ESEA League in 2021

ESEA Leagues move to 4 seasons a year

In 2021, ESEA will increase the number of seasons within its league system from three to four seasons a year. The goal is to give players more opportunities to climb up the divisions and play for prize money more often while reducing the downtime of no competition in between the seasons. The short season length also means less time commitment from players.

The tentative season outline is the following (more details to be announced at a later date):

  • Season 36: January - April
  • Season 37: May - July
  • Season 38: August - October
  • Season 39: October - December

Don’t miss out on Season 36 as registration will close shortly on Monday evening at midnight PT.

ESEA Premier is now the path to ESL Pro League with significant structural improvements

  • Qualification into ESL Pro League for all 4 seasons & DH Open Qualifier Invites

The change to four seasons will also apply to the highest division in the ESEA league, the Premier division, formerly MDL, which will result in the removal of the “training season”. All four seasons in Europe and North America will qualify the winner directly into the following ESL Pro League season through their regional division. This means every ESL Pro League season features 4 teams from ESEA Premier - 2x European and 2x North American. With the uncertain situation of events due to the pandemic, there will be no Global Challenge for the Premier division in the foreseeable future.

Additionally, the best teams in ESEA Premier based on current standings will receive invites to the closed qualifiers of DH Open events going forward through which they can fight their way into ESL Pro Tour Masters events (IEM & DH Masters).

All the changes support us in strengthening our Challenger level of ESL Pro Tour. With the increase to four seasons and the chance to play at DH Open events, teams can win more ESL Pro Tour ranking points across the year, increasing their chances to earn a slot at the Masters Championship events in Katowice and Cologne by playing in the ESEA league.

There will be a separate announcement for ESEA Premier in Australia soon.

  • Tournament format & prize money changes

With the change to four seasons, we will also adjust the format of ESEA Premier. Teams will be split into two groups playing in a round-robin BO3 format. The top four teams of each group will then play out the BO3 double-elimination playoffs to crown the winning team.

Moreover, the prize money for each season will be increased to US$100,000 per season and will be split across the top eight for EU and NA, respectively.

In order to also improve the coverage for ESEA Premier with virtual studio broadcasts, we will adjust the scheduling for league matches. In advance of the season, teams will be able to block out a number of match days (every Tuesday & Wednesday), which they are not able to play on. The league administration will then build the match schedule based on all teams’ blocked days.

  • Improving coverage quality

The last upgrade for ESEA Premier will be an uplift in coverage quality. The goal is to broadcast the highlight matches of each week on Tuesday (starting February 2nd) through a remote virtual studio and do a full studio production for the playoffs, should the pandemic allow it. The highlight matches will be shown on ESL’s official Twitch CS channel to reach a larger audience with the improved broadcast quality. This will be supported by live coverage from ESL CS’s social media channels.

All remaining matches not delivered from the main production will be covered through ESEA’s partner network in order to guarantee games are broadcast. More information will also be available on the website.

Focusing on Team competitions

Another improvement happening in 2021 will be a shift in focus for ESEA away from individual competitions like Rank S into more team-based competitions. Next to the announced changes to the league format, we will therefore move all prize money from Rank S into Cash Cups. We’re developing a new prize structure for Ranked play (more details announced soon).

Twice a month teams will play in Cash Cups for US$15,000 in NA and US$4,000 in EU. The heavy shift towards NA is based on the fact that European teams have many more highly prized cups to compete in, whereas the NA scene has fewer options in comparison. We want to support the local community more.

If a team wins two Cash Cups in a row, that team then cannot participate in the next Cash Cup before being eligible to play again. This cooldown rule is in place to distribute the prize money to a larger variety of players.

Further, we will run fun competitions for more casual players regularly. Those are aimed to have specific themes to be more entertaining and fresh.

Invitation to Content Creators & Co-Streamers

We are openly inviting the community, influencers, pro players, and streamers to take advantage of the cash cups and use them to create content for their own channels. Whether it’s pro players throwing watch parties together to check out up and coming talents and discussing areas they can improve, YouTubers creating frag movies, or streamers providing entertaining broadcasts over those matches - everyone is welcome to use this opportunity.

Further Improvements

We are also working on further improving the user experience on the ESEA website, the client, and around toxicity. We are also working on further improvements for the local scene in North America specifically. As soon as we can share more details, we will update you.

Your ESL/ESEA team


Winner Invites

2x EU winner
2x NA winner
1x ANZ winner (Decider Tournament)

Ranking Invites

Top 1 ESEA Premier Ranking

The winner of each of the 4 Seasons will be invited to ESL Pro League and the best teams in ESEA Premier based on current standings will receive invites to the closed qualifiers of DreamHack Open events going forward through which they can fight their way into ESL Pro Tour Masters events (IEM & DH Masters).