Just as many feared Oceanic Counter-Strike was back to square one, ESL has revealed its schedule for Counter-Strike 2 in 2024, with Australia & New Zealand getting their own Challenger League alongside several other changes.
ESL has disclosed its plans for CS2 in 2024 via a September 22 announcement. ESL’s flagship tournaments IEM Katowice and IEM Cologne return with slightly adjusted dates, and the ESL Pro League will be shortened from five weeks to three, with two groups to run simultaneously.
IEM China and IEM Dallas are also confirmed as part of their ESL Pro Tour, with IEM Fall—this year’s iteration being in Sydney in October—the only tournament part of the EPT Championship & Masters catalogue to not yet have a confirmed location in 2024.
What Oceanic CS fans will most be interested in is the changes to the ESL Challenger League. Each continent (excluding Africa) will have a division in the league, which seemingly is the replacement for ESL ANZ Champs in Australia in line with their stated ethos for future tournaments to have a more “borderless ecosystem.”
ESL Challenger League Season 47 will run from February to June, while Season 48 will run from July to November, with the winner of each season qualifying for ESL Pro League.
The news, however, comes with a caveat: Australia & New Zealand’s league beyond Season 48 will be “evaluated before the end of next year.”
This seems to be a callout to Oceanic players to participate and nurture the league, assumingly to avoid lower player numbers and the hopeful avoidance of the top-heavy nature ESL ANZ Champs had in later seasons.
The news was received fairly positively by the Australian CS community, but there was an admittance that it seemed like a downgrade from the ecosystem of ESL ANZ Champs and Main. Aussie commentator Jordan “Elfishguy” Mays summarised the differences on Twitter, highlighting the missed opportunities for talent in particular in regard to the assumed lack of studio shows for the new league, and it being a more modest product for players.
Ultimately, the news brings a cautious optimism heading into CS2 for the region which, while benefitting from a league more unified with comparative ESL leagues around the world, also replaces the established ESL ANZ Champs and demotes the status for domestic season-style tournaments run by ESL in Oceania.
While some finer details are yet to be revealed for our new league, it does bring a reminder that these leagues cannot be taken for granted, and the best way to maintain and improve them is to watch, participate, and foster them.
So Australia, it’s in our hands now. Let’s get it going.