ESL One Rio CSGO Major format, prize pool, and favorites to win

By Nick Johnson


Mar 7, 2020

Reading time: 5 min

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s majors are the most prestigious tournaments of the year and the next, the ESL One Rio Major, is just around the corner.

Over the course of two months, a series of open and closed qualifiers whittle down hundreds of hopeful teams to 32 competitors for the minors. From there, 10 of those teams get a chance to compete on CSGO’s grandest stage.

Outside the competitive sphere, CSGO is enjoying a resurgence like nothing seen before in gaming. Despite being eight years old, CSGO broke its all-time concurrent player count record last weekend, hitting 933,748 simultaneous players.

With loads of new players getting into the game, the ESL One Rio Major will likely serve as the first real taste of CSGO esports for many fans.

The 2020 ESL One Rio Major has technically already started, with the tournament’s closed Minor qualifiers ongoing. The tournament proper, however, is set to begin on May 11.

The first and second-place teams from each Minor proceed directly to the group stage, while the third-place teams will have one last chance the qualify for ESL One Rio through the minor play-ins. 

After the 16 teams are finalized, the Major officially begins with the Challenger stage.

ESL One Rio format, start date

The first series of the competition involves the eight Minor winners, two teams from the last-chance qualifiers, and six teams that competed in the StarLadder Berlin Major.  

Readers who want to know more about the ESL Pro Tour and how ESL One Rio fits into this year’s brand new CSGO meta-tournament can take a quick detour to’s coverage in “ESL Pro Tour Explained.”

Below is the 2020 ESL One Rio Major’s general progression and prize pool breakdown. Depending on how each team qualified for the ESL One Rio Major, teams will progress through several stages that halve the total number of competing teams by their conclusion, culminating in the eight-team playoff stage nicknamed the “Champions Stage.” The total prize pool for the Major is $1 million dollars, with the first-place team receiving a $500,000 cut.

ESL One Rio’s 2020 Challengers Stage

Most teams will enter the ESL One Rio Major starting in the Challenger Stage. Here, 16 teams will face off in the contentious swiss format, gunning for the top-eight placement needed to progress.

This stage includes the teams that qualified through the minors. The  “Returning Challengers” include six teams from the StarLadder Berlin Major’s Legends Stage that didn’t reach the Champions Stage.

The Returning Challengers include the following teams:

  • G2 Esports
  • North 
  • c0ntact Gaming (formerly CR4ZY)
  • FaZe Clan
  • MIBR
  • mousesports


ESL One Rio Major’s Legends Stage

The top eight teams from the Challengers Stage proceed on to the Legends stage, where they face the teams that finished in the top eight of the previous Major. This year’s teams with Legend status are a mixed bag.

While most have retained their form since StarLadder Berlin, ENCE and have struggled mightily since last September. The current Major Legends are as follows:

  • Team Liquid
  • Astralis
  • Team Vitality
  • Natus Vincere
  • Evil Geniuses
  • 100 Thieves
  • ENCE
  • (formerly AVANGAR)

Barring a sudden change in direction at the behest of local officials, the final eight teams from the Legends stage will hopefully play in front of a live audience at the Jeunesse Arena in Rio. The event marks Brazil’s first tier-one Counter-Strike event since Cloud9 defeated then-Brazilian SK Gaming the country during the ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals. The arena portion of ESL One Rio will run from Saturday May 16 to Tuesday, May 19.

That said, there is some concern as to whether the current spread of the COVID-19 virus, otherwise known as the coronavirus, could impact the event. CSGO’s own IEM Katowice 2020 was played in front of an empty arena last weekend and other events like SXSW are being shut down as a preemptive measure.

Katowice attendees were turned away the day before the arena portion of the tournament was set to begin.’s own reporters had to submit to screenings in order to be allowed access to the event, which was documented below. has reached out to ESL regarding their plans and the possibility of the virus impacting the event but hasn’t received a reply at time of publishing.

ESL One Rio Major favorites, contenders

This year also marks an interesting opportunity for the eventual major champions. North American league and organizer Flashpoint has announced that the winners of each of 2020’s Major will be invited to the League’s year-end finals. While the opportunity might be lost on teams like Liquid and Astralis, others like mousesports would relish the opportunity to take on the mixed bag of competitors in Flashpoint.

With Robin “ropz” Kool constantly showcasing what a young player under a veteran in-game leader can do, mousesports is a legitimate candidate for Rio’s CSGO crown. Their main challengers in Liquid and Astralis have looked flat over BLAST Premier’s Spring Series and IEM Katowice 2020.

In fact, Astralis’ demolition at the hands of Natus Vincere in Katowice was not just shocking, it was unprecedented in what will forever be remembered as the “Astralis Era.” It was the most Astralis’ most lopsided loss since taking over CSGO esports, by a considerable margin. 

Astralis seems more vulnerable than Team Liquid as the timer ticks down to Pro League and the ESL One Rio Major. While TL’s defeats have been close affairs and easy to diagnose, Astralis has been completely outclassed by teams considered by many to be inferior both in talent and strategy.

Astralis could be in a bad spot right now. Then again, this is exactly the same conversation that was being had before the team won the StarLadder Berlin Major

In fact, anyone looking for CSGO betting tips should read’s in-depth article and this tip to hear.

ESL One Rio will also mark a time of serious change with regard to how Valve sees Counter-Strike. With both ESL Pro League and Flashpoint set to run between now and the Rio Major, CSGO esports will have had a continuous carousel of competition since the Flashpoint qualifiers at the start of February. Additionally, if player counts stay healthy, fans will reap the benefits from Valve’s increased attention.