Turner Sports has announced the first six of 18 teams competing in the inaugural "ELeague," the first big-budget televised eSports tournament, set to launch in May. The six "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" professional teams include many well-known names. Astralis, Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Mousesports, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Renegades will compete for a prize pool of $1.2 million when "ELeague" premieres on TBS May 24.
Astralis, from Denmark, just wrapped up a successful showing at Intel Extreme Masters X - World Championship in Katowice, Poland. After winning Group B, Astralis lost to eventual winner fnatic in the semifinals. For their third-fourth place finish, Astralis earned $25,000.
Speaking of their participation in "ELeague," manager Frederik Byskov said he spoke to vice president/GM Min-Sik Ko after Turner Sports' announcement and signed a deal in December. "It's a great opportunity to be a part of 'ELeague' for Astralis. Being on a major American broadcast like Turner is... well, that obviously has a few benefits when it comes to discussing partnership deals and closing sponsors for the years to come," Byskov said. "The players are looking forward to travel to U.S. and attend 'ELeague': It's not just one major tournament, it's one major league with the possibility to showcase what we can do and who Astralis are."
Cloud9, hailing from North America, has had decent success on the professional circuit; their biggest victory came in November at the iBUYPOWER Cup, where the team earned $65,000. After winning the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 - North America in 2014 and placing second in the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals, Cloud9 finished in sixth place in the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 - North America.
Counter Logic Gaming is another American team that first formed just over a year ago. The team has had strong showings, including several first-place finishes. Their fourth-place finish in the Global eSports Cup - Season 1 in February 2016 earned them $20,000.
Mousesports, from Germany, is a traditional powerhouse that has hit a bit of an uneven patch of late. Most recently, the team won the Acer Predator Masters Season 2 and took home $20,000.
Ninjas in Pyjamas may seem like a novelty team, but the Swedish organization has been around since 2000. After a bit of a downturn in 2013 and 2014, NiP regained some of their old form with a second place showing in ESL One Cologne 2015 earning $50,000 in the process. The team has won nine of 10 matches in the ESL Pro League Season 3 which features some of the best teams in the world including Astralis, Fnatic, Team Envyus and Na'Vi.
Renegades are considered the best Australian team, but have had mixed success against more established European and North American teams. Renegades won $15,000 for a second place finish in the Intel Extreme Masters Season X - Taipei.
There are still plenty of "ELeague" announcements to come, with 12 more teams set to join for the first season. Teams such as fnatic, considered the best "CS:GO" team in the world, Na'Vi, Luminoisty Gaming, Team EnVyUs, FaZe and Team Liquid could be among the future additions to "ELeague."
"I hope ELeague can push eSports even further; the growth is immense on a year-by-year scale already, but with this league we might see the whole industry rise to new heights," Byskov said. "That's exciting to be a part of!"