Building a Better Pro League

I take a look at the ESL Pro League and its issues and give my opinion on how to solve them.

The ESL Pro League is one of the largest league-format tournaments out there and one of the first of its type. Dating back to the ESEA Invite days, this league has always been quite prestigious in terms of participation. However, due to mid-season rule changes and a disjoint with the league’s little brother, ESEA Premier, multiple problems have risen. In this article, I’m going to go through the process of building a better EPL that is properly standardized and functions to include the best possible teams.


First and foremost, either make the Pro League align with each season of Premier or dissociate the two leagues entirely. I say keep them separate and create a separate qualification process for EPL (which I will get into later). Right now, the ESEA Premier seasons do not line up with the seasons of ESL Pro League, and that means that promotion rules only apply some of the time. The winner of Season 22 (ALTERNATE aTTaX from EU and Echo Fox from NA) didn’t get a chance at all to qualify for Pro League Season 4, while the winner of Season 21 (HellRaisers from EU and Immortals from NA) were automatically promoted. There is clearly a problem with how teams move from one tier to another, and removing the relationship between the two leagues is likely the best option. Pro League doesn’t even share the same name after ESEA was removed from being a title sponsor of the league, and they don’t need to share more than a game client.

Teams and Format

The number of teams in each region doesn’t matter all too much, and using the 14 teams as of season four seems like a good amount. It’s enough to include all the world’s best teams (from both regions) plus some lower tier competition as well. The format is sound – each team will play a best-of-two against every other team, and the top six points-wise qualify for the finals. If teams tie for points, either the tie breaker should be round difference or a head-to-head. This is where the relegation comes into play. If you are top 12 during the main season, then you should automatically qualify for the next one.

In my league, I’d have 13 teams carry-over, but some people would want to do this differently. The team who came last, should play against the top team from a qualifier to be able to play in the league the next season. This serves as the relegation match to weed out now-unqualified teams from the league, and also for a team to re-establish their position playing there. I am extremely against automatic promotion or demotion. If the team who places last is better than all of the teams outside of the league, then they deserve to prove their spot and stay in instead of being kicked out with no chance to fight for their spot.


The qualifier for the “relegation” match would ideally be an eight team, online-only, best-of-three, single-elimination tournament. Whoever wins gets to play in the match. Four teams are invited to this qualifier, which takes the “wild-card” type spot that ESL likes. The other four spots are filled through open qualifiers. Esports Championship Series (ECS) used this in their league to find teams for their “Development League,” which is a mini-league to determine who plays in their relegation bracket, which finally determines who will play in season 2. This portion isn’t particularly pertinent, as EPL hasn’t included a qualifier like this previously, but it’s important to have a basic system to start with to attempt to fetch the best teams and get them into your league without doing sketchy things.

Bringing it together

In short, ESL should dismantle the relation that the Mountain Dew League has with Pro League, as it is the source of almost all of the problems this league has. Use qualifiers akin to ECS to find out which new team will face off against the team who placed last in the main season. Now, they shouldn’t just copy what ECS has of course, because ESL should try to be unique. The format for the finals is a good example of that.

ESL Pro League will always be a very distinguished league due to the prize money available, however, there are many easily solved problems within it. With the announcement of the WESA Player Council, we’ve already seen them make changes to EPL through the finals slots and prize pool distribution. Hopefully ESL will continue to improve the most popular league in the scene to make it better than ever.

What are your thoughts on the proposed league? Let us know in the comments below or by tweting us on Twitter @GAMURScom.

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