Original work published in Swedish at Fragbite.se by Per "Xerm" Sjölin. Translation for Fragbite.com by Sam Nordmark. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of Fragbite.
The Polish team, which in many ways are one of the most unique rosters in all of esports, is yet to reap any major success in any of the past seasons of ESL Pro League. Unless one counts their loss against Fnatic in the very first season's grand finals. Virtus.pro have, in fact, never reached the playoffs in any of the other iterations of the league. The team's worst performance came in the league's third season, where the Poles finished in last place.
Due to a string of unique circumstances, as well as ESL definitely seeing the worth in retaining Virtus.pro in the main league, the Poles kept their spot after an impromptu wildcard qualifier. The question now is whether or not history will repeat itself.
Team Kinguin, who are Poland's second-highest rated squad, placed dead last in the ongoing season of ESL Pro League, meaning the squad was immediately relegated. The Swedish GODSENT roster subsequently received Kinguin's slot, as the Swedes won the corresponding ESEA Premier league. HellRaisers and Virtus.pro ended the season in 12th, and 13th place respectively, meaning the teams would have to requalify for the league. Aside from the two aforementioned teams, Penta Sports and BIG would also be fighting in the qualifier, due to their performances in ESEA Premier.
Final standings — EPL Europe S5
For the Poles, the qualifier ended up being an incredible disappointment. For the second time in three seasons, they have been eliminated, and all signs seem to point towards the team actually having to work their way through ESEA Premier in order to return. The only probable scenario would, in that case, once again be an intervention from ESL. A "likely" outcome in that sense would perhaps see ESL expand the league from its current 15 teams to 16, which could potentially see Virtus.pro be invited to yet another wildcard competition. How likely is this, you ask?
I'll go out on a limb and say that this is highly unlikely. Teams should, at this point, be fully informed of how the next season of the league is structured, and the number of teams slated to compete in the tournament. ESL does, naturally, have the full right to adjust the tournament as they see fit, but matters such as these are often highly sensitive. At the same time, however, you can never be quite sure with ESL. The tournament organizer has never been shy of making decisions based off of potential economic gain, although they are often veiled as moves aimed at improving competitive integrity, or development of their league.
Whatever the case, Virtus.pro have a lot to answer for. Why do online leagues appear to be their kryptonite? The team hasn't looked convincing in the ongoing season of the Esports Championship Series, either. The team's LAN performances throughout 2017 have been a lot more convincing, so could the team potentially have decided to only focus on offline events? Only time will tell.