Over a month of CS with the best teams in the world, and we take a look at our favorites to make an impact. Here are our Eight Teams to Watch at ESL Pro League 16.
Like any sport, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has its stories. There are stories of rivalries, betrayals, upsets, comebacks, ascents, downfalls, winning streaks — you name it. These stories combine to make CS:GO the success story that it is, and what has cemented its status as such more than anything else is the near-mythical tournaments. These are events that you have to see to believe, and they have elevated the game into the topmost echelon of esports.
The intensity of the game, massive prizes, and insane crowds that gather to watch top-level tournaments have made the game what it is today. It should come as no surprise that some of these tournaments are so popular and so very storied that they’re almost like movie franchises in their own right. One such tournament is the ESL Pro League.
With Season 16 of the fabled tournament coming up, CS:GO lovers are hyped up about their teams’ chances of lifting the trophy. No fewer than 24 teams will be taking part, with 12 moving on to the playoffs. Given that the tournament is just weeks away now, we wanted to point out the eight teams we believe will make the quarter-finals — and why.
1. Natus Vincere
Powered by its charming but deadly AWPer Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostilev, the CIS side has been making headlines for the better part of two years now — including the one they created by winning Pro League 14. There’s not much to be said about Na’ Vi’s four core members that haven’t already been said. However, the team is currently still trying to get back to their slightly older, more rock-solid selves with newcomer Viktor “sdy” Orudzhev.
The Ukrainian side surprised everyone when they recruited the former Team Spirit player. While sdy hasn’t exactly been stellar, he has at least not been a complete letdown, playing a decent role in his side reaching the Grand Final of the Cologne Major. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the team can continue to perform well and fill the void left behind by Kiril “Boombl4” Mikhailov.
2. FaZe Clan
Unquestionably the hottest team out there right now, FaZe just cannot seem to stop winning. After years of swaying between awful performances and coming tantalizingly close to major prizes only to falter at the last second, the team of transatlantic megastars seems to finally have found its groove.
It’s impossible to pick the best player from the kind of talent FaZe brings. It was already a team of superstars when the stars aligned to land them Estonian rifler Robin “ropz” Kool, but it was this change that seems to have transformed the team from sleeping giants to world-beaters. It will take a truly special effort to prevent the defending champions from safeguarding their crown.
Once just about the most obvious inclusion and the team with arguably the most fans, Astralis is a far cry from what their indelible legacy would suggest them to be. If anything, they have essentially switched places with FaZe Clan in terms of performance. Gone are the glory days of all-Danish domination.
It’s not as though the talent isn’t there, though. The team has occasionally been showing what it’s capable of, but has developed a severe problem with regard to closing games. Nevertheless, with Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth somewhat coming back into form, Astralis can upset the best of teams provided Benjamin “blameF” Bremer and Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke pop off.
4. Team Liquid
One of the most unfortunate teams out there, Liquid has seen every shade of the CS:GO spectrum. The team has gone from being a hair’s breadth away from winning a major to struggling to remain competitive in the relatively low-key North American scene.
That being said, the arrival of Joshua “oSee” Ohm has made the team significantly stronger. If they can recruit a solid 5th player, the force of nature that is Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski will probably take them to a few titles with sheer willpower. This may come as a surprise inclusion to many, but we believe this squad has tremendous potential.
5. FURIA Esports
When Vinicius “VINI” Figueiredo left to join Brazilian superteam Imperial, many people thought Furia would become a shadow of their old selves. Incoming player Rafael “saffee” Costa, though, seems to have injected a new sense of intent into the team.
There’s still a lot of refining that Furia must do if they are to create any major shockwaves in the CS scene, despite possessing the firepower to do so. Their main problem seems to be consistency and the lack of discipline that seems to plague the vast majority of South American squads in just about every game or sport. Many people might fancy Vitality or G2 over them, but there’s no denying their potential.
One of the longest-running squads in the scene right now, Cloud9 has been through thick and thin. Their now-beloved roster has garnered a strong fanbase in the CIS region. Although they haven’t recently tasted anywhere near the kind of success they enjoyed in the pandemic-induced online era of CS, the team nevertheless has been improving on LAN.
If Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov can get his old form back, the team can still reach the dizzying heights of top-level tournament finals. Abai “HObbit” Hasenov is an extremely capable fragging In-Game Leader (IGL), and his presence in the squad makes it an ever-present threat to any side. Plus, it’s hard not to love a passionate squad of close-knit players, and Cloud9
7. Movistar Riders
Speaking of passionate squads with close-knit players, there hasn’t been a greater Cinderella story in CS:GO than that of Movistar Riders since Cloud9’s miraculous major win. The Spanish underdogs won millions of hearts with their incredible run at last months’ IEM Cologne, where they made it to the Semi-final.
Few expect them to repeat their feat at this event, but a team with so much talent and the prospect is hard to keep down — especially since they have also garnered top-level LAN experience. Although the squad itself is beautifully balanced, their star player is undoubtedly Alvaro “SunPayus” Garcia. If you like exciting CS from hungry young squads full of promise, look no further.
The German giants have a terrible habit of choking in bigger tournaments, but we have a gut feeling that they might just make it far this time around. The boys at Berlin International Gaming are brimming with talent, but have a history of losing the plot at critical moments.
If the team fulfills our prophecy, it will almost certainly be spurred on by star sniper Florian “syrsoN” Rische and IGL Johannes “tabseN” Wodarz. BIG has been stumbling for too long, and we think that the time is ripe for some “big” changes in their results.
CS is a game that relies heavily on momentum and the form on a given day, so these predictions are by no means concrete. However, that is part of the beauty of the game, and as admirers, we can but watch in awe as the masters go about their fascinating trade.