,000 in 2020 to $1 million this year, well the number of teams has increased from 16 to 24. IEM Katowice 2020 is infamous for occurring right when the COVID-19 pandemic began putting a halt to various events across the world. Just prior to the playoffs, ESL was informed it wouldn't be able to host a live crowd and thus Natus Vincere lifted the trophy in an empty arena.
Will they repeat as champions? Will another favorite take their trophy? Or will a new challenger emerge among the top teams? Here's everything you need to know about the IEM Katowice CS:GO World Championship for 2021, including stream links, schedules, and which teams you should keep an eye on.
With the added play-in stage, the CS:GO action in Katowice will be broadcast on three separate streams for the first few days of that stage. When we reach the main group stage, it'll go down to two broadcasts and then just one primary stream for the playoffs.
Prior to the main group stage, the 16 play-in teams will play in a double-elimination style bracket where eight squads will advance to join the other eight rosters that are already in the main stage.
During the main stage, the 16 remaining teams will be split into two groups of eight. Each group is its own double-elimination bracket, with the three surviving teams advancing to a six-team playoff. The two squads that finish first in each group will get a first-round bye and advance directly to the semifinals.
All matches across the entire event will be best-of-three series, except for the opening play-in series, which are best-of-one, and the grand finals, which will be a best-of-five.
Here are the 24 teams competing at IEM Katowice 2021. As mentioned above, the 16 play-in teams will be widdled down to eight and then split into Group A and B for the main stage.
- Complexity Gaming
- Ninjas in Pyjamas
- Team Liquid
- Team One
- Virtus Pro
- Gambit Esports
- Team Spirit
- Movistar Riders
- Wisła Kraków
- Evil Geniuses
- G2 Esports
- Four more TBD from play-in stage
- Team Vitality
- FaZe Clan
- FURIA Esports
- Natus Vincere
- Four more TBD from play-in stage
Tuesday, Feb. 16 (Play-in stage)
- 5am CT: BIG vs. Movistar Riders, Team Spirit vs. Cloud9, Gambit vs. Team One (Play-in round one)
- 6:30am CT: Renegades vs. mousesports, Virtus Pro vs. Wisła Kraków, NiP vs. Complexity (Play-in round one)
- 8am CT: OG vs. Fnatic, Team Liquid vs. MIBR (Play-in round one)
- 9:30am CT: BIG vs. Team Spirit, Gambit vs. mousesports (Play-in upper bracket round two)
- 9:30am CT: Movistar Riders vs. Cloud9 (Play-in lower bracket round one)
- 1pm CT: Virtus Pro vs. NiP, OG vs. Team Liquid (Play-in upper bracket round two)
- 1pm CT: Team One vs. Renegades (Play-in lower bracket round one)
Wednesday, Feb. 17 (Play-in stage)
- 5am CT: Wisła Kraków vs. Complexity, Fnatic vs. MIBR (Play-in lower bracket round one)
- 8:30am CT: Play-in lower bracket round two, first and second match
- 12pm CT: Play-in lower bracket round two, third and fourth match
Thursday, Feb. 18 (Main group stage)
- 5am CT: Evil Geniuses vs. TBD, G2 Esports vs. TBD (Group A round one)
- 8:30am CT: Astralis vs. TBD, Heroic vs. TBD (Group A round one)
- 12pm CT: Team Vitality vs. TBD, FaZe Clan vs. TBD (Group B round one)
Friday, Feb. 19 (Main group stage)
- 5am CT: Natus Vincere vs. TBD, FURIA vs. TBD (Group B round one)
- 8:30am CT: Group A upper bracket round one, first match
- 8:30am CT: Group A lower bracket round one, first match
- 12pm CT: Group A upper bracket round one, second match
- 12pm CT: Group A lower bracket round one, second match
Saturday, Feb. 20 (Main group stage)
- 5am CT: Group B lower bracket round one, first and second match
- 8:30am CT: Group B upper bracket round two, first match
- 8:30am CT: Group A lower bracket round two, first match
- 12pm CT: Group B upper bracket round two, second match
- 12pm CT: Group A lower bracket round two, second match
Sunday, Feb. 21 (Main group stage)
- 5am CT: Group B lower bracket round two, first and second match
- 8:30am CT: Group A upper bracket final
- 8:30am CT: Group A lower bracket final
- 12pm CT: Group B upper bracket final
- 12pm CT: Group B lower bracket final
Friday, Feb. 26 (Playoffs)
- 8am CT: Quarterfinal No. 1 (Group B second place vs. Group A third place)
- 11:30am CT: Quarterfinal No. 2 (Group A second place vs. Group B third place)
Saturday, Feb. 27 (Playoffs)
- 8am CT: Semifinal No. 1 (Group A first place vs. TBD)
- 11:30am CT: Semifinal No. 2 (Group B first place vs. TBD)
Sunday, Feb. 28 (Playoffs)
- 8am CT: Grand finals (best-of-five)
Teams to watch
Natus Vincere, the defending champions, enter Katowice with a lot of momentum. After losing their opening series at the BLAST Global Final, they won five-straight series in their lower bracket run to win the event. They also recently finished first in their BLAST Spring 2021 group.
Both Vitality and Astralis, however, struggled in their BLAST groups. Astralis were eliminated after losses to NiP and BIG, despite a victory over OG. Vitality looked completely unlike the team seen at the end of 2020, with an embarrassing loss to Complexity before getting bounced by Evil Geniuses. Both teams will look to right their ships in the main group stage.
FaZe Clan has catapulted into the conversation of contenders following their performance in the BLAST Spring groups. Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken is already looking great on his new team and now they've added an established in-game leader in the returning Finn "karrigan" Andersen.
There are a plethora of talented teams in a stacked play-in stage, too. Complexity, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and BIG all looked impressive in their respective BLAST Spring performances. Both Virtus Pro and Gambit Esports have also been on a steady rise in recent months. All of these teams have to compete with the likes of OG, Fnatic, and Team Liquid as well.