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our story

From a backyard to the biggest stages all over the world! This is the story of ESL. For about 20 years now, ESL has not only attended competitive Online Gaming from the scratch, but has also essentially shaped its structures & raised it to the next level. Since 2014, ESL has not only filled halls with its events, but the biggest stadiums all over the world. Since 2015, this includes the LANXESS Arena in Cologne, the Cathedral of Counter-Strike, which welcomes more than 14,000+ fans from more than 60 countries every year and has developed into one of the world's largest and most important esports hotspots.

With the introduction of ESL Pro Tour, a fully networked competition system, ESL will launch the next chapter of esport in 2019 and take the entire industry to the next level. Our philosophy is from Zero to Hero! Everyone in the world has the chance to qualify for one of our events through a Challenger System. Our mission is to create a world where everybody can be somebody, the fans & the players. Our motivation is to create unforgettable and electrifying esports moments for everyone!

ready for some feels?

check out our recaps from the last 6 years!

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Marking the 6th flagship event of ESL One Cologne, critics gleamed at the world’s No. 1 squad Team Liquid to continue their brutalistic streak of earning the title of ESL One Cologne and earn the golden spoils of the Intel® Grand Slam [Season 2]. The frenetic array of France, Team Vitality failed to nullify the nuances of Team Liquid going down 1:3 in an albeit valiant effort during the Grand Finals. Continuing to impress the world with their prowess, the American & Canadian mix cemented their era at the Cathedral of Counter-Strike on German soil levitating the LANXESS arena into limbo.


In 2018, we delivered an esports spectacle for the ages. While all eyes were on Astralis and FaZe Clan coming into the tournament, it was German underdogs BIG Clan and Natus Vincere who stole the show. Both of them had to fight their way into the playoffs from the lower bracket only to face the big favorites in the semi-finals. With the whole crowd behind their back, BIG delivered one of the biggest upsets of the year downing FaZe, while Na’Vi defied the odds winning against Astralis. The Lanxess Arena shook for the Grand Final, but the Ukrainian organization managed to take the title in convincing fashion despite their rivals enjoying a vocal home field advantage.

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The fourth rendition of ESL One Cologne in 2017 was the biggest one yet. An unbelievable 15.000 fans came to watch their favorites play, and with all the world’s best teams in attendance, the only question was: can the Lanxess Arena take the heat? SK Gaming, FaZe Clan and G2 esports entered the tournament as the favorites. The French side had to bid goodbye after a loss to Na’Vi in the quarters. SK and FaZe had a rendezvous in the semis, and once again, karrigan had to yield to FalleN, a match-up the Danish mastermind just cannot win. But the tournament wasn’t over yet. SK still had to face their North American rivals from Cloud9. A quick 3-0 for the Brazilians sealed the deal, and SK are our first two-time ESL One Cologne champs. And the Lanxess still stands – let’s test her again in 2018!


By the time ESL One Cologne 2016 rolled around, SK Gaming were already ranked the number one team in the world. After their victory at the MLG Columbus Major four months earlier, FalleN, fer, coldzera, TACO and fnx had the opportunity to become the second team with back-to-back major titles - and right from the get-go their hunger to succeed was palpable. SK secured their spot in the playoffs with easy wins against G2 and FaZe. Flipsid3 in the quarters and Virtus.Pro in the semis proved no match for the bloodthirsty Brazilians either. It all came down to the first all-NA major final in CS:GO, SK vs. Team Liquid and it wasn’t even close. 14.000 gathered in the Lanxess Arena to watch SK wipe the floor with Liquid on both maps. Back-to-back Major champs achievement unlocked!
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Losing to the Ninjas in Pyjamas one year earlier sparked a fire within Fnatic’s five, because when olofmeister, pronax, flusha, JW and KRiMZ came to ESL One Cologne 2015, they were the undisputed rulers of the CS:GO universe - and they ruled with a vengeance. Having already won the year’s first major in Katowice, pronax and his boys came to Cologne as the clear-cut favorites. Who could stop them? All hope rested with Team EnVyUs. kennyS & Co. were the only ones who, at times, made Fnatic look mortal. Both sides fought their way through the bracket with ease. EnVy dispatched of Na’Vi and TSM, while Fnatic took care of Luminosity and Virtus.Pro to set us up with the dream final. 12.000 fans in the Lanxess Arena, and over a million on stream watched live as the two giants clashed. But in the end, Fnatic proved too strong. Back-to-back major champions, three major titles in total – Fnatic left their mark in CS:GO history with their victory at ESL One Cologne 2015.


After having dominated the first two years of CS:GO, the Ninjas in Pyjamas’ air of invincibility slowly started to fade. Even before ESL One Cologne 2014 started, a sense of urgency seemed to surround the five Swedish legends. A major title, which had already eluded them twice before by a whisker, was needed to cement their legacy as CS:GO’s greatest. But, other teams were catching up to the Swedish giants and, unlike the previous two majors, NiP weren’t the favorites coming into the tournament. Maybe that’s what freed them, what allowed them to summon their long-lost, infamous NiP magic, because those four days in July of 2014 were exactly that – magical. The Ninjas played two extremely tight BO3s against Cloud9 and Team LDLC to reach the finals, where they faced Fnatic, the team they already succumbed to in their first major final. But not this time. This time, f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, Fifflaren, friberg and Xizt came out ahead in another breath-taking series. 
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