IEM Fall: North America is only days away, and it may be the most competitive tournament in the entire RMR circuit. With five slots at the PGL Stockholm Major on the line, the path to qualification has become simple: finish top five in this event, or miss the major.
First, each of the tournament's twelve teams will have to compete in the group stage, with two groups of six. Finishing in the top half of the group will put a team in the running for RMR points, while winding up in the bottom half will eliminate them without gaining any points whatsoever. Today, we look at Group A, analyzing each team's form headed into the event to find out who those top teams may be!
EXTREMUM (1880 RMR Points)
Strong performances in both the 2020 RMR circuit and at cs_summit 8 — the region's first RMR event of 2021 — have put EXTREMUM in first place with 1880 points. However, since cs_summit 8, EXTREMUM have only participated in two events. They picked up wins against the likes of Dignitas and the Lyngby Vikings, but a lack of recent games makes analyzing their form difficult.
Despite being in first place, it's crucial for EXTREMUM to place within the top five. They may be able to get through to the PGL Stockholm Major without gaining any points here, but it's highly unlikely. Group A is a tough one, and if EXTREMUM let too many games slip it could cost them everything. Expect to find them around the middle of the group, fighting for the much desired third and second seeds.
Team Liquid (1840 RMR Points)
Team Liquid won cs_summit 8, but a slight underperformance in the 2020 circuit has left them just shy of first place in the NA rankings. Despite this, they undoubtedly sit at the top of the mountain within the North American region. While recent results haven't been of the same calibre of what we once expected from this team, they've been nevertheless impressive, with notable wins over Mousesports, FURIA Esports, and the Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Team Liquid are the most likely contender to top Group A. Reaching the major shouldn't be a problem for this team; rather, their goal is to finish the RMR circuit in one of the top three positions. Doing so will earn them Legend's Status, letting them bypass the major's New Challengers stage entirely, a particularly powerful prize given the quality of Stockholm's contenders.
Extra Salt (1200 RMR Points)
Extra Salt have 1200 points, putting them in sixth place — one away from qualification to Stockholm. The team has looked strong domestically throughout 2021, with recent wins over paiN Gaming, Bad News Bears and GODSENT. The team has struggled in their sparse international outings, however, and have had little experience against North America's very best in recent months.
If Extra Salt can keep rivals paiN Gaming at bay, they'll be in great position to finish in the top three of Group A. The question for Extra Salt is whether or not they can beat Team Liquid or EXTREMUM to secure a spot in the playoffs — exactly what they did at cs_summit 8. Doing so would guarantee them a ticket to Stockholm, which would be the first major appearance for every member of the team.
paiN Gaming (1100 RMR Points)
Right behind Extra Salt is paiN Gaming, currently in seventh place with 1100 points. Matter of fact, this team has spent much of 2021 trailing right behind the Extra Salt squad, having a record of 1-5 against them since their first loss at cs_summit 8. However, they will be one of many teams paiN Gaming have to beat if they plan to finish in the top half of Group A.
The team have proven themselves capable against North American competition, having recently earned qualification to the BLAST Premier: Fall Showdown. However, inexperience against tier one competition is likely to cost paiN at this event. They should finish among the middle of the group, but are a candidate to take an upset win off anyone.
Bad News Bears (570 RMR Points)
The Bad News Bears sit near the bottom of Group A in terms of points, as the squad have only 570 to their name after a last place finish at cs_summit 8 and multiple roster moves. The team consistently beats local competition such as the Party Astronauts and Triumph, but their form looks uncertain following two rough international events — IEM Cologne and the ESL Pro League — in which they failed to win a single map against European competition.
Days prior to the event, things got worse for the Bears upon Jonathan "Jonji" Carey's announcement that he will be leaving the team following IEM Fall. The Bad News Bears are a strong team, especially when working on North American soil, but the stars are set to misalign for them here. Expect them to finish in the bottom half of the group, unless the team is able to find unexpected form before Jonji's departure.
ATK (0 RMR Points)
IEM Fall marks ATK's first RMR event, having missed out on cs_summit 8. The team sits at 0 points heading in, and it's unlikely that they will gain any more. The team has picked up notable victories against regional competition like Party Astronauts and RBG Esports, but are outclassed at an event of this calibre. In all likelihood, ATK should finish at the bottom of Group A. Despite this, the team earned their way to the event on their own merit, and that alone should be seen as a success for this roster.