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ESL Pro League S15 Playoffs Preview

Zakaria Almughrabi

The ESL Pro League S15 playoffs are just around the corner. Starting on April 5, the top 12 teams from the group stage will battle to determine who takes home the coveted ESL Pro League trophy. An $823,000 prize pool, ESL Pro Tour and BLAST Premiere Circuit Points, and a spot at the BLAST World Final are all on the line.

ESL Pro League S15 Playoffs

Movistar Riders shocked the CS:GO world by going 5-0 in their group. Can they continue to perform in playoffs? (Image Credit ESL)

This will be a six-day, single elimination bracket. Each respective group winner starts in the quarterfinals while the second and third seeds start in the round of 12. All matches are best-of-three, except the grand final which is a best-of-five.

ESL Pro League Playoffs: Quarterfinals Teams

Ninjas in Pyjamas FURIA Esports Movistar Riders Natus Vincere

ESL Pro League Playoffs: Round of 12 Teams

Entropiq ENCE Players (Gambit Esports) Heroic
Fnatic FaZe Clan Team Liquid Astralis


Unexpected First Seeds

When looking through the list of quarterfinals qualified teams, its apparent how unpredictable the group stage was. When favorites like G2 Esports and Team Vitality underperform as heavily as they did, the door swung wide open for other teams to take first seed.

Ninjas in Pyjamas and FURIA Esports were definitely looked at as possible playoff contenders coming into Groups A and B respectively. Both teams had amazing 4-0 starts before losing their final game, NiP to a G2 in a game that meant nothing for both teams, and FURIA to FaZe Clan in a game that meant much more to FaZe.

With a top eight finish already secured, NiP and FURIA can look towards their turning their group stage success into a real shot at the EPL trophy. For the Ninjas, they’ll have their hands full with either Heroic or Team Liquid. If they do come out on top there however, they are easily the favorites to advance to the grand finals.

FURIA have the opposite scenario ahead of them. They’ll either be facing an Entropiq squad that is often just short of being an elite squad, or a struggling Astralis post-roster change. After that, the likes of Natus Vincere, FaZe, or Players awaits them in a brutal semifinal matchup.

However, the biggest surprise of ESL Pro League up to this point is Movistar Riders. The Spanish organization has not been a substantial threat in tier one CS:GO almost ever. Now, it seems that their fairy godmother has come to grant their wish of being a top-level team. They’ve earned first seed in Group C with a 5-0 record.

That said, they have the lowest round differential of any first seed by a lot at just +21. This is also lower than the other two teams who qualified for playoffs from their group (Players at +58, Liquid at +24). All but one of their games went to three maps. In the end though, all that matters is that you win. Will the magic continue for Movistar’s run at ESL Pro League S15, or will the clock strike midnight on them?


The New Group of Death

As a result of abnormal happenings in Groups B and C, the seedings have worked together to form one super side of the playoff bracket. FaZe Clan, the IEM Katowice Champions, will be fighting Players in the round of 12. The winner will then go on to face Na’Vi in quarters. NAVI, FaZe, and Gambit are currently the number one, two, and three CS:GO teams globally, according to HLTV’s most recent rankings.

Only one of the top three teams worldwide will be able to make the ESL Pro League Finals this time around. One would assume that Na’Vi would be the favorite to top this trio as the only 5-0 team besides Movistar Riders, and the team with the best RD at +76. However, these playoff best-of-threes on the main stage are a whole different ball game than the rapid fire of the group stage.

In fact, Na’Vi is actually at a disadvantage compared to their potential opponents. They played in Group D, which ended just one day ago. There is very little time for Na’Vi to shift out of group stage mode and into preparing for these big dogs. Their round one bye is a godsend for them; however, they must still play just three days after playoffs begins. Meanwhile, FaZe Clan has been able to rest and prepare for two weeks and Players for one. It will be interesting to see how this side of the bracket shakes out.


Who can run the bracket?

Of the rest of the teams starting play in the round of 12, two stand out as potential grand finalists. Those teams are Heroic and ENCE. The Danish Heroic squad is the highest rated team on the top side of the playoff bracket. They were 4-0 in Group D and were only denied first seed by Na’Vi. Now, they have a round one matchup against Team Liquid that heavily favors the Danes.

NiP does stand in their way after that, but it’s a very winnable match for a team of Heroic’s caliber. While NiP has won the past two meetings, they were way back in May and June of last year. Heroic is in better form than back then and likely see a straight shot for themselves to semifinals. Awaiting Heroic could very likely be ENCE.

ENCE surprised everyone by showing up strong in Group B, earning a 4-1 record and narrowly missing out on first seed by tiebreaker. Still, besting Vitality and FaZe in best-of-threes is no small feat. In addition, ENCE also have likely the easiest shot to semifinals. A first match against Fnatic with two academy players leads into a showdown with Movistar Riders. If ENCE can take these wins, they’ll be one game away from a grand finals appearance.

The ESL Pro League S15 playoffs begin on April 5 at 8:30 A.M. CT. The round of 12 matchups are:

Fnatic vs ENCE

FaZe Clan vs Players

Entropiq vs Astralis

Heroic vs Team Liquid