ESL Pro League Season 14 will see 24 teams from around the world compete online for a share of $750,000 and coveted ESL Pro Tour points. Read expert insight from Adam Boothe covering the tournament.
While a player break is becoming a regular feature of the Counter-Strike calendar, 2021’s was a little bleaker. We did have a nice offering of academy team matches though, and I hope that feature will return a little more frequently in the future.
Now that the summer player break is over, we will see the return of the much-anticipated ESL Pro League Season 14, which has been one of the top online events each year throughout CS:GO history. The ESL Pro League began in 2015 with eight teams and a $500,000 prize pool. While the prize pool has not grown too exorbitantly in the six years since, the prestige and value of the event certainly have, with the pedigree of teams improving and additional circuit points towards other ESL Pro Tour circuit events being awarded.
Analysing the teams at ESL Pro League Season 14
Of the original eight teams from the first ESL Pro League, only two are attending Season 14. And only 18 players that competed in the inaugural season are still playing professional Counter-Strike, with nine of them competing in this very season.
So just how loaded is this event? The top 18 teams are all in attendance and the six others are not exactly a longshot to provide an upset, though it’s very unlikely they’ll progress into the latter stages of the tournament. The format looks excellent too; four groups of six with the top three progressing and the first-place team in each group getting a bye.
This structure attempts to maximise the competitiveness of the greatest quantity of matches while also bringing the round-robin to an equilibrium that sees every team demonstrate their skill. As we have seen in the past, this format can lead to all three matches on the final day of the group stage having the potential to completely shake up the order and impact the qualification of teams into the next stage.
Find all of the odds for ESL Pro League Season 14 here.
ESL Pro League Season 14 Playoff preview
The group stage of ESL Pro League Season 14 has concluded and the top four seeds were Heroic, OG, NAVI, and Gambit. Three of those four were the favourites to secure the bye into the quarterfinals, so perhaps that is rather unsurprising. OG topping Group B, at around 20% to do so, might have been improbable but it was G2 Esports’ underperformance that was the surprise of the group stage.
Going into the tournament, G2 Esports had 9-1 map record through 2021 against the five other teams in the group; this has now turned into 12-11, quite the underperformance
G2 Esports were given a 45% probability to top their group; however, not only did they fail to do that, but they also missed out on qualification for the next round after being unable to secure a single match win. Their truly disappointing 0-5 group win/loss record was particularly interesting given the opponents they were up against. Going into the tournament, G2 Esports had 9-1 map record through 2021 against the five other teams in the group; this has now turned into 12-11, quite the underperformance given how heavily they were favoured prior to the start of the tournament. While there was a bit of concern around their map pool beyond Inferno and Mirage (as mentioned in my Group B preview), ultimately they were about as bad on those two maps as on every other map anyway.
Reflecting on G2 Esports performance, there were two maps that stuck out. The 16-10 loss against OG on their choice of Mirage saw the team only win one round on the Terrorist side and it was during a half-buy. Analysing their death locations, you might have thought OG had been able to accurately predict which bombsite the team would go to every single round. It looked like G2 Esports players were running to their deaths in single file towards the A-ramp, Palace, and B-Apartments.
Somehow, that may have actually been the better performance when contrasted with their own map pick of Nuke two matches later against ForZe. It is always a sign of confidence to pick your less favoured side on your own map pick, however, to choose the Terrorist-side on Nuke when you are the clear underdog may be a sign of arrogance rather than confidence. In this case, it was certainly the latter. G2 Esports had opened up with a 3-0 pistol conversion before ForZe took total control of the match and secured a 10-2 round advantage at the halfway point of the match. One of those two rounds was won via a double kill by Nikola 'NiKo' Kovac through a smoke grenade on a pistol buy. All in all, this was not a G2 Esports that came prepared to be on the same level as their competition.
Despite this, the market is placing Ninjas in Pyjamas as the marginal underdogs with a 47% chance of winning against mousesports in this match.
Now we look to the playoffs. 12 teams have qualified with four moving straight to the quarterfinals. mousesports will face Ninjas in Pyjamas in the opening match, two teams who have seen plenty of each other over the past 12 months, battling five times with Ninjas in Pyjamas winning three of those encounters. Ninjas in Pyjamas’ most recent victory against mousesports was also their most convincing - a swift 2-0 map score with them securing the win convincingly in the second half of both maps. Despite this, the market is placing Ninjas in Pyjamas as the marginal underdogs with a 47% chance of winning against mousesports in this match.
Ninjas in Pyjamas are coming into this match fresh off one of the bigger upsets of the group stage where they beat one of the tournament favourites, Gambit. With the number of new rosters in Group C and four teams walking away with a winning record, it is difficult to ascertain how well mousesports may perform in the playoffs. We know they are coming in riding a three-match win streak; however, their map pool based on their performance at the tournament looks to be inferior to Ninjas in Pyjamas’ map pool.
The other series priced in a similar range is between ForZe and ENCE. The CIS roster is coming into the playoffs on the back of a hugely successful 4-1 group stage in which their sole loss was against group winners OG. In that match, they convincingly took their own map before losing to OG in overtime on Inferno. All four pistol conversions on the final two maps also went to OG.
ENCE meanwhile swept aside their opponents with three wins during the group stage, in two of which they were certainly the less-favoured team. They were also one of just two teams to pick up a map win against Heroic and the only team to do so dominantly, with a 10-5 round advantage at the halfway stage before closing out the match without losing any further rounds. These current iterations of ForZe and ENCE have never met in an official match; however, both squads had very strong map pools throughout August (though both also competed in other events where they were undoubtedly the favourites). In my eyes, ENCE should be sitting at around 54-55% to beat ForZe but perhaps the last few results from ENCE have swayed the market to favour ForZe instead.
The favourites in each of their opening matches (Team Liquid and Team Vitality) are justifiably priced...given the performances we’ve seen from Fnatic and Complexity so far.
Elsewhere, Complexity are still playing with stand-in Niels Christian "NaToSaphiX" Sillassen, while the newly reformed Fnatic are still integrating their two newest additions to the team, Alex "ALEX" McMeekin and William "mezii" Merriman. With both teams, it is difficult to make headway in analysing their performance given the limited sample size of matches played by these particular rosters. The favourites in each of their opening matches (Team Liquid and Team Vitality) are justifiably priced where they are and it is difficult to make arguments against their pricing given the performances we’ve seen from Fnatic and Complexity so far.
That being said, Fnatic have greater potential to cause an upset given the closeness of their losses to the top two teams in their group (mousesports and NAVI), despite the team only having a winning record on two maps. The greatest argument for backing Complexity, on the other hand, is that they are facing a Team Vitality who have struggled to perform well through the majority of 2021. However, we did get glimpses of their return to form this past month which could prove to be a challenge for Complexity.
I wish the best of luck to all teams as we run through the final 11 matches of Season 14!
*Odds are subject to change.