Counter-Strike is one of the longest-running and most popular esports titles, with more than 15 years of history. The most recent iteration, Global Offensive, better known as CS:GO, started seeing pro play in 2012. Top contenders hail from North America, South America, Europe, CIS, and Australia, with Europe dominating most of the tournaments.
There is no primary CS:GO league that teams consistently compete in. The scene is almost completely open, with tournament organizers hosting events whenever and wherever they want, and teams picking the tournaments they want to participate in or attempt to qualify for.Large LAN tournaments like DreamHack, ESL One, and IEM are sprinkled throughout the year, usually over a single weekend, with teams either being invited or qualifying based on their stature and past performance. Generally speaking, tournaments with prize pools of 250k plus are considered premier events and usually include the best teams. The rest of the year, teams participate in smaller weekly leagues that are held entirely online, so they can compete remotely. Currently, the Esports Championship Series, or ECS, run by FACEIT, and the ESL Pro League are the two main online leagues, each with their own separate NA and EU divisions. Each league has at least 8 weeks of play, followed by playoffs, giving teams consistent opportunity for competition throughout the year.Last year, a new type of weekly tournament was introduced. ELEAGUE, hosted by Turner Sports, holds their competition in person and broadcasts some matches on television. This is a major deviation from the traditional weekly league format, as it requires teams to travel to the ELEAGUE studios in Atlanta, Georgia, instead of competing online from their homes.Of course, not all tournaments are created equal. Whether you’re a big or small team, there’s one type of event you don’t want to miss: the Majors.
The Major Championships are hosted 2 or 3 times each year and are officially endorsed by Valve, the developers of CS:GO. They feature million-dollar prize pools and are the most prestigious and hyped events in the entire CS:GO scene. One interesting thing to note is that Valve does not directly run any of these tournaments, though they do decide on the rules and who can or cannot play. They also give their blessing in the form of money, in-game items, and infrastructural support to these independent organizers.To participate in a Major, you must either be one of the top 8 teams from the last Major or qualify through the Minor system.
Majors and Minors
There are 4 Minors for every Major--one each for the regions of CIS, Europe, Americas and Asia.Each Minor includes 8 teams, hailing from invites and open or closed qualifiers. Two teams typically advance out of each Minor, though this number can sometimes change due to exceptional circumstances--roster swaps, for example.The advanced Minor teams then move on to a new tournament, the “Major Qualifier”, and compete against the teams in the bottom half of the standings from the previous Major. Half of them get to move on, and thus, along with the 8 teams that auto-qualified by being in the top half of the last Major, brings the total participants of each Major to 16.Major Championships last about a week, during which qualifying teams compete in a Group Stage, playoffs, and finals until a single winner is crowned and achieves the title of the world’s best CS:GO team. That is, until the next Major.