The Biggest Esports Tournaments in the World (and How to Compete)

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The world of esports is growing exponentially, and there’s no better way to see this than by looking at competitive gaming tournaments. In the early 2000s, large-scale, official esports tournaments were few and far between with meager prize pools.

Today, winning even one major tournament can change any gamers life. Not only are there more tournaments than ever, there is also more prize money to go around. Here’s a look at some of the most prominent esports tournaments in the world and see how much money is at stake.

The International

Only five esports tournaments have ever featured an overall prize pool greater than $10 million: The International 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. The annual Dota 2 world championship is one of the biggest events in esports, and winning The International is the height of competitive gaming. TI8 in 2018 featured a $25 million total prize pool, with $11 million going to the winning team.

For such a massive tournament, the road to qualifying is long and difficult. The International 2019 begins on August 20th, but teams have been competing since October 2018 to secure a spot. Twelve teams will earn a bid to The International through the Dota Pro Circuit, which features five major and five minor tournaments this season. The most successful clubs will earn a spot in TI9, and six more teams will win a bid through regional qualifiers.

Open qualifiers are in early July, where any Dota teams can attempt to win a bid to their overall regional qualifier. Victory guarantees a ticket to The International. Overall, the process is a brutal grind until a winner is crowned at the end of August.

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League of Legends World Championship

While The International is the richest esports event in the world, the League of Legends World Championship (LoL, for short) is the biggest. In 2018, peak viewership of Worlds surpassed nearly every other major sporting event that year, including the Super Bowl. More than 200 million viewers tuned in at the same time during the event, blowing most other esports events out of the water.

The Worlds is the culmination of the competitive League season and features 24 teams at the start of the tournament. Teams qualify by region: the three best teams from Korea, China, Europe, North America, and Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau are invited, along with the top teams from nine other regions. Each region has its own LoL professional league, and success there dictates whether or not they earn a bid to the World Championship.

Intel Extreme Masters

While The International and the LoL Championship are specific to one game, the IEM features events in a number of games. In the thirteen year history of the Masters, tournaments have been held in League, Counter-Strike, Quake, Starcraft, Warcraft, and Hearthstone.

That also means qualifying for the Masters is a bit more complicated, since teams earn bids by game and by region. To give an example of how the process works, let’s look at the 2019 CS:GO Championship that featured 24 of the world’s best teams at the start of the competition. The path to the championship began with open qualifiers, which were open to any competitive team in the world, and closed qualifiers, which were exclusive to prominent professional teams or winners of open qualifiers.

After the qualifying round, 32 teams moved into regional minors, which shrank the field to the 24 teams that would be invited to the Masters. Following two rounds of competition, the final eight teams were reseeded in the Champions Stage and pitted against one another to decide a victor. The Danish team Astralis eventually took home first place with a $500,000 prize.

Call of Duty World League Championship

The Call of Duty Championship offers the best opportunity for non-professional gamers to compete on the world stage, as 16 pro and 16 amateur teams will participate in the finals in July. Call of Duty has a much larger amateur following than games like Dota, LoL, or CS:GO, so it makes sense that the World League would look to include non-professional gamers.

The World League itself is the official COD professional league, and each of its 16 teams will automatically qualify for the Championship. Since late 2018, the best amateur teams in the world have been competing in qualifying tournaments to earn one of the final 16 spots in the Championship.

At the CWL Finals in July, the World League season will come to an end, and the amateur bracket will be finalized leaving the best 32 teams to square off in Miami. Earlier amateur events offered a combined $375,000 in prize money, and pro and amateur competitors will split the $2 million championship prize between them.

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