The Counter-Strike scene is setting up to an ever closer transition from CS GO to Counter Strike 2, and soon enough every single tournament will be played under Valve’s new title. This recent change has already unveiled plans for the North American side of the scene, as it has been confirmed DreamHack Atlanta will actually carry major qualification points for the first time in years. No gaming prediction could have anticipated this, with the North American scene currently being at its lowest point of participation.
The ESL Challenger Atlanta tournament, set to be hosted at Dreamhack Atlanta, will be an 8 team event set to provide direct qualification for ESL Pro League season 19, which begins in April 2024. The tournament is set to be held from December 15th to the 17th, and will be the first time in years that a North American hosted tournament will provide qualification to the ESL Pro League. The last time a NA LAN tournament did such a thing was all the way back in 2019, before the pandemic.
ESL Pro League season 10 was the last time we saw the tournament feature smaller regional leagues that sent representatives towards the international grand final. Even though both season 11 and 12 were canceled due to COVID, season 13 implemented the current single international league, which normally includes “permanent” partnered teams with the esports program. However, back in 2019, the NA Pro League was played offline at the Intel Esports Arena in California, and the reward was a ticket towards the international finals in Odense, Denmark.
The community is both excited and shocked that North America is hosting the tournament, especially due to how the NA scene has gone downhill in recent years. The North America CS scene suffered the most due to not only COVID but also the launch of their direct competitor VALORANT. A plethora of CS professional players opted to switch to VALORANT instead of participating in the NA Pro League back in 2019. Zellsis and Yay opted out of Swole Patrol, TenZ and mixwell used to be under Cloud 9, with tarik and Ethan being crucial members of Evil Geniuses’ CS roster.
Currently, the NA CS scene is almost non-existent, with former regional organizations such as Team Liquid opting to move towards Europe this year. Complexity remains as technically the only Tier 1 North American team in Counter Strike, outside of that we barely see 2-3 teams swimming around in Tier 2 tournaments.
Will the newly setup NA LAN qualifiers truly rekindle Counter Strike’s player base in the region? We will just have to wait and see.
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