The biggest CS:GO esports tournament of all time will begin in just a few days, and there's no better place to keep up with the action than Bitsler, the world's premiere cryptocurrency-powered betting site. Twenty-four teams will fly to Rio de Janeiro for a chance to become Counter-Strike legends in an event that is destined to become a part of esports history.
Bet on the IEM Rio Major with Bitsler
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Here's who will be at the event and what you can expect from them.
The Challengers Stage: where fallen giants and upstarts collide
The Challengers Stage
, featuring the teams that qualified as Contenders and Challengers, will take place between October 31 and November 3. Sixteen teams will duke it out in a Swiss-style bracket, with the top eight qualifying for the Legends Stage. The early rounds are best-of-one affairs, but all deciders will be played out in a best-of-three fashion.
Grayhound Gaming, IHC Esports and Team GamerLegion are among the weakest squads from the Contenders, but the Brazilian contingent, cheered on by their home crowd, could do a lot of damage to the rest of the field. FURIA offer the greatest pedigree in terms of recent competitive results, coldzera's 00 Nation has a lot of exciting youngsters, but all eyes will be on Imperial Esports
, the "Last Dance" of FalleN, fer and the rest of the legendary squad that single-handedly put Brazilian CS on the world map and won back-to-back Majors in 2016. Their successful qualification for the event has significantly increased the home community's interest in the Rio Major, and it will be a ton of fun to watch how far they can go.
Of the Contenders teams, Fnatic
and Outsiders stand out as strong candidates to qualify based on their recent roster moves and results. To make it to the Legends Stage, they'd have to push past at least a few of the teams that qualified as Challengers. The American squads, 9zTeam and Evil Geniuses, stand out as potential targets, and the same holds true for a floundering BIG side and a beloved but inconsistent Bad News Eagles side, whose road to fame and fortune was their Cinderella run at the previous Major, a result they couldn't build on elsewhere in the third-party tournament circuit.
The international squads of OG and MOUZ have been on the upswing but it wouldn't be the biggest upset in the world if they missed out on the Legends Stage. However, were Team Vitality or Cloud9
unable to get past the first hurdle, now that would be a surprise worthy of the ages! With both teams going strong in the ESL Pro League and the RMR,
The Legends Stage and the Champions Stage: where the best will make their mark
The Legends Stage, featuring the top eight from the Challengers Stage and the eight teams that qualified as Legends, will take place between November 5 and 8. The eight Legends, the teams that performed the best in the recent Regional Major Ranking events, were directly seeded into this stage of the competition. They are unquestionably among the favorites to win the entire event.
The successful sides from The Challengers Stage will be joined by FaZe Clan, NAVI, NiP, ENCE, Sprout, Heroic, Team Spirit and Team Liquid. Though Valve aims to represent all global regions at the Majors, relative strength is taken into account with the seeding, and it's a testament to the power of European Counter-Strike that they locked down seven out of the eight slots here. The lone exception, Team Liquid
, could be seen as dark horses to win the tournament, having significantly improved since adding Latvian rifler YEKINDAR to their roster.
Defending champions FaZe Clan
return to the fray after a slightly subpar set of results, not in the pristine form they displayed during the last season when they dominated the world. They are still a force to be reckoned with and can make a comeback in any match, but no one in their right mind would consider them the favorites against the field.
NAVI and Team Spirit represent the CIS region in this bracket, and with s1mple returning to his best form, the yellow-and-blue outfit is guaranteed title contenders. Spirit's shock run to the semifinals in Antwerp will likely prove impossible to replicate, but they've done well enough in the European RMR to earn their spot here, which suggests that they could once again exceed expectations.
ENCE and Heroic offer different flavors of the David-versus-Goliath story for Counter-Strike fans around the world. ENCE managed to build two very different successful squads of international journeymen and have once again made it to the Major, while Heroic emerged as the strongest Danish team at this time with Astralis' fall from grace, who haven't even made it to the Major. Neither of them are likely to make a deep run, but both can spring a nasty surprise or two.
From this motley crew of CS elite, Sprout stick out like a sore thumb. At best, the org has been a feeder for more successful sides over the past decade, and this marks their biggest result of all time. (Their only other Major appearance came in 2018 in Boston, where they went out in 19-21st place, a result they've already surpassed by default.) They earned their spot here with wins over forZe, Team Sprit and B8, with a close defeat to FaZe serving as the only blemish on their record. Even so, they are among the underdogs here.
The top eight teams are then seeded into a single-elimination playoff bracket for The Champions Stage, set to take place in the Jeunesse Arena, with the first quarterfinals starting on November 10 and the grand final scheduled for November 13. It's going to be a bombastic affair.