When it comes to Counter-Strike, the city of Katowice is probably the most famous and legendary. In this list, we could also put Copenhagen and Cologne, but CS tournaments in Katowice have built a longstanding history of the game we all love so much. EMS One Katowice 2014 began a yearly tradition that has remained until this very day. Back then the prize pool was four times smaller, but after the home team of Virtus Pro lifted the trophy, the emotions that filled the arena were priceless. This year, of course, we will see 16 teams battle it out for the 1,000,000-dollar prize pool, so let’s take a closer look at the competition.
Before the main event kicks off on the 2nd of February, we still need to go over the Play-in stage. You see, 8 participating teams have already been decided, due to their ESL ranking or by previously winning notable events, that are tied to IEM Katowice, so the remaining 8 teams will be decided in the Play-in stage, which begins on the 31st of January. So, who in our minds will move further to the main event?
The first obvious pick would be Virtus Pro. Although now a line-up, that fully consists of Russian players, Virtus.pro have always managed to remain close to the top competition. They topped off their group in Blast Premier Spring Groups, so it’s safe to say that we will also see them at the IEM Katowice main event. Another rather safe pick is Astralis. They were stellar in Blast Groups, even managing to beat the Nr. 1 team in the world Vitality. Seeing Nicolai “device” Reedtz back on the big stage would be special. Although a bit shaky in Blast Groups, Cloud9 should also have it in them to easily qualify for IEM Katowice. This team lacks no firepower, it’s consistency that needs a slight improvement. The best of South America – Neymar Jr.’s favorite team Furia is also one of the strongest contenders of the Play-in stage. With an adoring Brazilian crowd behind them, Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo and his crew should have it in the bag to move on further.
Four down, four more to go, who do we think will proceed to the IEM Katowice main event? The usual suspects have been spotlighted, so now we’re getting into the slightly unknown waters, with a couple of dark horses along the way. One of the most impressive teams of late has been Spirit. They couldn’t shine in Blast Groups, because they had to play with two stand-ins, due to visa issues. One of the missing pieces was the 17-year-old phenomenon Danil “donk” Kryshkovets, who at the end of the last year already claimed an MVP trophy. If they are in full strength, Spirit should be a dominant force. The German side of BIG is another good contender. They didn’t have the strongest showing in Blast Groups, but they are still a tier 1 team. Two more teams left, but many strong teams still remain in the pool. We decide to nominate BetBoom and GamerLegion. Both teams are on the cusp of being in the top-tier scene, often surprising competition with upset victories. If all goes well internally, these are dark horses that can impress.
As we said, 8 teams are already waiting for the other half, before we can fully kick off IEM Katowice 2024. Between these teams, we have Vitality, G2, Navi, Monte, Falcons, Complexity, Mouz and Faze.
Just because they are already in, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all better than teams from the Play-in stage, but certainly, most upper-tier squads are present.
Faze and Vitality certainly are the main favourites to take it all, with Navi coming in closely behind them, even though they are not fielding their superstar player Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. Even though Mouz are currently ranked Nr. 3 in the world, they haven’t had a solid upper-tier match-up in 2024, so it’s hard to say how prepared they are for this event. The same story goes for Monte, who are highly ranked, yet with no official matches in 2024. On the other hand, we have seen some action from Complexity and Falcons this year, although results for both teams weren’t that impressive, failing to move forward in Blast Groups.
Play-in stage will be exciting to watch but we’re sure that the main event will take the roof off. The legendary Katowice arena is filled with adoring fans, cheering on for their favourites. IEM Katowice 2024 will surely kick off this year with a bang and it will determine which team takes the upper hand in this new season of Counter-Strike.