The ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals appear to be wide open, with many teams still looking to prove themselves after a continued shake-up at the top of the world rankings. The event is set to take place next week, from 15-20 May.
Questions for FaZe Clan
After defeating Astralis in the Finals of IEM Sydney last week, FaZe Clan enter as a bit of an oddity. Before the clash in Sydney, FaZe appeared to be continuing their recent struggles, but a rejuvenated effort gives hope for a return to greatness. The 3-0 scoreline to finish off Astralis was by no means a representation of how close the series truly was though, with each map being an absolute nail-biter. Coupled with Xizt performing well above his previous level, FaZe will need a deep run here in order to prove their performance in Australia was no one hit wonder.
NRG look capable
After having prolonged success online, NRG Esports will be looking to prove themselves offline after a decent showing at IEM Sydney. NRG lost in overtime in the opener to the world’s best team Astralis before falling to G2 Esports within the Lower Bracket. Even in such a brief showing, the manner in which NRG Esports hung in with some of the world’s top sides showed their online results appear to have merit.
NRG are a dangerous sleeper within this tournament, with a fairly decent draw in Group A. Their first round opponents are Heroic, who are both an emergency replacement for HellRaisers due to visa issues, as well as a team using stand-ins, with two of their players recently being acquired by OpTic Gaming and RUBINO out with an eye infection.
SK Gaming still struggling
A major unknown at this tournament are SK Gaming, who have continued to look poor after the addition of Stewie2K to the line-up. SK completely bombed out of IEM Sydney in shocking fashion, losing a best-of-one to TyLoo before falling to Grayhound 1-2 in the opening Lower Bracket best-of-three.
SK are desperate to get back on track, with the recent announcement that coldzera will now become their in-game leader. There is major skepticism concerning this decision, but this is the first offline opportunity for SK to prove it is the right call. Their first match-up in Group B is against Ninjas in Pyjamas, a solid team and a quality measure of just where SK Gaming are currently.
Renegades looking to build
Also residing in Group B, Renegades are coming off an incredible run at IEM Sydney. They made it all the way to the quarterfinals after having minimal expectations entering the tournament, eventually falling to mousesports in an incredibly close 1-2 series. Multiple Renegades players had break out performances, with the most incredible being Nifty’s absolutely absurd 51 kill performances in triple overtime against mouz.
Everything was clicking for the Renegades in Sydney, and they have hopes of continuing their momentum into their opening match-up here against Space Soldiers; a squad that have notoriously underperformed offline.
Liquid have cooled recently
Awaiting the winner of Renegades and Space Soldiers could be Team Liquid, who open against Grayhound in Group B play. Team Liquid have one of their first opportunities to perform with their new squad as they now have TACO in place of steel.
Liquid started off the year on fire, primarily on the back of NAF, who was routinely the best player in the server no matter the opposition. However, even online Liquid have cooled off some, with the team looking to adjust to the new line-up.
Liquid are still incredibly stacked with talent though, especially for a North American roster, with a chance to go far in this group given the lack of top end talent. Astralis are by far the most difficult opponents in Group B, but otherwise Liquid appear to have a shot against any other opposition.
All eyes then will be on the Verizon Theatre in Dallas, TX, early next week in what should be a riveting event. There’s a $750,000 prize pool on the line for the 16 teams with a $250,000 first place purse.
Astralis are probably still the team to beat, but without one dominant team in the event, the ESL Pro League Season 7 Finals shape up as a potentially defining moment in the first half of the year.