ESL was forced to adjust after the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, they have opted to welcome back fans for the playoffs of the ESL Pro League season 16.
The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive competition will commence on August 31 with the group stage action. The playoffs will follow after the conclusion of the group stage, with fans given access to watch their favorite teams play at Salini Resort in Malta.
ESL made the announcement via their official Twitter page, also stating that Malta will host the Pro League for the next three years.
“We are happy to announce that the ESLProleague is returning to Malta for the next 3 years! Back in action with
@gamingmalta, the Group Stage of Season 16 resumes on August 31st and the playoffs will host a live audience! Stay Tuned.”
In a statement, ESL revealed that tickets would go on sale from September 5. The organizers also used the opportunity to announce its long-term partnership with the Ministry for the Economy, EU Funds and Lands via the GamingMalta foundation.
The last time the competition had a live audience was during season 10, which was held in Odense, Denmark, in December 2019. Subsequent tournaments have been held in isolation to uphold COVID-19 safety protocols.
There is no telling how much a live audience will affect the players. In Odense, mousesports (now MOUZ) were the champions, besting Fnatic in the grand final 3-0 to win the title.
Although MOUZ are competing in season 16 as a partner team, their chances of winning are slim. They have a moneyline odd of $34 to win the tournament on GG Bet.
However, FaZe Clan are the heavy favorites with a win odd of $2.75. The No. 1 ranked team in the world, Natus Vincere, have the second-best moneyline odd of $3.
FaZe are the reigning champions, as they defeated ENCE 3-1 in season 15. That victory also saw them be the first team to qualify for the 2022 BLAST Premier World Final.
While 15 had direct qualification to the event as partner teams, the remaining nine had to secure berths through the global rankings and the Conference Stage.
All 24 teams will be fighting for the lion’s share of the $835,000 grand prize. The ultimate victor will also secure direct qualification to the 2023 Intel Extreme Masters Katowice and the 2022 World Final.
The group stage will follow a single round-robin format, while the playoffs will follow a single-elimination bracket. Of the six teams in each group, only the top three will advance to the playoffs.
As we await the start of the Pro League season 16, teams are participating in the 2022 BLAST Premier Fall Groups. The event will be played to a conclusion on August 28, revealing the teams that will be participating in the Fall Finals and the Fall Showdown.