The final qualifier for ESL One Katowice this weekend highlighted just how international the top level of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has become.
Eight teams were to qualify for the major tournament in Katowice, taken from a field of 16 invited to the Polish city to play the final offline qualifier for the event. Teams flew in from around the world, and of the four teams to qualify without taking a loss, three were from outside Europe: Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, and Vox Eminor.
Cloud9 and Counter Logic will now act as the North American representatives at the March event. For the former, it was a sorely needed return to international success. The team had shown flashes of their former glory with a win over Ninjas in Pyjamas at the X Games Invitational, but stringing those results together had become a challenge. A blowout victory over Polish Inshock followed by a tight win over Mousesports put Cloud9 through with minimal fuss.
Counter Logic’s appearance at a major will mark the first time an American team outside of the core groups that made up Cloud9 and the former iBUYPOWER team has competed at a Global Offensive major.
Counter Logic’s promise and potential have never been in doubt, but they came up short in the qualifier in spite of a great start in each of their matches. The Americans established significant leads against both Titan and Gamers2, only to be forced to hold off comeback attempts by their opponents and ultimately win both games in the final rounds of regulation.
Vox Eminor, an Australian team, also swept through the qualifier. The team has made multiple appearances on the international stage in the past, but never managed to win a game in spite of often looking competitive. That was but a distant memory Sunday, when the team tore through Dignitas and 3DMax in consecutive games to qualify. The players were understandably emotional following the wins, and now seem a far greater threat than ever before.
Brazilian team Kabum are another non-European side to qualify. They were able to attend the qualifier after a successful crowdfunding campaign helped to pay for the squad’s travel expenses.
Kabum’s road was a bit bumpier. The team lost their opening match to Mousesports. But the Brazilians were able to bounce back with victories over Inshock and Dignitas to secure a place at the next ESL One event.
While Mousesports did manage an early win over Kabum, they were perhaps the biggest disappointment of the tournament, losing to Cloud9 and being upset by a shorthanded 3DMax side to fall short of qualification.
Titan, the highest-ranked team in the qualifier, nearly disappointed even more greatly than Mousesports. The French squad required multiple overtimes to defeat a relatively unknown Piter team from Russia before losing to Counter Logic Gaming. An easy victory over Copenhagen Wolves put Titan through to the main event, but it was a harrowing experience for a group with big expectations.
ESL Katowice kicks off on March 12.