The ELEAGUE Major is just two weeks away, and at this point and I'm not sure it will do what Majors have typically done.
Throughout the history of the Majors in CS:GO, the fans and players have looked to the most prestigious event to define who the best team in the world is. From the domination of Ninjas in Pyjamas at the inception of CS:GO, to the era of the unstoppable fnatic, and up to the back-to-back wins by the Brazilians currently under SK Gaming - winning the Majors has provided the teams with not only the ability, but also the right, to claim the title as the best team in the world.
This year, this Major, I don't believe this is the case for any team but one.
Astralis is the only team that, should it win the Major, has the ability to rightfully (and without much doubt cast) claim the title of best team in the world. Currently ranked No. 1 in the WWG CSGO Team Rankings, it most certainly ended the year the best of any team with several top finishes, cultivating in its first place finish at the ECS season two finals. The team ran a dominant circuit near the end of the year and is riding that wave into 2017. Should it take home the trophy, it will have a better claim to the same type of respect as the above-mentioned era holders.
For the rest of the teams, Atlanta will be the proving grounds. For many of the teams it will be the most important proving ground that they have faced.
With the quick growth and resources being put into the scene, teams are feeling the pressure to be successful or be lost. The big money is going to the big teams, and that will begin to squash out some of the little or more unsuccessful guys. A few of the teams that I believe need this Major to be at least somewhat successful are No. 21 Team Liquid, No. 10 GODSENT, No. 5 Team EnVyUs, and No. 12 G2 Esports.
Now you may be wondering, well if those teams are on the list where is Flipsid3 Tactics? Flipsid3 is just happy to be there. It has been without much success long enough that it seems it is just content working at the level it is, and therefore I do not believe is at the same crossroads as several other teams.
Liquid had moments of glory when Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev showed why he's considered the greatest talent in the game currently, but have struggled to find any light at the end of the tunnel without the star Ukrainian. Switching out Kenneth "koosta" Suen for Josh "jdm" Marzano did little for the team, and although Jacob 'Pimp' Winneche does well, he is not the same player they had with s1mple.
Liquid has struggled more than anyone could ever expect with a roster that looks as good as it does on paper. It's greatest hope? Wilton "zews" Prado having his hand on the reigns turns this ship around and makes them a respectable contender. If it does not get wins here, or maybe even if it doesn't make it out of groups, the team NEEDS to be redone. The problem? Who could they get?
GODSENT is in a similar boat, except it has seen even less success at the peak. Since the biggest player trade in CS:GO history saw the old fnatic do a three for three-player trade with GODSENT, neither team has seen much ground gained. GODSENT currently sits nine spots higher in the WWG CSGO Team Rankings at No. 10, compared to fnatic's No. 19, but just last night failed to qualify for DreamHack Masters Las Vegas with a loss at the hands of a relatively unknown squad, PRIDE.
GODSENT has held the same lineup, minus a switch back that saw it return Jonas 'Lekr0' Olofsson to the roster and yet seen little improvement. Months after the mid-summer switch the team continues to struggle to beat lower level competition while only occasionally managing to take down a top level team. GODSENT needs a deep run here, or it may be time to make changes if the former gods of CS:GO wish to reach the top again.
We can lump G2 and EnVyUs into the same boat - a sinking one. While both teams are within the top 15 of the WWG CSGO Team Rankings, neither is a real contender to win the event in their current state. They have unimpressed and been unable to represent the French scene in the same way super teams of old did. The only finish above fifth place in the last three months for G2 was a second place finish at Northern Arena Montreal; not exactly the best event to showcase the top teams.
EnVyUs finished 3rd-4th in Montreal but saw slightly better results in the past three months overall by placing higher in ECS season two and ESL Pro League standings as well as a 3rd-4th at the ECS season two finals in Anaheim. The rumors of yet another French shuffle have been firing up recently, and if neither of these teams goes on a deep run at the Major, there will absolutely no surprises unless changes DON'T come.
These teams are looking to prove that they are worth the resources being provided to them, and for some this may be their last chance. In the Counter-Strike scene, you can only underperform for so long before you force the hand of management. Many owners are trying to stay afloat or attract the best backing they can, success in some form is almost always required.
Who lives and who dies from the ELEAGUE Major?