The ESL Pro League’s 11th season is starting in 2020, following the “groundbreaking” ‘Louvre agreement’, but will face competition from other tournament organizers as CS:GO esports enters a new era. ESL’s VP of Pro Gaming, Michal ‘CARMAC’ Blicharz, spoke to Dexerto about their plans.
The ESL Pro League will feature a total of 24 teams, 13 of which are guaranteed spots thanks to the Louvre agreement, as it has been dubbed. This agreement sees the top-ranked teams in the world become major stakeholders in the league itself, with a “long-term slot for participation.”
It’s not a total franchise system though. The field will be completed by a further 11 teams, qualifying through their world ranking or through the “gateway” competition, the Mountain Dew League.
Here’s what CARMAC had to say about the Louvre agreement, upcoming ESL events, and more.
FLASHPOINT has publicly stated that its founding teams will face fines if they don’t maintain a top-20 ranked team. How will ESL Pro League incentivize member teams to remain competitive?
Blicharz: It is in the best interest of the teams that all the partners deliver value to the ESL Pro League. The arrangement will only be successful if the teams work hard enough. Teams that fail to do that are likely to see their partner status reviewed by the other teams and could face losing their member status.
Are these founder teams able to drop out at any point or have they committed to a set number of years?
Blicharz: The permanent slot shall be subject to review if one of the partner teams places last in their group in 3 out of 4 seasons. New partner teams can be added by two-thirds majority voting of existing partner teams.
Many MDL teams/players have criticized the way that they have seemingly become an afterthought in all of this, will there be any changes to that system? What can you do to get them back onside?
Blicharz: We have redesigned the qualification for the ESL Pro League Season 12, giving the teams affected by the reduction of the league extended opportunities to get in. We are also planning to upgrade MDL and bolster its prestige. If the ESL Pro League is a narrowed field of teams, MDL automatically becomes more relevant and we want to amplify that.
- Read More: IEM Katowice: Groups, schedule, format
How will promotion and relegation work?
Blicharz: There will be no relegation to speak of. The two ESL Pro League tournaments will be about five months apart from each other and we think there are better ways to determine which of the non-partner teams should play than based on a single 5-month-old result.
We will invite the partner teams to each edition of the ESL Pro League along with the highest-ranked teams in the world who happen to not be members. There are also going to be spots in the league to be won via the Mountain Dew League Global Challenge. This ensures that there’s a very clear and objective route that teams can follow to climb up from ESEA all the way up to the ESL Pro League.
Can non-founder teams eventually earn a stake in the league?
Blicharz: The idea is to make sure that the world’s best teams can be partners of the league. The list of member teams is dynamic by design and a process for that is installed and depends on the group of the partner teams.
Will there be sanctions for teams that decline invites to events?
Blicharz: There will not be sanctions for teams, but partner teams are aware that by declining too many invitations to competitions, they are giving up their share of the revenue from the ESL Pro Tour (but not ESL Pro League specifically).
Will founding teams be allowed to compete in other leagues like BLAST Premier?
Blicharz: There are no restrictions on what tournaments teams play in.
Will teams outside of the ESL Pro League still be invited to events like ESL One Cologne or IEM Katowice or will Pro League teams always get priority?
Blicharz: There are a number of invitations at every Masters-level tournament in the ESL Pro Tour, but the world’s best teams will still be invited as well. That’s regardless of their participation in the ESL Pro League or not.
To clarify: there will be no invitations into ESL One and IEM Katowice’s main competitions. Those are Masters Championships and you get into them via the ESL Pro Tour ranking, so by doing well in Challenger, Masters competitions as well as CSGO Majors.
It is clear that the ESL Pro League’s team lineup is currently superior to FLASHPOINT’s but they have made some bold claims about their broadcasting talent and plans for original content. How do you plan on stepping up your production game? Do you have any tricks up your sleeves?
Blicharz: Looking at IEM Katowice Major and ESL One it is fair to say that our productions are at the industry standard level and help raise it. We’ve managed to get there by staying curious and hungry and assembling the right team in charge of this topic. Nothing changes in this department – we will keep trying to improve with every event we do.
Are there plans to increase the number of Pro League teams in the future?
Blicharz: At this stage we will keep the tournament at 24 teams. Let’s see how that works and iterate in the future if it is required.
The 11th season of the ESL Pro League will begin on March 16. For full details of how the league will work, where to watch and all the invited teams, head to the Pro League website.