An important stepping stone in the Major cycle, the four Minor Championships, begins on July 7, so we have prepared a little overview of the four events which will see eight teams make it to the New Challengers Stage.
For the first time, all four Minor Championships will take place at the same location, at the Twickenham stadium in London, as FACEIT wanted to ensure all teams taking part in the New Challengers Stage would have their visas obtained well in advance so that no issues occur last-minute.
The Minors will run over the course of the next two weeks and all of them feature the same format, starting with two GSL groups, in which the upper bracket will be played in best-of-ones and the lower bracket in best-of-three series.
The top two sides from each group will advance to a double-elimination, best-of-three playoffs bracket, with the two teams who reach the grand final securing berths in the FACEIT Major's New Challengers Stage, taking place in September.
Here is a rundown of the four Minors:
On Saturday, the two-week marathon will begin with the Americas Minor, for which six teams qualified via the North American closed qualifier, while Não Tem Como and FURIA topped the South American open qualifiers.
Ranked No. 7 in the world at the moment, NRG is the obvious favorite of the tournament as the only top-30 side in attendance. The first Minor seems destined to go the way of Damian "daps" Steele & co., who have been on the rise with deep finishes at StarSeries i-League Season 5 and ECS Season 5 Finals.
But when we look further, the competition is tough as no one stands out. You could make a case for Não Tem Como as the most experienced roster, but even their results haven't been encouraging enough to call them the second favorite. Expect a tough battle for the second spot, as you shouldn't sleep on the likes of FURIA, compLexity and Rogue, who also have a fair shot at a successful run through the Minor.
The CIS Minor will kick off halfway through its Americas counterpart, on Tuesday. Much like in Europe, a two-stage qualifier determined all eight teams. Mostly the invited sides made it through, with the exception of PLINK and Monolith — who had to make a run through the open stage as well as the closed —, while Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy's FlipSid3 exited the closed qualifier in 12th-14th place.
However, the second Minor of the four may end up one team short, as Nemiga were unable to secure visas for the United Kingdom and, at the moment, it seems unlikely FACEIT will be able to find a replacement given the time that is needed to obtain visas.
The favorites of the CIS Minor are without a doubt HellRaisers and AVANGAR, by far the most prominent and experienced teams of the tournament, but they will have a few hurdles to overcome in the form of teams like Spirit, who are currently ranked 30th in the world.
Look out for our preview of the second Minor Championship written by Collin "CarbonDogma" Davis, as well as our viewer's guide, both of which we'll release in the coming days.
After a two-day break, the Asia Minor will take over the venue at the Twickenham stadium. Six of its teams came from qualifiers all around the Asia-Pacific region, with two slots reserved for Southeast Asia, and one for each of China, East Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania.
Unlike the rest of the Minors, two teams received direct invites to Asia's $50,000 event, Renegades and TYLOO, the two sides that have made it through to the next stage for the last four Major cycles; or all five with the current qualifying system in place in the former team's case.
The long-time rivals will be looking to repeat the same grand-final matchup for the fifth time as the clear favorites of the event, but they will have to fend off some serious competition in the form of VG.Flash and Tainted Minds, who could pose a threat in London.
You can look forward to a viewer's guide and an in-depth preview of the Asia Minor as well, which will be written by Luís "MIRAA" Mira.
The second qualifying stage of the current Major cycle will finish off in style, with the Europe Minor, which will begin towards the end of the Asia Minor.
All eight teams arrived at this stage by making it through the Swiss closed qualifier, in which notable teams such as AGO and Heroic failed to reach three wins, while 3DMAX and Sprout surprised with a 3-2 record.
As a Minor that features as many top-30 teams as all the other three combined (six) and many more players who have attended Majors in the past, the battle for two spots in the New Challengers Stage will be tough. A bet on OpTic and NiP would probably be the most sound, but with dangerous opponents such as ENCE and LeftOut against them, no one is safe.
If you'd like to know more about the last Minor Championship, keep an eye out for a detailed preview by yours truly, Milan "Striker" Švejda, as well as the viewer's guide where you'll find all the information you need to watch the event.