ELeague is to host the next Major tournament, from January 27th-29th in Atlanta, Georgia. With a prize pool of $1,000,000, there will plenty of tough competition, with the Legends already confirmed as Virtus Pro, Team Liquid, Fnatic, Astralis, NaVi, Flipside, Gambit and the reigning Major champions, SK Gaming.

The ESL One Cologne Major, hosted in July 2016, was previously thought to be one of the toughest major qualifiers of all time, with the likes of Ninjas in Pyjamas, Team EnVyUs and Cloud 9 not making the cut. However, the ELeague major qualifier is undoubtedly going to be the hardest yet, almost becoming a mini Major in itself when looking at the 16 teams battling it out for one of 8 spots.

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When looking at  HLTV’s rankings, 8 out of the top 13 ranked teams are in this tough major qualifier, with the likes of nV, Immortals and Mousesports at the lower end of the rankings. NiP are also a team needing to qualify, yet are at Number 1 in HLTV’s rankings after placing 1st at IEM Oakland in November and Starladder Season 2 in September. Luckily, NiP have been relatively consistent in the past few months, even without their fifth man, Pyth, who is fortunately back in their roster after recovering from a hand injury. Dignitas, Optic, Cloud9 and Faze make up the middle portion of the HLTV’s table, placing 5th-8th, with Optic shocking fans and placing 1st at Eleague Season 2.

The rankings are also particularly interesting when looking at the teams that have already qualified for the major, the “Legends”, with their placement being extremely erratic around the board. Places two, three and four are occupied by the most consistent of the Legendary teams, SK, Virtus Pro and Astralis. Liquid haven’t had much of the spotlight since placing 3rd-4th at ESL One New York, with their rank number 14 being just above that of Fnatic at number 16. Fnatic haven’t had a huge number of opportunities to prove themselves with Krimz in their line up, but in the past, haven’t performed very consistently. It will be particularly interesting to see how they’ll be preparing for the Major, whilst many of the opposing teams will be having to put a lot of their energy into making sure they qualify. Flipside are the lowest ranked team out of the “Legends”, with their performance dropping off since ESL One Cologne, not managing to make it to ELeague Season 2.

Similarly to Fnatic, many teams have changed their rosters since ESL One Cologne, most recently SK, kicking FNX for Fox. The team have confirmed that Fox, who previously played for FaZe, will be playing at both ECS and the ELeague Major. There was huge criticism surrounding this roster change, mostly because FNX allegedly found out about his departure through HLTV, rather than his team communicating this information with him. This might enable the team to put up a tougher fight however, as although they won both the Columbus and Cologne Major in 2016, they haven’t won an event in the past three months. Team EnVyUs have also changed their roster, switching Devil for Sixer, after not qualifying for a single Major in 2016, despite winning the final Major of 2015 in Cluj-Napoca. Astralis also have Gla1ve, replacing Karrigan who has moved to Faze, who actually played for them at the ESL One Cologne 2015.

 

As for the format of this Major qualifier, a tweet from the VP of ELeague revealed that they will be using the Swiss system. This in theory means that no team will play each other twice, and teams with the same win/loss ratio will face each other. Although all games are best of one, in order to get through to the Major tournament, each team will have to win three matches, and only have room to lose two. In my opinion, this system seems a lot fairer, as each team will play another with a similar placement, as they will have the same amount of wins and loses. Although all games are best of ones, which has enabled many underdog teams to have fluke wins and qualify in past tournaments, the fact that a team has to win three games means the chances of lucky underdog qualifiers are much lower.

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The first games start on December 15th, with the full details of these matches shown above. One of the hardest games of this first set will undoubtedly be FaZe v Cloud9, two teams with very similar current skill rankings, both showing a relatively consistent form recently. After Optic’s surprising win at ELeague Season 2, it should be expected that they will take the win over Tyloo, who haven’t had much of the spotlight recently, although currently place higher than Flipside on HLTV’s ranking at number 21. Due to their recent form, NiP should win their best of one over Renegades, although they may put up a stronger fight against other teams due to their consistent placing at smaller tournaments, coming 2nd in Dreamhack Winter 2016. Dignitas, especially considering their recent form, will more than likely win over Team Spirit, an underdog team who haven’t been in the public eye lately.

A game that I find very difficult to predict is G2 v Godsent, two teams that on paper should be on fire, but in reality both have an inconsistent record. G2 have proved themselves to be very worthy over many tournaments in the summer of 2016, after winning ECS Season 1, but haven’t been on top form recently, placing 9th-12th at ELeague Season 2. Godsent have huge upset potential, but haven’t really showed their skill, not making it to many larger tournaments that some of their potential opponents have placed highly in.

Catch all the major qualifying action from December 15th-18th over on Twitch.