IEM Katowice, which takes place Jan. 31 - Feb. 11 in Katowice, Poland, is the first big Counter-Strike 2 tournament of the year. Katowice has traditionally been one of the most prestigious and competitive annual Counter-Strike tournaments alongside the Majors and IEM Cologne, and this will be the first edition featuring CS2 with the game replacing CS:GO. With a $1 million prize pool and a 24-team field, a lot will be at stake and it should be a very competitive tournament.
Last year, G2 Esports beat Heroic in the Katowice final. They are among the contenders to win this year’s edition but not the favorite. 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.
Directly qualified teams
- G2 Esports
- FaZe Clan
- Team Vitality
- Complexity Gaming
- Natus Vincere
- Team Falcons
- Rebels Gaming
- FURIA Esports
- The MongolZ
- Eternal Fire
- BetBoom Team
- Team Spirit
Schedule and format
Photo credit: Sarah Cooper / ESL
IEM Katowice will kick off Jan. 31 with the play-in stage, which will consist of a double-elimination bracket among the 16 play-in teams. Initial matches will be single maps, but all subsequent matches will be best-of-three. The top eight teams will advance to the group stage.
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On Feb. 3, the group stage will kick off with the 16 teams competing in either Group A or Group B. All matches will be best-of-three. Each group will play out in a double-elimination format with two teams making it out via the upper bracket and one team escaping the lower bracket in each group.
The group stage will conclude Feb. 6, and after a two-day break, the playoffs will commence Feb. 9 at Spodek Arena. The two group winners will start the single-elimination bracket in the semifinals, and the second and third-place teams in each group will play quarterfinal matches to advance to the semis. Quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be best-of-three. IEM Katowice will conclude with a best-of-five grand final on Feb. 11.
Breaking down the field
Team Vitality, FaZe Clan
Photo credit: ESL
There are two teams who have stood out among the rest ever since the release of Counter-Strike 2: Team Vitality and FaZe Clan. They’re the clear favorites heading into IEM Katowice. FaZe won IEM Sydney, the Thunderpick World Championship and the CS2 Asia Championship last fall. Team Vitality beat FaZe in the grand final of both the Blast Fall Final and World Final. Dating back to IEM Sydney, FaZe have only lost to Vitality and GamerLegion. Vitality were eliminated by FaZe from IEM Sydney, and since then they’ve only lost to Astralis. It wouldn’t be surprising to see another grand final between these two squads. FaZe won IEM Katowice in 2022, and Vitality will be looking for their first Katowice title.
G2 Esports, NAVI
Photo credit: Helena Kristiansson / ESL
If there’s a team that can knock off FaZe and/or Vitality to make a grand final run at IEM Katowice, it’ll probably be one of these two teams. G2 Esports are the reigning Katowice champions and finalists at this tournament two years in a row. They haven’t been quite as good since the release of CS2, and have made a roster change -- Nemanja "nexa" Isaković in place of Justin "jks" Savage -- since the last edition of IEM Katowice. Still, this is a really good team with a championship pedigree, especially after Nikola "NiKo" Kovač & Co. finally got the monkey off their back and won Katowice last year. Now, if only they can avoid facing NAVI …
NAVI have looked particularly sharp of late with two wins over G2 during Blast Spring Groups. NAVI had perfect 3-0 runs at both Spring Groups and the Copenhagen Major European RMR Qualifier. They did lose twice to Vitality at the Blast World Final, a team they’ll likely have to beat if they are to win Katowice. Despite Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyljev moving off the active roster, NAVI have risen to be one of the best CS2 teams since the addition of Ihor "w0nderful" Zhdanov.
Photo credit: Joao Ferreira / ESL
There are two teams among the play-in teams who have stood out recently. Virtus.pro are coming off a perfect 3-0 showing at Blast Spring Groups with two wins over BIG and one over Cloud9. They went 3-1 in the qualifier for the Copenhagen Major European RMR Qualifier. VP have had a very busy schedule since last fall as they have entered tournaments big and small. In addition to winning Dreamhack Atlanta and the Roobet Cup, VP reached the final of the Thunderpick World Championship where they lost to FaZe. They’ve shown the potential to rise to occasion with wins over Cloud9, BIG, Monte and GamerLegion in recent months.
The other team to keep an eye on is Astralis. They’re a lot better than their No. 23 position on the latest ESL world ranking. They’re the only team that has beaten Team Vitality since the French squad lost the IEM Sydney final to FaZe in October. Astralis beat Vitality at Blast Spring Groups and then lost a rematch to them, but that was their only loss as they went 3-1 to qualify for the Spring Final. Prior to Spring Groups, Astralis went 3-1 in the Copenhagen Major European RMR Qualifier. Astralis have been playing very well since adding Martin "stavn" Lund and Jakob "jabbi" Nygaard in November. The former Heroic players are no strangers to the big stage in Katowice. Last year, they helped lead Heroic to the Katowice final.
Lead photo credit: Helena Kristiansson / ESL