How Do CS:GO Tournaments Work?

Counter-Strike is one of the most popular Esports games in the world. For over 20 years, it has been a staple game and set the benchmark for all other competitive shooters. Due to its year-round events, it provides some of the most lucrative prospects in Esports.

While other games consider an organized LAN tournament a significant achievement, CS:GO gathers the world’s Esports grandmasters around it every month. Millions of dollars and even pure gold are used as CS:GO tournament prizes.

Types of CS:GO Tournaments

Tournaments in CS:GO are organized in different formats. Most of them are related, although a few are independent of the main event bracket.

Intel Extreme Masters


IEM is the world’s longest-running professional gaming series, celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2022. It predates Counter-Strike 1.6 and even Global Offensive. ESL, a leading Esports firm, has recently established itself in Europe and is looking to expand into North America and other regions to create global competition. Today, IEM is regarded as the most prominent CS:GO tournament series.

IEM pioneered the idea of ​​organizing large qualifying events before the final championship. Auditions are held in major cities around the world, including Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania. Some of these have prize funds of over $100,000. Although the number of events in new regions such as the CIS and South America has increased in the last two seasons, the number of qualifiers is changing. Every year at the beginning of spring, the World Championship is held in Katowice, Poland. Three of the previous four World Championships had prize money of $1 million or more.

Many teams have been crowned IEM World Champions, but only a few have become famous members of the circuit’s history. Fnatic and Natus Vincere have three World Championship trophies each, including back-to-back titles for Na’Vi in 2010 and 2011. Astralis, two world champions, is the only team to do so. FaZe Clan won IEM XVI Katowice over a month ago.

Bicycle tournaments

These are regular CS:GO events that do not occur as part of the Minor and Major competitions. This is a BLAST Pro Series event, for example. These events take place offline in Esports arenas in front of thousands of people.

Such events can have different structures, but the most common is a double elimination system with BO1 and BO3 match formats. In terms of spectacle, these tournaments are the best.

Organizers usually send direct invitations to top teams. Remaining open and closed qualification seats are filled through online auditions.

ESL Pro League


ESL organizes the IEM tournament circuit. The ESL Pro League functions more like a traditional sporting event. Since 2021, all teams have been united from start to finish. Teams without regular members are recruited through qualifying events or the ESL world rankings.

The Big Tournament


Winning the CSGO Major is the dream of every professional player and the goal of every Esports organization. Majors have fixed dates and their prize pools are significantly larger than other tournaments. Teams can enter the Major by direct invitation or through the minors.

Big events give the most incredible rating points and teams are recognized for their participation. In addition, such tournaments also attract casual players, as souvenir chests drop during the Major.

Small CS:GO Tournaments


These tournaments provide access to major Esports competitions for non-top ten teams from around the world. The smaller tournaments don’t have large prize pools, but they do offer the opportunity to compete in the Grand with a $1 million prize pool. Each region has its own Minor, and the best teams compete in the main event of the year, the Major.

PGL Major

Founded in 2002, PGL has grown from a small esports firm into an industry behemoth. They were famous for hosting Junior Championships and partnering with HTC for 1v1 and 2v2 tournaments. PGL Major Krakow was a big step forward for PGL in 2017. Valve officially sponsored the tournament, which had a prize pool of $1 million, far surpassing any other tournament it has hosted. The next PGL Majors will continue to be sponsored by Valve, as will the CS:GO Major Championship tournaments.

Fortunately for fans, the PGL Majors no longer follow a four-year cycle. PGL Major Antwerp 2022 will feature four Regional Major Ranking tournaments before the main event.

The PGL Majors use a unique tournament format. Before reaching the playoffs, teams must compete in two Swiss group stages. In Swiss form, winning three matches is essential to progress, while three defeats eliminate teams. Only eight of the 24 teams qualify for the playoffs. Teams are selected based on the Regional Main Ranking, which combines the results of all major CS:GO tournament series.

Match Types in CS:GO Tournaments


Another thing to look out for is the match format, which you can check out on websites like Rivalry, especially if you want to bet on CS:GO tournaments. There are 3 main match types in CS:GO; BO1, BO3 and BO5.


This CSGO match format is the most “casual” format. Teams ban them before playing the last unbanned map. Regular tournaments, qualifiers, and the BLAST Pro Series use this format.


It is the most commonly used tournament format. Teams compete until they get two wins, and they can ban and pick any maps they want one by one. This format is used for all main events and playoff brackets.


This three-win scenario is rare. Teams do not play in a group stage and some tournament finals use a BO5 format. They are the most time consuming matches. It can last anywhere from 3 to 7 or even 8 hours.