To the surprise of many, and likely motivated due to several teams becoming ineligible due to roster moves, Valve announced that only six teams will receive direct invites to their annual DOTA 2 International LAN tournament, which contains the largest prize pool of the year. In an announcement that occurred just minutes after the ESL One Frankfurt Grand Finals were played to completion, Valve announced on DOTA2.com that the following teams will head directly to Seattle for the tournament:
– OG (Europe)
– Team Liquid (Europe)
– LGD Gaming (China)
– MVP Phoenix (SouthEast Asia)
– Newbee (China)
– Natus Vincere (Europe)
Eight more teams will earn their spot to the International through Regional Qualifiers, with the top two from each region (Europe, China, SEA, Americas) earning a spot. The third place team from each region will also fly to Seattle for a wild-card playoff, which will see the final two teams determined, making a final field of 16 squads.
Due to Valve’s poorly-planned attempt to stabilize rosters by enacting a “lock” prior to the Manila Major, which was supposed to run through The International, more than a few top teams made themselves ineligible both for direct invites and the Regionals by changing out players on their team during the lock period. This includes defending International 5 champions Evil Geniuses, Shanghai Major champions Team Secret, Chinese powerhouses Vici Gaming, and several highly-ranked European teams. They will be forced to qualify for the Regionals through the Open Qualifiers, two massive 1024-team, Best of One tournaments per region, where only the winner earns a spot.
In additional controversy, due to the massively unstable American scene, which saw many established teams, in addition to Evil Geniuses, alter their rosters during the lock period , only six teams (instead of the usual eight) were even vaguely eligible for the Regional Qualifiers (which included two teams which were only recently formed and have played very few official matches), with no American teams receiving a direct invite. Despite the smaller number of qualifiers when compared to the other regions, they will still receive two spots at The International and a wild-card slot (which are fully expected to be won by some combination of Evil Geniuses, CompLexity Gaming, and Digital Chaos, who are by far the strongest teams in the Americas), something that has fans in other, more competitive regions, slightly up in arms.
Due to the quick turn-around between Manila and The International, the Open Qualifiers begin June 21st, and the Regionals on June 25th, giving some teams very little time to prepare. The International itself will take place from August 3rd-13th in Seattle, Washington. At last report, the partially crowd-funded prize pool for the event currently sits at over $12 million, and is expected to break last year’s record for an eSports tournament prize pool of over $18 million.