With the extinction of top tear academy teams, is FPL the only way forward?
Numerous young talents have broken into the top tier of CS:GO in the last two years. Some performed domestically in teams from a tender age, others played from home and internet cafes before reaching the top leagues while a small handful rose up from academy teams.
While the traditional approach continues to do wonders for young talent, the topic of academy teams and the FACEIT Pro League are equally relevant to the discussion.
Fnatic, Team Envy and North had academy teams but only a handful of players ever made the climb from there into the main team.
North Academy produced two notable players that were given their shot at the top. The first of these players was Daniel “mertz” Mertz. A promising young AWPer, mertz appeared to be unable to fit the North system nor contend with the world's best during his six month stint.
On the other hand, Nicklas “gade” Gade took to the higher level of play much more naturally. After first playing with Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke and Rene “cajunb” Borg on OpTic Gaming, he joins the latter now on the main roster for North. Despite the rocky year for the Danish scene below Astralis, North finish the year with a victory at DreamHack Open Sevilla.
An often overlooked academy was that of EnVyUs.
While the project lasted only a year, it also saw two players of note within its ranks.
Ali "hAdji" Haïnouss was promoted to the main roster, replacing SIXER and joining Happy, ScreaM, RpK and kioshima.
While nV went on to release their CS:GO teams three months later, hAdji’s stock among the community had risen significantly and enabled him to join numerous EU projects.
Audric "JaCkz" Jug's top tier debut took a little longer. A solid performance while on 3DMAX at the FACEIT Major 2018 in London clearly left an impression on stand-in coach Damien "maLeK" Marcel. Following the removal of veteran players from G2’s ranks, it was JaCkz, at the age of 27, alongside teammate Lucas "Lucky" Chastang that got the call.
When Fnatic wanted new talent, more specifically an in-game leader, Maikil "Golden" Selim was the perfect candidate. No contract negotiation, known to the organisation, capable of leading a team.
Golden rejoined Fnatic after an initial outing saw a supposed personality clash leading to his removal despite success at back-to-back events, WESG 2017 and IEM Katowice 2018.
Fans are often keen to see young talent that has proved itself in FPL do the same on an actual roster, with a fake FaZe academy ‘leak’ generating interest before the debuts of players such as Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut and Jere “sergej” Salo.
The Traditional Way
While mentioned in the above fake leak, Ludvig "Brollan" Brolin is a good example of a young talent playing well and naturally progressing in the scene. Having been on the competitive radar since he was 15 and signed by GODSENT. He was signed by Fnatic in October 2018 and was not the only Swedish talent finally able to play on one of the big lineups. Nicolas "Plopski" Gonzalez Zamora was picked up by NiP earlier this year after impressing on x6tence Galaxy and Team Ancient.
David "frozen" Čerňanský has been another name thrown around as a potential breakout star and this year he joined mousesports alongside a young player that had a very different route into professional play.
New players don't always have such a winding path to the top.
While those with promise are more than able to hold their own against professional players in FPL, some players with little to no experience come along that stun the scene with their abilities.
The FPL system saw Robin "ropz" Kool rise as the first young star to make the direct jump from amateur to professional, with mousesports signing the Estonian in 2017.
ZywOo is the other notable example. Not just a talent but a player who was able surpassed Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev in 2019 for his astounding debut year in Counter-Strike's top tier.
The French prodigy did play on semi-professional teams including the storied against All authority, but chose to finish getting his BAC before pursuing a career in CS:GO.
There is no single way to become a professional player in CS:GO. Playing in an amateur team could lead to nothing, school or military service can put the breaks on a career before it peaks and grinding FACEIT might not see a player through to FPL-C, let alone the top league.
This also has its advantages, allowing players in school to still consider one day making it to a Major or onto the team they look up to alongside players they admire, even if their own path looks different to veteran players and fellow newcomers alike.
Main image via ESL