After long and tense negotiations colored by the growing competition between ESL's Pro League and the FACEIT-backed FLASHPOINT project (previously known as its codename, "Rush B"), ESL has finally announced the list of participants in the league's upcoming season. The long-term partnership involves most of the current top teams in the scene and brings along a revamped format to accommodate the franchise partners.
Instead of constant promotions and relegations, ESL's Pro League from Season 11 and onwards will feature long-term franchise partners expected to participate on a regular basis at ESL events but with no possibility of relegation. After a long, drawn-out negotiation process with growing competition from other tournament organizers, it seems ESL has secured an agreement with each of the current top teams in the scene. As a consequence, they've slashed the overall number of slots in the competition by 50% (dropping from 48 to 24), controversially ditching many participants without sufficient early warning.
The new setup also means a revamped format for the competition. Instead of regional splits, for six-team round robin groups will determine the eventual playoff participants. The four group winners will play each other for a semi-final seeds in a separate play-in bracket, with the losers taking a slot one round behind in the bracket. The second- and third-place finishers will have to work their way through five rounds to make it to the title. No other ESL Pro Tour events will take place during the season, which will have 26 matchdays in total across four weeks, taking place between March 16 and April 12. The total prize pool for Season 11 is $750 000.
Each of the current top 10 on HLTV's world rankings were announced as a partner team for the upcoming competition, with five teams of the Season 10 finals, two from the MDL and four based on ESL's World Rankings making up the rest of the field. The announced list of ESL Pro League Season 11 teams can be found below:
Teams affected by the format change (and the loss half of the overall spots, with the league going from 48 teams to 24), a special regional qualifier was announced by ESL, featuring teams like BIG, HellRaisers, ViCi and DETONA.
Photo credit: HLTV