IEM Katowice, which takes place Feb. 1-12 in Katowice, Poland, is the first big Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament of the year. With a $1 million prize pool and a 24-team field, it’s one of the most prestigious and competitive annual CS:GO tournaments alongside the Majors and IEM Cologne.
Last year, IEM Katowice set the tone for the rest of the year with FaZe Clan winning the tournament and going on to dominate the first half of the year. Who will be crowned champion at Spodek Arena this year? To get you ready for Katowice, here are all the qualified teams, the schedule and format and a breakdown of the teams most likely to lift the trophy.
Photo credit: Adela Sznajder / ESL
Directly qualified teams
- FaZe Clan
- Team Vitality
- Team Liquid
- Natus Vincere
- G2 Esports
- Ninjas in Pyjamas
- Team Spirit
- Complexity Gaming
- FURIA Esports
- IHC Esports
- Grayhound Gaming
- paiN Gaming
- Evil Geniuses
- Permitta Esports
Schedule and format
Photo credit: Stephanie Lindgren / ESL
IEM Katowice kicks off Feb. 1 with a double-elimination play-in stage. The 16 play-in teams will be whittled down to eight by Feb. 3. Opening matchups are single games, while subsequent matchups will be best-of-three.
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The eight teams that advance from the play-in stage will join the eight directly qualified teams in the group stage, which takes place Feb. 4-7. The group stage will be a double elimination phase consisting of two groups of eight and all matches will be best-of-three.
The top team in each group will advance to the semifinals of the single-elimination playoff stage. The next two teams in each group will qualify for the quarterfinals. The playoffs will begin Feb. 10 and end with the grand final on Feb. 12. The quarterfinals and semifinals will be best-of-three, while the grand final will be best-of-five.
Breaking down the field
Favorites: G2 Esports, Team Vitality, Heroic
Photo credit: Blast Premier
G2 have to be the overall favorites. They ended 2022 by winning the Blast World Final to capture the organization’s first S-Tier CS:GO tournament since 2017, seemingly getting the monkey off their back after multiple second-place finishes at major tournaments the past few years. In fact, they have finished second at each of the previous two IEM Katowice tournaments, so they’ll be looking to finally win this one. G2 looked sharp in Blast Spring Groups as they didn’t drop a map en route to winning their group, so they are certainly the team to beat.
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Team Vitality also won their group at Blast Spring Groups and are the reigning ESL Pro League champions. Heroic didn’t win their Blast group but had an impressive showing nonetheless after bouncing back from an opening round loss to Evil Geniuses. They had a strong finish to their 2022, finishing second at the Rio Major and winning the Blast Fall Finals. They’re currently the No. 1 team in both the ESL rankings and HLTV.
Contenders: FaZe Clan, NAVI, Team Liquid
Photo credit: Stephanie Lindgren / ESL
FaZe Clan kicked off last year by winning IEM Katowice en route to a dominant first half of 2022 when they established themselves as the best team in the world. They’re no longer the top team but are still serious contenders to win back-to-back Katowice titles. They’ll enter the tournament fresh off winning their group in Blast Spring Groups and eager to prove they’re still one of the top teams in the world. Plus, they still need one more major tournament win to win the IEM Grand Slam. They’re running out of time after quickly winning three out of the four S-Tier tournaments they need to complete the accomplishment.
NAVI had a very strong 2022 and are seemingly always in the mix to win the biggest tournaments. Besides two losses to G2, they had a decent performance at Blast Spring Groups. Team Liquid showed a lot of potential in the second half of 2022, but they always seemed to fall short. They finished second at ESL Pro League season 16 and the Blast World Final. Their performance at Blast Spring Groups was underwhelming, but this team is still a contender in Katowice if they play to their potential.
Dark horses: OG, Outsiders, Cloud9
Photo credit: Michal Konkol / ESL
Unlike the favorites, contenders and two other dark horses, Outsiders did not compete in Blast Spring Groups, so we have no recent results to assess them. The last time we saw them they went 0-2 at the Blast World Final. Prior to that they won the Rio Major. They were one of the most unexpected Major winners in recent history, which means they’re probably not going to replicate that success in Katowice. However, they did win a Major, so you have to respect their potential.
OG and Cloud9 are not among the directly qualified teams. They will have the extra hurdle of having to make it through the play-in stage, which makes them even more dark horses than Outsiders. However, there usually are lower seeded teams that make it to the playoff stage of a big tournament, and these are the two most likely play-in teams to make a run. OG looked decent at Blast Spring Groups and finished top four at the Blast World Final. Cloud9 didn’t compete at any of Blast’s season-ending 2022 events or spring groups, so we don’t have any recent results to look at. However, the last time we saw this team they made the playoffs at the Rio Major. They also were top four finishers in the last ESL Pro League season.
Lead photo credit: Helena Kristiansson / ESL Gaming via ESPAT