The ESL ESEA Pro League Finals are quickly approaching and will pit the top four teams from both the North American and European divisions against one another in a showdown for $500,000.
The event will kick off with the four North American underdogs challenging their European counterparts in the first round. Here is a breakdown of each team’s chances in the opening matchups.
Vurtis.pro (3-2) vs Luminosity (4-1)
Surprisingly, Luminosity might have the best chance of any North American team to make it past their first round opponents. Virtus.pro are the heavy favorites, but their losses to mousesports last weekend in the Gfinity Summer Masters I has left a lot of doubt as to whether or not the Europeans are as good as they get credit for. Luminosity on the other hand have been rising in the North American scene, putting together a strong 4-1 record in their last five games. Their improvement has come off the back of the addition of pyth, a Swedish player, and former Team Liquid substitute, NAF-FLY.
Since he was picked up by Luminosity, NAF-FLY has become the top performer for the Americans, putting up huge scores and having only gone negative in 10 of his 45 games for the team. With that being said, Luminosity is a worse and less developed team than mousesports was and might not have the depth needed to put pressure on Virtus.pro. In reality, it is up to Virtus.pro to assert themselves and claim the win while Luminosity simply needs to head into the game in their best shape and hope for the best.
Team EnVyUs (4-1) vs Cloud9 (3-2)
The matchup between Cloud9 and Team EnVyUs will be the most interesting match of the first day. The two recently played in the Gfinity Summer Masters I where EnVyUs took the set 2-1 in convincing fashion. The only map they lost on was Train in the first game of the match, but as this event has a best-of-one format, Cloud9 definitely has a chance.
The deciding factors in this matchup will likely be how much seangares learned in Cloud9’s loss last weekend, and if shroud and Skadoodle can keep up with the likes of Happy, shox and NBK. Firepower will always be a wall for Cloud9, and this match will be the first of many tests at the event. In fact, American teams in general fall short in the talent department when facing the European elite. Ideally for Cloud9, shroud, Skadoodle and n0thing will all come into the match strong, and fREAKAZOiD will have learned from his awful performance last weekend. Otherwise, their chances of winning are slim, regardless of how much seangares comes up with.
Fnatic (5-0) vs Counter Logic Gaming (3-2)
Even though Counter Logic Gaming would usually be considered one of the most likely dark horses to come out of the North American division, they will have the toughest task of any team in the first round. Taking on Fnatic would be a near impossible task for any other North American team, but for CLG it may be the worst matchup imaginable.
CLG relies heavily on the pure talent of tarik, as well as their own non-static style, to overwhelm their opponents. But as Fnatic are much deeper talent-wise and can outplay the Americans in their own free-style, there is little to no chance that an upset will occur.
Of course anything is possible in theory, but Fnatic are coming off a number of event wins and should have no trouble taking out CLG. Fnatic’s aim is to win the event, while CLG have their hands full in the very first game. It's simply a complete mismatch, but so are almost all of the North America versus Europe matches.
Keyd Stars (4-1) vs Team SoloMid (3-2)
This might be the event that Team SoloMid’s win streak ends, but Keyd Stars will almost certainly not be the team to dethrone them. TSM have been too good for too long to lose out to Keyd Stars. That is, of course, betting on the fact that TSM have been able to find time to practice. Their event attendance has been poor to say the least as TSM has missed almost half of the top-level events over the past couple of months. But in every event TSM attended, they won.
If a North American team could beat TSM, Keyd Stars is not a bad guess. Their top eight at the last major, ESL One: Katowice was impressive, but the scene has changed entirely since then. TSM, who also finished in the top eight of that event, now find themselves on the top of the world, while Keyd Stars are only somewhere in top end of North America. Quite clearly, the two have gone in different directions, and TSM should come out on the better end in this matchup as well.
Jacob Julliet writes about Counter-Strike for theScore eSports. Follow him on Twitter.