CS:GO has been really hot recently with the rise of the North Americans and the fall of the Danes. The popular Esports this year is nothing like in 2018 where Astralis were so dominant in the scene.

ESL One Cologne is coming up with 13/15 top 15 teams in the world battling it out for the $300,000 tournament. Only G2 and North is missing out the competitive tournament.

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13 out of 15 top teams in the world are here, in ESL One Cologne

The North American – currently #1 – Team Liquid

This year marked the return of the most promising star-studded North American squad, Team Liquid. Europeans have been dominant in the Esports for so long. Last year they were on the rise with great talents like Twistzz, NAF, EliGE. The lineup arguably boasted the strongest firepower in the scene.

The persistent curse

Yet the team struggled with the “finalist curse” under the era of Astralis. The team would destroy everything only to lose in the final against Astralis. The team was like FaZe in 2017 where they would struggle against MIBR the whole year.

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2018 was a rough year for Team Liquid, being trophyless

However, the tide turned. Earlier this year, Liquid made a drastic move, bringing on stewie2k to make the roster more NA-based. The young aim star contributed greatly to the Major victory of C9 in the grand final against FaZe. With more firepower and eventual better team synergy, Liquid started to win trophies. They beat Astralis in the iBUYPOWER to start the year well. However, the Katowice turned out to be a flop where they lost to ENCE in the quarter-final.

Convincing victories

The team went inactive for a while before coming back stronger than ever to take IEM Sydney 2019 trophy, their first S-tier event. The team proceeded with consistent performance to win another 2 big tournaments in a row. They did so convincingly, winning Astralis in a Bo3 to take ESL Pro League Season 9 – Finals.

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Team Liquid have won 4 trophies this year

Team Liquid is definitely the favorite to win the tournament.

The Danish giant – Currently #2 – Astralis

2018 was a year of great success for the Danes. Their era went on for so long and dominant that they were the favorite of any tournament they attended. They are the undisputed best team in the world in 2018.

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Astralis was so convincing in 2018

Nothing lasts forever

However, that did not last forever. Reigning supreme for too long, Astralis tripped over their own mistake with the decision of skipping big tournaments and going for BLAST Pro Series. The team failed to perform well and took a long time off. Their era was not taken away by getting beaten constantly, they ended it prematurely on their own. Later, Astralis tried to make a comeback but crumbled under the power of underdog team FURIA.

Outpaced by other teams

In a world where everyone is making progress fast, Astralis failed to adapt. They eventually lost to Liquid in ESL Pro League to claim back the throne. With that, Astralis officially ended their own era.

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Astralis will have to work hard to make a comeback

Bloody but unbowed, Astralis will come to this upcoming ESL One Cologne, looking to assert themselves once again.

The dark horse in Katowice – Currently #3 – ENCE

ENCE is yet another surprising name this year. The Finnish squad consists of 4 young talent led the AWPer veteran Allu. The team tells one of the most exciting underdog stories in CS:GO. They were once hyped by fans as a meme. The team since formation received the spammable copypasta “EZ4ENCE”. In every match they play, the stream chat would spam EZ4ENCE to show support for the team. Though it was hardly “EZ” for ENCE, the meme was welcomed by the community.

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The Finns did more than just a mere meme team

More than a meme

The team was often ranked among the top 15 teams in 2018. However, the Finnish squad often failed to the more structured teams like MIBR, FaZe, Natus Vincere or Liquid. Coming to 2019, the squad was quite inactive until the IEM Katowice Major. ENCE played the event with underwhelming performance in the group stage. They were really close to being eliminated by BIG in the deciding match. Yet they managed to pull off a comeback.

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A great showing from Finnish CS:GO

ENCE then displayed a great disciplined performance in the playoffs with the shining moments from each team member. ENCE defeated Liquid and Natus Vincere, the current #2 and #3 team at the moment. Though the team eventually lost to Astralis in the grand final, this marked the rise of the Finns.

Not a fluke

Later on, ENCE once again vanished into thin air only to come back with another surprise. They broke the Nuke streak of Astralis in a Bo3 grand final in BLAST Pro Series Madrid. They went on to defeat Astralis 2-0 convincingly. ENCE continued to display their good form in Dreamhack Master Dallas, only losing to Astralis. Once again, ENCE went incognito since then. Now that ESL One Cologne gathers top-level contenders in the world, let’s see what ENCE will bring to the table.

Baguette back to the scene – Currently #4 – Vitality

2018 has been stale for the French CS:GO scene. G2 has been in a slump for too long. Vitality has just been formed and struggled to find success. In the early of 2019, both teams looked to LDLC’s ex-member: ALEX and Amanek to complete their roster.

The missing pieces

Ever since the addition of these 2 members, both teams looked sharp and ready to deal significant damage. Vitality got more success than their compatriots when they managed to win against Liquid in the cs_summit 4.

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The Frenchmen have been great recently

Zywoo and Co. went on to win another S-tier tournament where Astralis were eliminated by FURIA. With the victory in the grand final, Zywoo scooped the ECS Season 7 – Finals MVP.

Strong overall

The Baguette showed up strong with no real weakness in their map pool, ready to punish any team with a bad veto.

Up and coming #2 North American squad – Currently #5 – NRG Esports

NRG organization tried their luck with CS:GO in 2016 but found no much success. Later on, they came back with the signing of ex-Counter Logic Gaming in January 2018.

Initial success

The team started out with online matches where they stomped every North American teams. They quickly climbed the ranking ladder and eventually reached top 10 by June 2018. However, the team found no much success in LAN tournaments, only winning IEM Shanghai 2018 and cs_summit 3.

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NRG started low from online matches

The North American team kept on grinding online matches and looked to improve themselves. 2019 eventually came with IEM Katowice Major. Though regarded as the heavy favorite to win in the group stage, NRG crashed out of the tournament losing 0-3 with the last straw loss to CompLexity.

Time for a change

Things happened and NRG had to bring on the Major winner tarik, hoping to improve their performance. Their roster change achieved immediate success when they won ECS Season 7 North America to qualify for the LAN event.

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The Major winner had been on the bench of MIBR for so long

NRG later displayed a great performance in LAN tournaments, showing up a decent performance against top 10 teams like MIBR, fnatic, Vitality.

The semi-final curse, #3 finish

Much as they tried, the team seemed to get under a curse. In every big tournament since then, the team would finish #3, losing in the semi-final match. Most notably, they lost to fnatic 2 times in Star Series iLeague Season 7 and IEM Sydney 2019.

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Hard as they tried, NRG barely made it to the final in big tournaments

NRG is really solid as a team against top contenders in CS:GO. The team looks strong in almost every map. Their strongest map is Train, which was constantly picked in the recent ESL Pro League Season 9 – Finals. The team is well-rounded in all other maps.

Honorable mentions:

#6 – FaZe

The team has been shaky recently with the weakness in Veto as NiKo revealed in his interview. However, the team is still star-studded and can overpower any team on a good day.

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The team looked sharp with AdreN but decided to go for NEO

#7 – FURIA

The Brazillian team took the world by storm when defeating Astralis in a Bo3 in ECS Season 7 – Finals. With the aggressive playstyle, they surprised many teams in their first encounter. However, now that the team is high on the list of CS:GO contenders, most teams will try to counter their aggressive gameplay.

#9 – MIBR

The Brazillian powerhouse officially lost their #1 Brazillian team position to FURIA with the recent disappointing performance. They had to make a roster change, swapping felps with Lucas1. However, there is so little time for the new member to find his feet in the new home. Let’s see what FalleN and Co. can bring to the table.

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Can the ex-SK Gaming squad come back to the scene?

#10 – fnatic

The Swedish squad has been really good in Star Series i-League Season 7 and IEM Sydney. They make it to both finals against Natus Vincere and Liquid with a good show of performance. However, in the recent tournament – ESL Pro League, the squad has been rather bad. The team is pretty well-rounded with no weakness in maps. However, they have yet to establish consistency to rely on. One or two men’s show won’t get fnatic anywhere far in this upcoming tournament.

#13 – Natus Vincere

The result for the CIS squad has been rather low recently. That led to the departure of the longest standing member Edward. The team brought on Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov as a replacement. Natus Vincere has been banning Nuke for a while. With the new addition, we may very well get to see Natus Vincere on Nuke some day.

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Natus Vincere looks to come back in top-level competition

The squad has been inactive for a while. Let’s see what Zeus and Co. have been up to this whole time.