The 16th season of ESL Pro League is about to get underway at the Salini Resort in Malta
The 16th season of the ESL Pro League is about to get underway at the Salini Resort in Malta. The 24 teams in the competition will be fighting it out for a combined prize pool of $825,000. Additionally, a spot at IEM Katowice and the BLAST World Final will be up for grabs for the winner at the end of the season.
The 24 teams have been split into four groups of six. All teams in each group will play each other once in a BO3 round-robin format. The group stage winners will advance straight to the quarter-finals, whereas the 2nd and 3rd place teams will advance to the RO12.
- 4 Groups
- BO3 Round-Robin Format
- 6 Teams in each group
- All teams play each other once
- 1st place teams advance to the Quarter-finals
- 2nd & 3rd place teams advance to the RO12
- BO3 Single-Elimination bracket
- BO5 Grand-Final
Group A (August 31-September 4)
- Natus Vincere
- Ninjas in Pyjamas
Natus Vincere are one of the few teams in the group that can play Mirage to a respectable level, and this could be key against NiP and Vitality, and with s1mple back in action, they are a sizeable favourite to win the group.
Coming in as the second and third favourites are Ninjas in Pyjamas and Vitality. The ninjas were a little shaky at BLAST Fall, but they still made it to the Fall Finals by beating Heroic 2–1.
Vitality, however, had to settle for a spot at the Fall Showdown after losing to two giants in the form of Natus Vincere and G2. It was otherwise a pretty respectable performance from Vitality, who made their tournament debut with Spinx. The Israeli was the second highest-rated player on Vitality after ZywOo, and he could prove to be a key player for them moving forward.
In terms of upset potential, Spirit stands out. Their Inferno perma-ban could prove useful in a group with many strong Inferno teams. They have a strong Ancient and Vertigo which makes things difficult for teams like NiP and Fnatic in the veto. Their weakest map in the pool is Mirage, but this won’t be much of a factor since teams like Vitality, Fnatic and NiP have struggled on this map as well. They’ve had some time to settle in after welcoming w0nderful, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull off an upset or two in the group stage.
Group B (September 7-September 11)
FaZe have been blazing hot, so there is no doubt that they should be the favourites to top Group B. They will be challenged mainly by G2, who have now had some time to get jks and HooXi acclimated to the roster.
The third spot will be entirely up for grabs, with BIG being the betting favourite to take it. However, one should not completely disregard Outsiders, who have the firepower to challenge some of the other teams in the group.
Group C (September 14-September 18)
The two Danish powerhouses, Heroic and Astralis, are coming in as the favourites in Group C. With a plethora of experience and solid fundamentals, they should be able to grind it out for a spot in the playoffs.
ENCE stands out as a name that has the potential to grab a spot in the playoffs, and perhaps even surprise and win the group. After losing Spinx to Vitality, they have chosen to pick up valde in his place. They have certainly lost some explosiveness with Spinx’s departure, but they get a very smart and experienced player in valde. Players like maden and dycha are very aggressive, so one could argue that there is now some more balance to the team as a whole.
The addition of SunPayUs could also prove to be a good one, as the AWPer has more than proven his worth on LAN with Movistar Riders.
Group D (September 21-September 25)
- Movistar Riders
- Evil Geniuses
- Eternal Fire
The Russians from Cloud9 will be the big favourites in Group D, but there could be a fierce battle for the remaining two spots. Liquid and FURIA certainly stand out as the two names that one would bank on to qualify, but one should certainly not rule out the Turks from Eternal Fire. They finally have a proper in-game leader and enough firepower to compete with any of the other teams in the group.