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esports
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Qualifier format for ESL One Cologne is a bit confusing

ESL has opted to use a format never seen before in Counter-Strike to determine what teams get to go to ESL One Cologne.

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ESL One Cologne, the next Valve-sponsored Major championship, is fast approaching. As is tradition with Majors, ESL One Cologne will see the top 8 teams from the previous Major, MLG Columbus, duke it out against eight teams who have earned through the qualifier tournament.

That tournament takes place next week at the ESL studios in Katowice, Poland. Playing there are the bottom 8 teams from MLG Columbus, as well as the winners and runners-up from the regional Minor championships held last month. In total, 16 teams will fight for the remaining 8 spots for Cologne in the tournament.

It'll be interesting to see how the qualifier plays out, and not just for the obvious reasons. Last night, ESL revealed the format for the qualifier, and its one we haven't seen in Counter-Strike before.

Usually, these qualifiers use a format of group stage play followed by a playoff bracket, but not the ESL One Cologne qualifier. Instead, the tournament will use something called the Swiss format, originally invented for chess tournaments.

It goes like this: There are no groups. Teams have been seeded based on their placement in the previous Major or Minors, and higher seeded teams will play lower seeded teams in the first round.

After that first round, things switch up. Every team will be matched against a randomly drawn opponent who has the same number of wins as them, and who they haven't played before in the tournament. The tournament continues like that for four rounds. If a team reaches 3 wins, they move on to ESL One Cologne. If they lose 3 games, they are eliminated from the tournament.

It's a novel enough format (at least in the context of Counter-Strike) that ESL has produced a massive infographic explaining how it works, which we've included below.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

The response to the new format among the CS:GO community has been mixed, at least initially. Following the discussion on Reddit, it seems that fans are warming up to it as it gets thoroughly explained.

Some players, particlularly MSL from Dignitas and kioShiMa from FaZe Clan have questioned the logic behind the initial seeding, a sentiment that's echoed by former pro player and analyst lurppis. As it stands, Dignitas - who won the Europe Minor - will face a higher seeded team in their opening match than HellRaisers, who placed second at the Minor.

The qualifiers for ESL One Cologne will play out on June 9-12. The opening matches are:

G2 Esports vs. TyLoo
FaZe Clan vs. Team Dignitas
Gambit Esports vs. OpTic Gaming
Mousesports vs. Binary Dragons (former Fluffy Gangsters)
Team ENVYUS vs. Tempo Storm Immortals
Cloud9 vs. Team Empire
FlipSid3 Tactics vs. Renegades
Splyce vs. HellRaisers

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
FaZe Clan are among the teams vying for a spot at ESL One Cologne. // Photo: Patrick Strack, ESL