ESL Pro League in 2022 was a snooze-fest, two seasons and eight weeks of boring jeopardy-less round-robin group stages and studio playoffs. It seemed to exist just to make Katowice and Cologne look better.
In 2023 that is supposed to change. There’s a shiny new 32-team format, with GSL-style double elimination brackets in four groups of eight teams to replace the old Round Robin system.
There are more spots for non-partner teams, matches should mean more, and dead rubbers are a thing of the past.
But it still takes up five weeks of the calendar, time where that could be a big EPICENTER, StarLadder, or MLG (let us dream, okay). It’s got 32 teams, of which you’ve heard of about 20 and care about 10.
There are some highlights in the announced groups, in fairness.
G2 are in the same group as Cloud9, FaZe are with Vitality, Liquid and Astralis with NAVI. There’s gonna be some good games, and upsets are bound to happen.
But they’re not exactly barnstormers. The best teams in the world need to have their backs against a wall before they kick it up a notch, not offered a sunbed and cocktail on a Malta beach while they run through a lower bracket of Rooster and SAW.
The purpose of a group stage is to get the best teams into the playoffs. It’s an appetiser, not the main course.
It’s just that most appetisers don’t take an entire month to eat. We need some meat and potatoes at some point.
Look, we get it. EPL exists for the Louvre teams to get some guaranteed screen time, and for ESL to farm their hours watched. It’s a revenue maker. It does exactly what those behind it want it to do, without competing with the big IEM events for prestige or attention.
We just wish there was another, less time-consuming, way to do it.