The schedule and the groups were revealed for the finals of ECS Season 8 after the conclusion of the online portion of the competition. Eight teams in two groups of four will fight for the lion's share of $500 000, in a landscape that is very much different from the one we've seen in June. Only half the field returns from that event, and only one of these sides made it to the playoffs that time around. With Astralis, Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses all in attendance, this is shaping up to be a barnburner of an event.

ECS Season 8 groups

For the first time in the competition's history, a unique seeding format was used to determine the groups, with the first two qualifiers placed in separate groups, who then selected the first teams in their opponents' groups, who then did the same lower down the chain in a snake draft format. This produced the following groups:

Group A

Evil Geniuses
Team Liquid

Group B

Sharks Esports

ECS Season 8 schedule

The finals are slated to take place between November 28 and December 1 in Arlington, Texas. The opening matches are best-of-one affairs, everything else is a best-of-three. Here is the full schedule, courtesy of HLTV:

Thursday, November 28

16:00 Evil Geniuses vs. AVANGAR (BO1)
17:30 Team Liquid vs. NiP (BO1)
19:00 Astralis vs. Sharks Esports (BO1)
20:30 Fnatic vs. MIBR (BO1)
22:00 Group A winners' match (BO3)
01:00 Group B winners' match (BO3)

Friday, November 29

16:00 Group A elimination match (BO3)
19:00 Group B elimination match (BO3)
22:00 Group A decider match (BO3)
01:00 Group B decider match (BO3)

Saturday, November 30

19:00 Semi-final #1 (BO3)
22:00 Semi-final #2 (BO3)

Sunday, December 1

19:00 Showmatch
22:00 Grand final (BO3)

ECS Season 8 storylines

It's not just a large chunk of change that's on the line, though that certainly helps: the three undisputed best teams going into the tail end of 2019 are all present here, with Astralis, Team Liquid and Evil Geniuses all ready to contest for the title. Back in June, Season 7 of the event marked the first time the Danes seemed vulnerable, their shock losses to FURIA the first of many underwhelming results that led to the eventual end of their infamous era. Another sign of the changing times is the fact that only one of the teams from last time's playoffs are even here at all: Evil Geniuses, playing under the NRG banner at the time, also fell victim to the surging Brazilian youngsters. However, neither they, nor Vitality and North managed to qualify for these finals. In fact, only NiP and MIBR managed to make a return from the Season 7 finals alongside gla1ve's men - both, of course, with a re-jigged lineup.

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Though no one expects Sharks Esports to surprise us the way FURIA did back then, the other newcomers are cut from a very different cloth. Team Liquid are still one of the best teams around, indomitable fraggers on their day, AVANGAR shocked the world by reaching the grand final of the StarLadder Berlin Major, winning BLAST Pro Series Moscow straight after that. Meanwhile, Fnatic's roster reunion led to some explosive performances in Malmö and Belek, making two grand finals in a row. NiP, though not quite on this level, also showed an uptick in form since removing GeT_RiGhT from the team.