ECL Season 40 playoffs kick off tonight
The eight best teams inside of North America’s division of ESL Challenger League Season 40 are set to do battle inside of a double-elimination bracket to determine the lone qualifier to EPL Conference Season 16 in June. The team that advances to the EPL Conference will compete against the best teams outside of Pro League for the six available slots in the next season of ESL's illustrious professional Counter-Strike league, an increase from the three available slots for the debut of the EPL Conference back in November. Now in its second rendition, EPL Conference acts as an even greater pipeline for the professional scene.
The EPL Conference has so far served as an appropriate launchpad for North American teams on the brink of breaking out. GODSENT and Extra Salt, the core that would later become Complexity, were two of the three teams to qualify through the first EPL Conference. Seeing the domestic success inside of the EPL Conference should have these playoff teams even more motivated to claim the seat in order to achieve their Pro League dreams.
Leading the pack as the hottest team in the league is MIBR. Entering the playoffs with an undefeated 7-0 regular-season record, the opposition has found it near-impossible to put a dent in the Brazilians’ game plan, dropping a single map throughout the season. The trio of Marcelo "chelo" Cespedes, Jhonatan "JOTA" Willian, and Matheus "Tuurtle" Anhaia was simply too much force for the rest of the league, as the three talents ended first, second, and third amongst their peers in rating with a 1.25 or better (min. 10 maps).
Although they look like the frontrunners to make it through the bracket, MIBR still needs three more victories to attain the perfect season. Their playoff journey will begin against Orgless, a team that squeaked in following two straight losses to close the season at 4-3. Although it has been a rough go for Orgless as of late, their experience cannot be denied, and will always be a considerable factor when assessing the two teams. The resume of Damian "daps" Steele goes much further than the Challengers’ League, and one would figure that daps will be gunning to make Pro League once more after missing out on this season.
The previous experience shared at Gen.G and Cloud9 between daps and the returning Kenneth "koosta" Suen has not shown itself in the server through the first two weeks of officials. Currently sitting at a map record of 9-10, success has been inconsistent. However, two of those map wins came in the form of a BO3 victory over this MIBR squad just nine days ago in the ESEA Cash Cup 6. Orgless will aim to replicate that success with the EPL Conference prize on the line against a vengeful MIBR.
Facing the winner of MIBR and Orgless is the team that survives the war between Carpe Diem and Gaimin Gladiators. These two lineups have been entangled in some minor lineup drama recently, as Anthony "CLASIA" Kearny was on the starting lineup of Gaimin throughout nearly the entire season before moving on to Carpe Diem in the eleventh hour. Now with Carpe Diem, CLASIA will seek to conquer his former teammates as they aim for revenge on the departing ex-teammate. Both sitting at 5-2, there is very little separating these two teams on paper. That, combined with the recent roster drama has set the stage for an exciting BO3.
Leading the top half of the bracket is the 6-1 ATK, a team that has looked stellar in its own right. Besides an out-of-character loss to the fifth place ONET4P, the season was about as good as it could be for the international squad. Star-talent Jonathan "b0denmaster" Bodenmalm was lights-out on the big green throughout the season, top five amongst his peers with a 1.22 rating overall (min. 10 maps). They will aim to continue their successes against the new-look Strife following the acquisition of Matthew "D4rtyMontana" Palawskas due to controversies that plagued their performance. Now at 1-1 on the season with D4rtyMontana, Strife will look to build off the positives that netted them their win over oNe prior to playoffs against a very strong ATK.
Meeting the winner of that matchup in the next stage of the bracket will be the winner of Party Astronauts and paiN. These two teams have both made strong cases for why they could make a deep run in the bracket and perhaps qualify. At 6-1, the Astronauts dropped their only match to the undefeated MIBR, even taking the sole map over the Brazilian squad. Their season otherwise, was dominant. Fan-favorite AWPer Josh "PwnAlone" Pique was lights out for the entire season, closing at a 1.23 rating (min. 10 maps) which is only behind the previously mentioned MIBR-trio leading the pack. Party Astronauts is a team that has been on the cusp of breaking out for some time, and are coming into the playoffs fresh off a European stint as a part of the ESL Pro League group play this past week. Their experience overseas will be tested by a paiN team that is on a three-match win streak inside of ECL.
These two teams are quite familiar with one another, playing in seven official BO3s over the course of last year. The common foes will do battle once more, with perhaps the biggest prize at stake. Brazil’s paiN will look to star-talent Rodrigo "biguzera" Bittencourt to help the team get through the Astronauts and deep into the playoffs. Tied with b0denmaster in fifth with a 1.22 rating (min. 10 maps) puts him just a sliver under opposing AWPer PwnAlone, and sets the tone for a fun BO3.
The BO3 double-elimination playoffs begin tonight at 08:00PM, with all four BO3 matches commencing at the same time. The first round matches are:
MIBR vs Orgless
ATK vs Strife
Party Astronauts vs paiN
Carpe Diem vs Gaimin Gladiators
The full bracket can be viewed here.