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Well, it's almost that time again. The PGL Major Krakow 2017 is almost upon us. Which means that it's offline qualifier time to decide the final eight teams that will battle it out in Poland a couple weeks from now.
We know half of the teams that will be there by virtue of reaching "Legend" status at the ELEAGUE Major earlier this year. Astralis, Virtus.pro, Fnatic, SK Gaming, Natus Vincere, Gambit Esports, North, and FaZe Clan all placed in the top eight and were directly invited to the PGL Major.
The offline qualifier kicks off this Thursday and features 16 more of the best Counter-Strike teams who will battle it out for a spot in the PGL Major. Only eight of the 16 will make it, meaning some will leave empty-handed. I'm here to look into my crystal ball and let you know who will round out the competition in Krakow.
G2 Esports: This is a team that has been coming up in the world of late. While they've always been a strong team, the addition of Kenny "kennyS" Schrub, Nathan "NBK" Schmitt, and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire has really pushed this team over the hill. While they came up a bit short in the ECS Season 3 Finals last week, they've got the ESL Pro League Season 5 title under their belt and the DreamHack Tours 2017 crown. This a team that has what it takes to make some noise at the major. That and, kennyS has great hair, so they clearly can't be stopped.
Team Liquid: Now it's true that North American CS is still in quite the state of flux, with no real solution on the horizon. But there still are some gems here in the States. Team Liquid has been playing the best brand of CS that they probably ever have. Their recent run started with a first place finish at the ESL Cologne 2017 NA Close Qualifier, and has since culminated with two straight semifinal finishes in the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals and the ECS Season 3 Finals. The addition of Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz from OpTic Gaming, while a controversial move, has certainly helped Liquid reach new heights.
GODSENT: While this is a name that hasn't been in the conversation for quite some time, this is a roster that you definitely don't want to sleep on. They had a less-than-stellar outing at the ELEAGUE Major with a 2-3 record in the Swiss group stage, but they did take wins off Astralis and OpTic (when OpTic still had stanislaw and were good). They were a single 19-17 overtime loss to North from making it into the playoffs and obtaining Legend status. Look for them to have a fire and desire to get back to the Major and avenge their loss.
HellRaisers: Much like GODSENT, HellRaisers isn't a team that gets a ton of time in the limelight. But given the chance to shine, they usually step up to the plate. They reached the semifinals of Season 3 of the StarLadder i-League StarSeries, falling to FaZe Clan, who is playing out of their minds right now. They also beat North to even make it to the semis, so these guys are no slouches. More recently, they came up just short against kennyS in the grand final of DreamHack Tours, getting swept by G2. They've got what it takes to raise some hell (get it?) and make it to the Major in July.
mousesports: Continuing the trends of teams outside the spotlight, mouz hasn't had many chances to show off their skills this year. But in the few times they've been at an event, they usually do fairly well. They reached the semifinals of DreamHack Tours, losing a close 2-1 series to kennyS' hair (this is becoming a harrowing trend. Someone stop this man!). At the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, they made it to the quarterfinals where the Brazilian juggernauts of SK Gaming took them down. Most recently, they were an 0-2 sweep at the hands of SK from leaving the group stage of DreamHack Summer. With SK Gaming not at the qualifier and not having to defeat G2 to get in, mouz should have a nice path to victory this weekend.
Cloud9: Oh, Cloud9. After winning Season 4 of the ESL Pro League, there was a string of bad finishes that disappointed North American fans across the country. Recently, they've recovered a bit, however. They owned the regular season of ECS Season 3, and even made it to the semifinals where they lost to FaZe Clan (FaZe Clan and G2 are just destroying lives out here, guys). They didn't make it out of the group stages at DreamHack Summer, losing to both Fnatic and Gambit, but those teams are already in the Major, so Cloud9 should be fine here at the qualifier.
Immortals: Immortals constantly live in the shadow of SK Gaming, but they are still a formidable force in their own right. Sure, they didn't make it out of the group stage at the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, and didn't even make it to the ECS Season 3 Finals. But, they grabbed a semifinal finish at DreamHack Summer, which was filled with plenty of stiff competition. They even took down SK 16-10 in the winner's final of Group A at that event. Then at the Americans Minor Championship that got them to this qualifier, they came in second to Cloud9, but managed to sweep them in the upper bracket final. Look for them to show off this weekend.
OpTic Gaming: Last, but not least, I've got OpTic Gaming squeezing into the major. This is probably the one I'm the least sure about just by virtue of the fact that they're still in a state of flux after stanislaw left them for Team Liquid. Still, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt despite some rough finishes over the last couple months. They failed to win a series in the group stages of the ECS Season 3 Finals, and they narrowly missed out on playoffs at the ESL Season 5 Finals. I think this will be their shot at turning things around.
So that's who I think will be joining the "Legends" in Poland. This means that TyLoo, Team Dignitas, Tengri, PENTA Sports, Renegades, Vega Squadron, FlipSid3 Tactics, and BIG will not be getting in. We'll find out on Sunday if I'm a genius or a fraud.