The teams are set as the Pro Circuit prepares for its first ever trip to the United Kingdom.
The Pro Circuit schedule is reaching its end over these next few months, and as the season concludes, the fields of participants are falling into place as the final Pro Circuit events are finalizing their team lists. Today, the penultimate Major of the season joins that list, as the regional qualifiers for the ESL One Birmingham Major have officially come to an end. As part of a trio of Majors to end the Pro Circuit schedule, the ESL One Birmingham Major has the potential to drastically alter the Pro Circuit standings and change the fates of the participating teams. Organized by ESL as part of its ESL One series of events, the Major will mark the first time that the Pro Circuit has gone to the United Kingdom as 12 teams will fight to be crowned Major Champion at the Arena Birmingham. Running from May 23 through the 27th, the Major will feature prize pools of $1,000,000 USD and 1500 Qualifying Points. While the distribution details for the prize money have not been released by ESL as of yet, the Qualifying Points will be awarded based upon the outline below.
1st: 750 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
2nd: 450 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
3rd: 225 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
4th: 75 Qualifying Points (Per Player)
As one of the final events of the Pro Circuit season, the ESL One Birmingham Major will have the potential to have a significant impact on the landscape of the Dota 2 world and the Pro Circuit standings. The 12 teams will be looking to take advantage of these final opportunities to bolster their Pro Circuit records, improve their positions, and test themselves before the onset of the TI8 Qualifiers. Of the 12 participants, one of them (Virtus.pro) has already secured a direct invite to TI8 while three others (Team Liquid, Mineski, Newbee) are ranked in the Top 8 and have the potential to either enter the event with direct invites or secure them in Birmingham. One team (Vici Gaming) is ranked in the Top 8 but cannot secure a direct invite at the Major without significant help from the teams above it in the standings, and six of the teams (Evil Geniuses, OG, Na’Vi, LGD.Forever Young, Fnatic, OpTic Gaming) are currently ranked but sit outside of the Top 8. And finally, one squad (paiN Gaming) currently holds no Qualifying Points to its name and is not ranked in the Pro Circuit standings. Not all of the teams in the field can make use of any potential Qualifying Point earnings though, as three of the 12 participants (OG, LGD.Forever Young, paiN Gaming) have already lost their eligibility for invites to TI8 and the TI8 Regional Qualifiers. Even with that wide variety of positions and scenarios among the participants, all 12 teams will be looking to put together a strong showing in Birmingham to close out the season on a high note and potentially build momentum heading into the TI8 Qualifiers. With that in mind, we can take a brief look at the 12 participants who will be looking to earn the title of Major Champion in the first ever Pro Circuit event in the UK.
- Disclaimer: This post will contain some brief and shallow details for each of the competing teams. A more thorough breakdown of the participating teams will come closer to the start of the event itself.
The Direct Invitees
Virtus.pro (CIS) – To put a long story short: Virtus.pro doesn’t actually need to be here. The CIS squad has already locked in a guaranteed invite to TI8 this summer, but the Pro Circuit leader won’t pass up the opportunity to test itself against the Pro Circuit’s best teams and get in some significant practice on the international level prior to its TI run. VP has been absolutely dominant so far this season, putting together incredible performances on the Pro Circuit stage time and time against and claiming three Major Championships in the process. No matter where it plays or what other teams are in the field, VP’s performance to this point in the season makes it the favorite to win any event on the Pro Circuit, and this Major in Birmingham will be no different.
Newbee (China) – At the time of the conclusion of the regional qualifiers for this event, Newbee stands as a top ranked Chinese squad and the 5th ranked team in the Pro Circuit standings overall. By the time the ESL One Birmingham Major rolls around near the end of May, those position may both have been lost. Two Majors stand between Newbee and this event, and unless the team puts together a solid showing at one of them, the landscape of the Pro Circuit could look much less favorable for Newbee. That being said, the opposite scenario may play out for Newbee, as the Chinese leader could earn successes at one or both of those Majors and enter this event as one of hte more secure teams in the Pro Circuit standings. No matter what the scenario may be over the next month or so, Newbee will stand to benefit from a strong showing in Birmingham. Based upon the team’s performance to this point in the season, Newbee will have a decent chance of finding that success at the Major.
Evil Geniuses (North America) – While Evil Geniuses currently stands as the top ranked team in the North American region, the team’s standing on the Pro Circuit as a whole has taken a slide over the past few months. With only a handful of event remaining in the schedule, EG has fallen out of the Top 8 and will need to put together a strong series of events to close out the season if it wants to have a chance to reclaim a position among the elite of the Pro Circuit. The team has one Minor appearance scheduled between now and the start of the ESL One Birmingham Major, but even a 1st place finish at that event will leave the team short of a Top 8 ranking heading into this Major. If the North American squad wants any chance at a direct invite to TI8, its going to have to go on an impressive run over the final events of the season, and the ESL One Birmingham Major could just give the team the opportunity it needs to spark that run.
Team Liquid (Europe) – Team Liquid will come into the ESL One Birmingham Major in an interesting position, as the team may not be in need of the Qualifying Points available at the UK’s first Pro Circuit event. The European squad will play at the EPICENTER XL Major prior to its trip to Birmingham, and depending upon the team’s performance at that event Team Liquid could earn enough Qualifying Points to secure itself a direct invite to TI8. Regardless of whether the team will need further Qualifying Points or not, Team Liquid will come into this Major looking to continue what has been one of the most impressive and consistent performances on the Pro Circuit this season. The team has earned Top 4 finishes at nine of its ten Pro Circuit appearances so far, and the European powerhouse will look to add to that sterling record with another strong showing on the Pro Circuit stage in Birmingham.
Vici Gaming (China) – Vici Gaming currently sits among the Top 8 squads in the Pro Circuit standings, with a 6th place ranking overall. However, with two Majors and one Minor on the schedule between now and the beginning of the action in Birmingham, that position may change for the Chinese squad. Vici Gaming is set to compete at the MDL Changsha Major prior to its appearance at the ESL One Birmingham Major, and a solid showing at that event could have the team sitting in a much more favorable position as the Chinese team will make its way to the United Kingdom. Whether the team will be looking to secure a TI8 direct invite or looking to hold or reclaim a Top 8 ranking, Vici Gaming will come into the ESL One Birmingham Major looking for another Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage.
Mineski (Southeast Asia) – Mineski’s season took a turn for the better recently, as the team earned the first ever Major Championship for the Southeast Asian region at the DAC 2018 Major. That victory on the Pro Circuit stage pushed Mineski back in to the Top 8 in the standings, as the SEA squad currently holds the 4th place position overall. That successful run in Shanghai has altered the perspective of the squad over these final Pro Circuit events, as the team now has a solid chance at securing a direct invite to TI8. With the team set to participate in both the EPICENTER XL Major and the MDL Changsha Major prior to this event, Mineski could enter the ESL One Birmingham Major with a TI8 direct invite already locked in. Regardless of its invite status, Mineski will enter the Major looking for a chance to show that its Major Championship run was no fluke and that Mineski is capable of maintaining its international success over the long term.
The Qualifier Winners
OG (Europe) – Despite being ineligible for invites to the TI8 Regional Qualifiers, OG continues to earn itself opportunities to play on the Pro Circuit stage as the season nears its end. The team is still dealing with its roster vacancy, with its coach continuing to serve as a long term stand-in. With just two months and a handful of events remaining on the schedule, it appears that the team will be going into the Open Qualifiers with its current lineup as opposed to bringing in a new player. The European squad has not been able to secure much success in the time following its roster change, but this opportunity to play on the Pro Circuit stage in Birmingham may be the team’s chance to turn things around and spark a run to build up momentum heading into the TI8 Open Qualifiers.
Na’Vi (CIS) – The struggles of Na’Vi have been numerous and frequent over these last few months, as the team has seen a significant decline on the Pro Circuit since its roster changes back in February. The team plummeted out of the Top 8 with a series of poor performances, but these last few Pro Circuit events give the CIS squad a final window of opportunity to turn its season around. The appearance at the ESL One Birmingham Major will be one of three for Na’Vi over the course of the final five events of the season, and if the team can manage to put together a solid performance at even one of those Majors, it could potentially climb back into the Top 8. Even with three shots at it, Na’Vi will face quite the challenge, as the field for each of those Majors will be full of teams looking for one final chance to prove themselves on the Pro Circuit stage. Combine that with Na’Vi’s less than stellar performance on the international level in recent months, and the CIS squad faces a daunting task. However, if Na’Vi can pull it off, then the path to TI8 has the potential to be much smoother and easier for the team.
LGD.Forever Young (China) – It’s been a decent amount of time since LGD.Forever Young has had the chance to compete on the Pro Circuit stage, as the team’s last appearance came at The Bucharest Major back at the beginning of March. Soon after that event, the team underwent a roster change that forfeited the squad’s eligibility for invites to TI8 or the TI8 Qualifiers. The team’s performance within its home region has seen a bit of a decline as well in the time since the roster shuffle, which raises some significant concerns considering the team will have to play through the Open Qualifiers in China to even reach the main Regional stage. While the ESL One Birmingham Major won’t give the team the chance to fix those issues at home, a solid showing on the international level will be a good indicator of where the team stands heading into those TI8 qualifiers.
Fnatic (Southeast Asia) – Fnatic has been working towards making a push up the Pro Circuit standings over the final months of the season, but with the number of Pro Circuit events dwindling, the Southeast Asian squad is running out of time to make its move. The team currently sits nearly 1,000 Qualifying Points behind the 8th ranked squad, which means that this appearance in Birmingham will be crucial for the team if if wants to keeps its hopes for a Top 8 spot alive. The team’s performance on the Pro Circuit stage has improved significantly over the past few months, and the SEA squad is going to have to keep that momentum going and put together an impressive run at this Major to have a chance of catching up to the Pro Circuit leaders. The team will face a formidable lineup of opponents at the Major, but if Fnatic is up for the task then the SEA squad may yet hold its fate in its own hands.
OpTic Gaming (North America) – OpTic Gaming comes in to the ESL One Birmingham Major fresh off of its first Top 4 finish on the Pro Circuit stage at the StarLadder ImbaTV Invitational Season 5 Minor. The team is still technically in the hunt for a Top 8 spot, but the North American squad is something of a long shot to snag one of those positions. If the team wants to keep its hopes of a direct invite to TI8 alive, then it’s going to need to put together an incredible display in Birmingham. The good news for OpTic Gaming is that the team is essentially guaranteed an invite to the TI8 North America Qualifier at this point in the season. That gives the team a fall back plan and an added level of security, but OpTic Gaming will enter the ESL One Birmingham Major looking for one last chance to push itself into a position among the Pro Circuit’s elite squads.
paiN Gaming (South America) – The addition of Aliwi “w33” Omar to the lineup has given paiN Gaming a renewed life as the South American team looks to finish the season on a high note with its first Pro Circuit success. No matter the outcome over these final events, paiN Gaming will be heading into the TI8 Open Qualifiers, but any measure of success on the international level prior to that will help build confidence and momentum for the South American squad. The team will certainly not be coming into the ESL One Birmingham Major as a favorite to win the event, but the team’s new lineup has the chance to play the underdog and potentially surprise some of the teams in the field if they underestimate the squad. At this point in the season, paiN Gaming has no use for Qualifying Points, but any victories over teams from outside of its region will serve as a significant sign that the team is improving heading into the rough test that is the TI8 Open Qualifiers.