ESL One: Road to Rio Event Preview | Key Storylines, Team Overviews & Qualification Predictions


by in CS:GO | Apr, 22nd 2020

Hello and welcome to our Road to Rio preview, focusing on the highly controversial set of ESL One events set to start in a few days. Come to think of it, it’s been a while since the last of our esports event previews… Why is that so? Well, the answer is obvious – the ongoing pandemic has hit the esports industry hard, resulting in a multitude of canceled/postponed events. Luckily, the esports industry has one massive trick up its sleeve. You see, it’s capable of switching its matches from LAN-based events in massive venues to simplistic online, server-based gameplay.

And that’s exactly the direction in which the esports industry decided to go, following quarantine and worldwide lockdown. CS:GO leagues such as ESL Pro League and Flashpoint were among the first to make the online switch. Soon, a ton of big names followed in their footsteps, such as CDL, OWL, and regional League of Legends championships that are still going strong.

But, today, we’re not discussing the overall state of affairs in the esports industry. Instead, as the title Road to Rio Preview implies, we’re going to focus on the upcoming ESL One Major qualifications. There’s a ton of drama surrounding it, and we’ll make sure to take a closer look. For now, though, let’s kick things off with the most interesting facts surrounding the event!

Road to Rio Preview | Interesting Facts

  • Due to the fact the ESL One Rio Major moved to November, the second CS:GO Major Championship of 2020 had to be canceled. The Champions Stage is still scheduled for the Jeunesse Arena, but it will take part from November 19-22.
  • Since the second Major of 2020 has been canceled, ESL One Rio will be the ultimate CS:GO event of 2020. As such, it will feature $2 million in prize money, “borrowing” another million from the second (canceled) Major. That’s the single biggest prize pool in CS:GO esports history, and $1 million of it ought to go to the winning team.
  • Last but not least, fans who’ve already purchased the tickets for the Rio Major in May will be able to use them for the rescheduled event, even though the dates and locations/venues for the first two stages have not been officially revealed yet.

Qualification Drama

As you may have already heard, ESL took a deep dive by scraping the invites for the postponed ESL One Rio Major. This left several teams without cemented spots on the Major despite the fact they’ve already qualified.

The new qualification system is based on the so-called Regional Major Ranking (RMR), which features a points-based system via various events leading up to the Major in November. The slots are still here, but they’ve been slightly altered to better represent the quality of teams in each region.

Here’s the slot allocation for the ESL One Rio Major in November:

  • Europe: 3 Legends, 5 Challengers, 2 Contenders
  • North America: 3 Legends, 2 Challengers, 1 Contender
  • CIS: 2 Legends, 1 Challenger, 2 Contenders
  • South America: 1 Contender
  • Asia: 1 Contender
  • Oceania: 1 Contender

As far as the point distribution goes, we are still not sure how everything will pan out. From what I was able to dig up, ESL One: Road to Rio events are just one of many events that’ll count towards the RMR points and affect teams’ chances of qualifying for the ESL One Rio Major in November.

Road to Rio | Key Storylines & Team Overviews

Our Road to Rio preview isn’t done just yet! There are still questions left unanswered regarding the participating teams, and that’s exactly where this section comes into action. But, I do have a nice little twist – instead of talking about the toughest teams in each region, we’re going to concentrate on those that might not belong to the very top but still have what it takes to achieve a solid result on RTR.

100 Thieves

Let’s start with 100 Thieves. As many of you know, Nadeshot’s 100 Thieves reentered the CS:GO sphere on the last day of October 2019, by acquiring then in-form Renegades roster. It consisted of AZr, jks, jkaem, Liazz, and Gratisfaction, with kassad as the head coach. Fast-forward to 2020, nothing has changed about the roster itself, but the in-game approaches and tactics did.

Shortly after the acquisition, 100 Thieves went on to snatch a second place at the IEM XIV Beijing, losing against Astralis in the grand finals. After that, they had several solid outings, but nothing worth mentioning. As for their most recent campaign, ESL Pro League S11 NA, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. Their campaign started with wins against SWOLE and Evil Geniuses, but they ended up losing all remaining matches and ended up eliminated after the group stage.

One thing is certain – this Aussie side has plenty of potential. If they can keep making new tactical approaches and keep broadening their map pool, they shouldn’t have too many difficulties with qualifying for the ESL One Rio Major in November.

Gen.G

Moving on with our Road to Rio preview, it’s time to say a thing or two about Gen.G! We’re talking about a brand-new CS:GO organization that acquired Cloud9’s base roster and boosted it with two solid fraggers, s0m and BnTeT. Autimatic, daps, and koosta coupled together with the aforementioned duo – if that’s not a packed roster, then I don’t know what is.

The only problem with Gen.G seems to be a lack of discipline. I’m not pointing out daps who’s the IGL, I’m just stating the obvious… and it’s not his fault – team discipline is something that will come with time, as players learn to trust each other. Of course, C9’s core is long past that phase, but s0m and BnTeT will have to go out of their way to fit well into the current Gen.G roster.

This is another up-and-coming Flashpoint team that could be a huge surprise ahead of the November’s ESL One Rio Major. Even though their Flashpoint Season 1 didn’t end as planned, they showed they could go toe to toe with high-profile teams, meaning only greater things to come in the foreseeable future.

All in all, even though the NA region lacks top-quality teams (arguably, only Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses), there’s no lack of competitors following in their footsteps. NA seems to be fertile ground for new organizations to try and make a name for itself… And by raising the overall level of competitiveness in the region, perhaps one or two rosters will traverse onto the next level and contest EG and TL’s dominance.

MIBR

As you may have heard by now, MIBR parted ways with zews late March. In came dead, 34-year-old Brazilian CS legend who’s also MIBR’s manager. Many people predicted this move wouldn’t benefit MIBR, it turned out to be exactly the opposite. Yes, MIBR’s ESL Pro League S11 NA run ended pretty quickly, but their Flashpoint campaign was much better. It showed them in excellent form, and emphasized their virtues ahead of bigger events to come… one of which we’re focusing on here.

MIBR’s storyline was always going to be a part of our Road to Rio preview, simply because MIBR is once again taking up the role of the constant dark horse in bigger events. FalleN and fer are still doing all the hard work, and they’re getting some help from kNgV-. Meyern and TACO seem helpless at times, and I really wouldn’t be surprised to see them kicked off the roster pretty soon. At the moment, MIBR is at the 17th spot on HLTV’s world rankings, but there’s plenty of room for improvement in the coming months. Who knows, perhaps their comeback would be further boosted if they get rid of Meyern… or at least TACO, who’s been nothing but a shell of his former self in the last few months.

C0ntact Gaming

C0ntact Gaming acquired CR4ZY’s roster following an amazing performance on last year’s StarLadder Major. The acquisition happened in late January, which was perhaps a bit too late since CR4ZY’s biggest stars, nexa and huNter, had already departed for G2. Still, everyone was convinced it’s a good purchase with ottoNd and espiranTo still in the team.

Not trying to belittle the dynamic duo that was right next to nexa and huNter on the StarLadder Major, but ottoNd and espiranTo have plenty of work on their hands if they are to bring this roster to the same heights. Yes, they had some post-major success as CR4ZY, but I reckon C0ntact will want much more than tier B titles…

Be that as it is, C0ntact’s first real test was the recently finished Flashpoint Season 1. Even though many considered them as one of the dark horses of the events, they failed to deliver a good performance in the two group stage phases and were eliminated before the playoffs. One bad match against FPX’s new roster was all it took to mess up C0ntact Gaming’s plans.

Luckily, there will be a lot more opportunities to get back up on their feet…

Fnatic

Fnatic’s late 2019 was pretty good… so let’s not talk about the rest of the year because it’s been atrocious. But ever since they made the necessary roster alterations in late 2019, their performances experienced a healthy boost. KRIMZ, JW and Brollan, coupled with ex-Cloud9 stars flusha and Golden – the current Fnatic’s roster is looking pretty packed across all fronts.

There’s no star player in this team; the roster is well-rounded and all five players are equally capable of securing frags. Typically, KRIMZ and Brollan are topping the charts and seem to be the most consistent players on the roster, but others aren’t too far behind either… including Golden who’s the IGL.

Fnatic’s latest title, ESL Pro League S11 EU, shows just what a powerhouse they are at the moment. They had an amazing campaign from start to finish, beating the likes of NiP, FaZe, Astralis, as well as securing a brilliant comeback against Mousesports in the grand finals.

Even though they’re currently ranked as the third-best team in the world, many people still can’t see them doing anything noteworthy on bigger events like CS:GO Major Championships. Perhaps it’s time for this Fnatic roster to prove everyone wrong and show what a good mixture of young blood and experience can do on the CS:GO esports scene.

Dignitas

Dignitas is another promising team. Their new roster is packed with talents, mixing a ton of experience, fragging potential, and impeccable game sense. This Scandinavian (more like Swedish and Norwegian) mixture sports a dashing lineup, with its biggest problem lies in its freshness. You see, this roster was formed on January 21 and it’s pretty obvious the players haven’t properly clicked yet.

The inaugural season of Flashpoint was supposed to be a massive jumping board for this Dignitas roster. However, after failing to defeat Gen.G (twice), and the new Cloud9 roster, they suffered surprising group-stage elimination. However, once the likes of f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, Xizt and friberg start performing again (and it’s only a matter of time), Dignitas could be in for quite the run.

If they can work on their consistency and tricky contests against tougher opponents, perhaps Dignitas will be able to take a stance in Europe. While we still don’t know the exact rules for the all-new RMR system, if Dignitas’ key players start performing, they’ll be a tricky side to play against!

Road to Rio Qualifications | Which Teams Will Succeed?

Predicting successful teams is never an easy feat. Still, here’s my two cents on the three biggest RTR regions:

Road to Rio Europe Predictions

The European side of the table is as competitive as they come, which is why it’s not surprising to see the region featuring three legends, five challengers, and two contenders. It’s insanely difficult to predict the most successful teams here, simply because a good portion of the participating teams is outright top-notch. Teams like Astralis, Vitality, Mousesports, and Fnatic should be the top guns… but you can never know for sure considering the amount of competition that’s present in the region.

Road to Rio North America Predictions

Even though North America is miles below Europe as far as team complexity goes, there’s still a fine dose of rivalries inside the region. Team Liquid is once again the best team in NA, having conquered the ESL Pro League by beating their biggest rivals, Evil Geniuses. EG, along with the likes of 100 Thieves, MIBR, and most likely Gen.G, will be competing for the remaining two Legends spots. As far as challenger and contender spots go, the likes of C9, FURIA, and Orgless will join the race too.

Road to Rio CIS Predictions

When it comes to the CIS region, NaVi and Virtus.pro ought to be the two legends. As for the remaining three spots, it’s going to be a tough battle between the likes of Spirit, Syman, forZe… heck, even Winstrike. There’s not much else to say here – CIS has been, is, and will probably always be a wildcard region.

Road to Rio Schedule

At the time of writing, we have no concrete information on the schedule of RTR events. What we do know is that there will be a total of six Road to Rio events, three of which will last for only five days. Of course, I’m referring to Asia, Oceania, and South America, regions that aren’t well-known for having a solid set of teams.

European and North American events are the only fully-fledged ones, taking part from April 22 to May 17. CIS starts a week later but ends on the same day, promising

a stellar array of matches featuring some of the best teams from the old continent.

We can expect the detailed schedules to be announced in a matter of days, which is too late for our Road to Rio preview. Until then, we can only guess the complexity of the group stage situation.

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