The final week of ESL Pro League for North America sees a myriad of interesting match-ups, with playoff berths and seedings on the line.
Schedule favours Cloud9
Of the teams yet to qualify for the playoffs, Cloud9 appear to be in the best position, with an incredibly easy schedule coinciding with their solid play.
Cloud9, currently sitting in fourth place, were expected to have a significant drop off after the loss of Stewie2K to SK Gaming. However, the addition of FNS has added some much-needed structure to the line-up, with RUSH and Skadoodle appearing to thrive more in the sound environment.
Cloud9 have impressed online while doing decently on LAN, with hopes of a 4-0 streak entering the week given the state of their competition. Coming up for Cloud9 is Rogue, who currently occupy eighth place, alongside Splyce, who currently sit in tenth. Rogue in particular are a team that have done better than expected, but given Cloud9’s stability with FNS, they look to have the edge in their match-up this week.
Renegades have done well
The team to watch this week is Renegades, who find themselves in the middle of the push for the playoffs.
Renegades currently sit in fifth place, tied in the win column with SK yet with four fewer defeats. Renegades have done better than anyone could have predicted in both Pro League and other events, given the loss of star player NAF to Liquid. In his place jkaem has performed better than advertised, with their hopes of reaching the playoffs looking solid.
Up first for Renegades is the aforementioned Rogue squad who have also done better than initially thought. Next up, however, is the dream scenario for Renegades as they face last place Dignitas, which is scheduled before a final showdown with SK Gaming. That match against SK appeared to be a challenge when the scheduling came out but given SK’s recent struggles as they look to adapt to playing with Stewie, Renegades have a chance to sneak a win.
LG may miss out
Seventh-placed Luminosity Gaming are on the outside looking in entering the final week of play, with two vastly different opponents slated.
First up for Luminosity is Ghost Gaming, who currently sit second-bottom in the league in eleventh place before they find themselves against second team NRG Esports, who have thrived online thus far. Luminosity do not necessarily have to win both matches should SK Gaming fall in their final games against Renegades, but it is unlikely they will be able to find the win against NRG.
Luminosity are also in the midst of a roster move, very recently announcing the addition of steel to the line-up, formerly of Team Liquid. It appears uncertain for now whether steel will immediately play for LG or whether chelo, who has joined NTC, will continue to play for them this week. Either way Luminosity will in all likelihood need help from Renegades should they want to make the playoffs.
Liquid push for top seed
One of the most hotly contested match-ups of the week is a battle for seeding, as current top side Team Liquid battle with third place OpTic Gaming. OpTic are essentially locked into the playoffs already, given they need just one win with Dignitas as their first opponents this week, but the match against Liquid is a possible semifinal preview, with each team still having something to play for.
OpTic will look to secure the third seed, while Liquid will look to maintain their edge over NRG Esports, who currently sit only one game back in the win column. Given Liquid have only dropped two matches all Pro League long, OpTic will have their work cut out for them should they wish to stave off Cloud9’s late season push for third.
With the Finals next month at the Verizon Theatre in Dallas the goal, this should be a good final week of the regular season to shake out the contenders from the pretenders.