With the MLG Columbus Valve sponsored major drawing ever closer, the last opportunity for American teams to make it into the offline qualifying event is upon us. Seven teams will battle it out online in a single elimination bracket hosted by CEVO with the victor claiming their place at the MLG CS:GO Major LAN Qualifier, which will be held at the MLG.tv Arena in Columbus, OH from February 26-28.
The teams in attendance are as follows:
While the matches on display will almost certainly not be spectacular, the excitement for a betting man might be. Even the top American teams are well known to be inconsistent at the best of times, but the teams just below them are even more so. It is with total confidence that I can say that any one of the seven teams in question here could win an online tournament over their opponents on any given day. So who should you put your money on in the first round matches?
Well, not Splyce. No, not because they are a terrible team, but because they’re already through. Splyce’s runner-up finish at last weekend’s MLG Americas Minor means that they receive a BYE in round one and advance directly to the semifinals. The second place finish at the minor was a great over-achievement in most people’s books, especially given their win over OpTic Gaming to advance to the final. So, keep an eye on the odds in the second round of matches, as there is a good chance that this slightly less known team will again be underestimated and offer up some excellent odds.
Torqued vs Games Academy:
The teams aiming to face off against Splyce in that semifinal are Mohamad “mOE” Assad’s newly formed Torqued roster and the only South American team in the competition, Games Academy from Brazil. The addition of ex-Cloud9 captain and in-game leader, Sean “sgares” Gares will certainly come as a boost to the North American team; the veteran is widely regarded as one of the best strategical minds in North American Counter-Strike and has competed in high pressure matches against the best teams in the world on numerous occasions. However, the largely semi-active roster is, as yet, unproven and will surely have less chemistry and practice time as a team compared to their rivals. The popularity of players like mOE and sgares appears to have made Torqued heavy favourites at Paddy Power with odds of 1/3 while Games Academy currently sit at 15/8.
However, Coral shows quite a different picture with Torqued’s odds being as good as 13/8. A match like this with so little information on Torqued and such a mixture of recent results from Games Academy will always be a gamble in every sense of the word; if the odds for one team rise or fall dramatically, the gamble might be worth a shot. If not, this might be a match that the most prudent bettors skip altogether.
OpTic Gaming vs NRG eSports:
Of all the disappointing displays of Counter-Strike at last weekend’s MLG Minor, OpTic Gaming’s was perhaps the biggest. The core of the ex-Conquest roster were flying high after signing with powerhouse Call of Duty organization, OpTic Gaming, and came into the weekend as heavy favourites to win the whole thing. Unfortunately for them, they were brought back down to Earth rather quickly by Splyce and went home with their heads held low. A victory at this last-chance qualifier is a must for Shahzeb “ShahZam” Khan and company and their campaign should get off to a comfortable start against NRG eSports.
Fatih “gob b” Dayik is widely regarded as a mastermind in Counter-Strike but his presence in NRG is unlikely to be enough to rise above OpTic in this contest. NRG has had almost no time to prepare as a team and is severely lacking in firepower as neither gob b nor Nikola “LEGIJA” Ninic have shown enough raw skill in-game in recent memory to pose much of a threat. Perhaps OpTic’s massive fan base will cause the odds to become too heavily skewed – if not, this may be the safest bet of the weekend.
Winterfox vs Team SoloMid:
Winterfox’s core roster is one that is synonymous with underachieving at LAN events. However, this tournament will be held online and Winterfox is not such a pushover that Team SoloMid can afford to look right past them. The odds on Bet365, Paddy Power and Coral all reflect just how close this final match of the first round could be. The new TSM roster has been together for no time at all so predictions based on form and chemistry are impossible. Winterfox perhaps has the edge in terms of experience as a team and proven ability, while TSM could possibly have the greater potential with young talent that has yet to fully flourish. A very tough match to call.
The last chance qualifier promises to deliver some exciting matches and certainly some big upsets for organizations desperate to get their logo in a CS:GO sticker capsule. The teams will be playing under a great deal of pressure; in a scene so infamous for its inconsistency, those with the most level heads will likely prevail.