NA in EPL Playoffs, historically
As we enter the final week of ESL Pro League Season 16 group stage, the playoff picture is now clear after the final matches of Group D have been settled. On the final day, we saw EG eliminated while Liquid joined the eleven others in the playoff picture. Among these are Complexity, who made it by the skin of their teeth, requiring both a victory in their final match versus ENCE, and Heroic to take the Danish derby versus Astralis.
With Complexity, FURIA, and Liquid proving successful in their group stage matches, let's take this time to look back on the history of ESL Pro League and how NA teams have fared historically.
By far and away, Liquid has been the most prominent NA member in ESL Pro League playoffs, making a playoff appearance every time starting Season 7. They've even got a handful of great placings including second in Seasons 7 and 8, and even taking home the first prize in Seasons 9 and 11 (though Seasons 11 and 12 only had regional competition due to the coronavirus pandemic). At this point, they're a bonafide staple in EPL Playoffs and they continue their marvelous streak this Season as well.
Discounting the regional tournaments in Seasons 11 and 12, no other North American team has made playoffs other than Liquid since EG did it in Season 10. Thankfully, Complexity has made their first-ever playoff appearance with an NA roster now, meaning with Liquid making playoffs once more, it is the first time we have two NA teams in playoffs in almost three years.
That is to say, we are in an exceptional time for NA CS. For the first time in a while, somebody other than Liquid will make playoffs. Looking at other North American teams that have made playoffs, Cloud9 and OpTic have two playoff appearances to their name, and EG, NRG, Misfits, and CLG have all made the berth just once. However, no other North American team has come as close to winning as Liquid has during the Grand Slam era.
Keep in mind that the EPL format has changed multiple times now, and is a far cry away from the NA versus EU format it was back in the old days of EPL. Even the amount of teams making playoffs has shifted often, with the current 12-team playoffs beginning just three seasons ago. The lack of dedicated NA spots obviously dropped NA participation, so to be on an upward trend is an amazing feat for North America and certainly something worth celebrating.