On March 9th, Season 15 of the ESL Pro League will take place in Malta where 24 teams will compete for their share of the $823,000 USD prize pool. The winner will take home the lion’s share, $175,000, plus a spot at the BLAST World Final in December. Yesterday, ESL revealed which teams will be facing off against each other during the group stage.
The tournament features all 14 ESL partner teams, teams invited due to their ESL World ranking, teams that qualified through the Conference stage, and the winners of each region of ESEA Premier Season 38.
The group stage will be played on four different calendar slots, each group having separate schedules. Group A will start the tournament on March 9th, Group B will follow on March 16th, Group C on the 23rd, and the final group, group D, will start on the 30th. During this stage, all teams will face each of the others in their group once in a best-of-three match.
The playoffs will then follow on April 5th, with a single-elimination best-of-three bracket and a best-of-five Grand Final on April 10th.
In a competition full of European teams, and with CIS organizations topping the rankings, North Americans’ expectations are likely to be low as their teams will have to work very hard to make it out of the first stage of the tournament. But where there is life there is hope, Team Liquid and Party Astronauts were drawn in a group where they can clinch a spot in the next phase of the competition. For Complexity and Evil Geniuses the task will be a lot harder as they will be facing off against three top opponents in NAVI, Heroic, and Astralis, and also a staple of EU tier two, AGO. It will be interesting to see who fairs better, the youngsters of COL or the veterans of EG. If none of the four make it out, there’s always North American based organization FaZe Clan with Canadian Russell ‘Twistzz’ Van Dulken to root for.
Similarly, Brazilian teams will have a hard time getting through to playoffs. With GODSENT drawing in a well-balanced group, with the likes of Gambit, Team Liquid, BIG, Movistar Riders and Party Astronauts; the team lead by Brazilian legend Epitácio ‘TACO’ de Melo must show up on top of their game if they hope to make it out of groups. FURIA on the other hand will face off against the super-team Vitality, the new looking FaZe Clan who now feature Robin ‘ropz’ Kool, #6 in the HLTV ranking Virtus.pro, and two black sheep teams on Sprout and ENCE, who can come up as surprise contenders for a playoff spot. It’s safe to say that after the loss against Wisła Kraków, FURIA want to go back to winning ways and get their first triumph after the addition of Rafael ‘saffee’ Costa.
With an almost impossible task at hand, LookingForOrg find themselves in a group full of European giants, such as G2, Ninjas in Pyjamas, FNATIC, MOUZ, and the CIS rising team, Entropiq. The Aussie team has the second-lowest ranking of all teams in the tournament, only better than EG, but that won’t stop them from trying to cause some upsets and capitalize on some teams under-performing, like FNATIC, who are coming into Pro League with 3 straight losses, as well as MOUZ, who, on top of those losses, have not played once this year. Hopefully, we can see good performances coming from Oceania, something that has been rare lately.