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CIS Superstars Headline the IEM Katowice 2024 Play-In Stage

Zakaria Almughrabi

One of the biggest Counter-Strike events of the calendar year, IEM Katowice, begins on January 31. Teams from across the globe will gather in Katowice, Poland, for their chance at the first big trophy of 2024 and the $1,000,000 prize pool that comes with it. Of the 24 total teams qualified, 16 must start their journeys in the Play-In Stage. This short, double-elimination stage can provide plenty of excitement from the get-go. Which teams will make a splash early on?

IEM Katowice Play-In

Image Copyright: Adam Lakomy, ESL FACEIT Group

CIS Squads File In

There are four teams from the CIS region in this group of 16. All of them are, at most, near-lock-ins for advancement and at least strong contenders. At the top of the pecking order are and Cloud9. Past that, underdog squads BetBoom Team and Team Spirit are not to be underestimated. is coming into 2024 hot. The events they attended in the last two months of 2023 went very well for Dzhami “Jame” Ali’s squad. Starting with the back-to-back online S Tiers of the Roobet Cup and Thunderpick World Championship, VP hasn’t finished outside the top four at any event they’ve played in. Additionally, this month, the VP already qualified for the PGL Copenhagen Major RMR and the BLAST Spring Finals.

The consistent success of has earned them a top-four ranking on HLTV. Still, the squad is as divisive as they are good. VP’s slow, calculated, and risk-averse style has earned them a reputation for being a “boring” team. This applies even more in CS2, where the game’s economy is even more punishing.

Even so, you can’t fault a team for doing what needs to be done to win. Jame has truly refined his brand of Counter-Strike coming into CS2, and the rest of the team has fully bought in. Now, he’ll be looking to expand his domain to the IEM Katowice Play-In Stage and keep their momentum going.


Cloud9’s project to reassemble peak 2020 NAVI is well and truly in motion. Their acquisition of Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhaylov in November marked their third member of that legendary squad. Now mixed with part of the Gambit Esports lineup that rivaled them during the online era, Cloud9 is looking to start a new legacy in CS2.

While they haven’t been quite at the level of, Cloud9 has shown improvement over the past couple of months. They consistently made playoffs at S Tiers and even took games over some of the best teams in CS2. That said, a massive question is looming over this roster’s future.

With Boombl4’s arrival, Cloud9 let star AWPer Dmitriy “sh1ro” Sokolov go. When CS2 first came out, the blatantly lower power level of the AWP had many teams and players thinking that a dedicated AWP player was no longer necessary. However, it’s become apparent that having a player adept with the big green is still a huge boon. And it happens to be something that Cloud9 lacks. If their results start to fall off, they could soon find themselves with a big roster decision.

Team Spirit

Speaking of sh1ro, his new home of Team Spirit has been quite the hot topic. Even before they acquired sh1ro, Team Spirit bested the likes of at BetBoom Dacha in mid-December. Once it was announced that sh1ro would join their lineup, the hype for Spirit went through the roof.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see Spirit at full power at the BLAST Premier Spring Group Stage, as two of their players had visa issues to the London-based event. Though they did get last place, they nearly upset a much-anticipated Team Liquid squad utilizing a coach and academy player in the server.

IEM Katowice will be the first big test for the new Team Spirit. Keep a close eye on Danil “Donk” Kryshkovets. The 17-year-old rifler has been making waves as the new big up-and-comer to the CS2 pro scene. You can find him frequently fragging out in FACEIT games, but the IEM Katowice Play-Ins are where he’s looking to announce himself to the world.

BetBoom Team

Perhaps the most underrated of the four CIS teams in the IEM Katowice Play-Ins is the BetBoom Team. This squad comprises pieces from all around the CIS scene of yesteryear. Despite an average age of 21.6, they combine experience from ForZe, Team Spirit,, and Gambit/Cloud9. You could say that they’re the culmination of strategies and playstyles from one of Counter-Strike’s top regions.

BetBoom has been around for about half a year now. Ranked at 16th worldwide, it’s apparent that they’re close to breaking into that upper echelon of teams. Their one big event so far was extremely promising: a playoff appearance at IEM Sydney. That said, BetBoom also has a lot to prove. Many of the players on this team could be seen as “discarded” by their previous top-level orgs.

Making another run at an S Tier event, an IEM Championship, would cement BetBoom as a true-blue tier one CS2 team. Even having that perception around them will open more doors and provide security for their futures, even if this ragtag group ends up parting at some point.

The IEM Katowice Play-In Stage begins on January 31 at 9:30 AM ET. The initial matchups are:

Cloud9 vs Rebels Gaming

Eternal Fire vs BetBoom Team

Heroic vs Astralis


FURIA Esports vs The MongolZ

Team Spirit vs Apeks

GamerLegion vs M80

Rooster vs