Competitive Counter-Strike kicks off again with the biggest CS event on the North American East Coast: ESL One New York. Eight of the best teams from around the world will be converging at the Big Apple’s Barclays Centre from September 26th in the hopes of grabbing a share of the tournament’s $200,000 prize pool and a shot at the $1 million bonus in the form of an Intel Grand Slam. 

On top of that, there have been some interesting roster changes, intense rivalries resumed and plenty of controversial talking points afoot in the Counter-Strike community in the fallout of the recent StarLadder Berlin Major. Here are the big talking points to watch out for in this upcoming S-Tier competition.

Liquid Vs. Astralis: A Rivalry Resumed

The two best teams in the world by an absolute country mile, Astralis and Liquid will both be gunning for glory at the upcoming ESL One. Danish outfit Astralis had been untouchable in the Counter-Strike scene ever since their win at IEM Katowice 2017, romping to a record-levelling three major titles in two years after the event. However, their participation in sponsored BLAST events over bigger, more recognised events saw their untouchable status drop and their ranking slumped to a lowly 4th place in the world earlier this year.

Liquid on the other hand have had a meteoric rise over the course of 2019. A team that had consistently been on the fringes of success, Liquid soared to their first major triumph at IEM Sydney earlier this year as the vanquished Fnatic 3-2. Noticing the Astralis-shaped hole at the top of the Counter-Strike tree, Liquid then went on an amazing run of results that saw them conquer ESL One Cologne, Dreamhack Masters Dallas and romp to an INTEL Grand Slam as well as a no.1 place on the HLTV rankings. 

This fascinating rivalry swung back the way of Astralis at the recent StarLadder Major however, as the Danes saw off Liquid in the quarter-final stage and secured their fourth major title. Astralis have the history and the titles, Liquid have the no.1 ranking in the world – it looks set to be a thrilling competition between the two powerhouses again. 

A New Chapter For FaZe Clan

Europen side FaZe Clan currently sit in fifteenth position on the worldwide CS:GO rankings, falling out of the top 10 after a dismal showing at the recent StarLadder Berlin Major; despite being one of the returning legends, the team slumped to defeats against Team Vitality, Renegades and CR4ZY and exited the tournament with a 1-3 record. It was a dismal return from a side that had previously looked like a strong back in most esports betting markets after showing some serious promise in the previous months. 

FaZe’s in-game leader Neo has recently left the side, with controversial CS:GO veteran Colderza looking like the long term replacement for the roster. Controversial as he may be, the former MiBr star certainly has the talent to propel FaZe back to the heights they had previously enjoyed. Whichever way FaZe swings, it should be a thrilling watch. 

How Will EUnited Do? 

EUnited come into ESL One New York as total, total underdogs. Ranked the 8th best team in the United States and a whopping 514th in the world, EUnited have the potential to really write a fairytale in this competition set on home soil. Cooper-, food, freakazoid, MarKE and vanity defied all odds in the North American qualifier by defeating both Complexity Gaming and FURIA and securing their place in this competition, winning the hearts and admiration from most of the community. 

However, following the impressive win over FURIA, EUnited have struggled to really find a winning-level of consistency. DreamHack Masters immediately follows ESL One New York, but EUnited won’t be taking part after losing to Team Envy in the qualifying. This level of inconsistency might threaten to hold EUnited back from becoming a top side, but there’s no denying that the excitement of this occasion might just be enough for the North American side to claim a few surprising scalps along the way.  

What Do We Think? 

There are certainly plenty of stories to be written about ESL One. NRG have been knocking on the door through several semi-final finishes in recent times and could certainly cause an upset, but we think that Astralis and Liquid are still the clear favourites to claim victory in New York. All eyes will be on Liquid to bounce back from their disappointing showing at the StarLadder Major, which could serve to motivate or pressure the North American side. 

There is something cold and relentless about how Astralis conduct themselves. The way they swagger into major competitions and just sweep the board is as impressive as it is scary and we think that they’re really beginning to find their stride again. In our opinion, we back the Danes to go all the way in New York.

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