Major Storylines in an Abnormal Playoff: ESL Pro League
Updated: Apr 11
The eleventh season of ESL Pro League North America jumps into the playoffs tomorrow after the season, like many things in the world, was derailed because of COVID-19. The format shifted into a six-team, five series round-robin group stage. The format gave each team a chance to play one another, and through a point and head-to-head system, four teams qualified for the playoffs.
Through all of the unfortunate circumstances, the teams involved played tough Counter-Strike, and they intend on seeing their hard work pay off to the end. These playoffs mean a lot for teams and players for a lot of different reasons, but three things make these playoffs potentially special:
The playoffs begin with round one of the lower bracket, pitting FURIA against MIBR in a match for survival. The two Brazilian squads are competing for pride and further advancement in the playoffs, but it goes deeper than that. MIBR inched into the playoffs off the back of a head-to-head tie against 100 Thieves with two wins. It is no secret that the lineup has been struggling for some time, but they can turn it all around with a playoff run.
FURIA has been outside of HLTV’s top ten since November, but are on an upward trend toward getting back in the top of the world rankings. Currently positioned at eleven, a strong playoff showing will surely get them closer to that goal. Although MIBR is assumed to be the big fish in Brazil, they have never beaten FURIA in an official match. Against their “little brothers” they are 0-4 across two best-of-ones and best-of-threes.
This best-of-three matchup will be their first playoff series against each other, and it will be the most important of an evolving rivalry. A victory for either team would be huge domestically and could get them riding high into the later stages of the playoffs.
In the upper bracket final, Evil Geniuses will have their revenge series against Liquid, who beat them in an incredibly close three map series five days back.
The domestic clash between these two North American titans runs similar parallels as the Brazilian matchup in the lower bracket.
Liquid is up 3-0 over Evil Geniuses in three best-of-threes, but like MIBR/FURIA, this will be the first time the teams met in the playoffs. EG find themselves in a slump and will be forced to turn it around against a rival they struggle against. Their first playoff matchup will be a prime opportunity for Evil Geniuses to not only kick start a playoff run but turn the tide of the all-time series against Liquid.
Two Teams Made Coaching Changes
Typically, teams expect to be in their most solid-state entering the playoffs. Playoff teams want to have all their ducks in a row come game time because there cannot be any distractions when the margin of error is so thin. For MIBR and Evil Geniuses, coaching changes are what they think will put them over the hump.
For different reasons, MIBR and Evil Geniuses opted to split from their long-tenured coaches. Although they both made the playoffs, questions still loom whether they are in peak form and whether removing their coaches was the correct call. The two teams will have to see it through to the end and come playoff time we will know if their choices can help them move forward or set them back.
Finding Form for Rio
Winning the Pro League playoffs against the best in the region comes as its own impressive accomplishment, but recent changes to the Major cycle for 2020 has given these playoffs a new set of importance. Two weeks after the Pro League playoffs, these four teams plus eight others will compete in the regional qualifiers for the Rio Major. These four teams would love to be able to ride the momentum of a Pro League victory into the Road to Rio and earn one of the six Major spots.
Counter-Strike at the pro level relies heavily on confidence and momentum. Winning a tournament right before Major qualification is exactly what a player needs to ensure the confidence levels are appropriate. This event could be just what one of these teams need to kickstart a historic run.
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All statistics used are from the HLTV database.
Photo Credit: StarLadder