The 2018 CS:GO season is drawing to a close and it has served up a wonderful array of exciting battles and intriguing storylines. Astralis cemented its status atop the global power rankings with a remarkably dominant year, but several rivals have shown signs of great potential. The future looks bright for CS:GO as it has just announced a new free to play experiment and a battle royale mode called Danger Zone to keep things fresh. The likes of s1mple, dev1ce, NiKo and FalleN are titans of the game right now, but they will be looking nervously over their shoulders at an exciting new generation coming through, ready to seize the limelight. Here are five prodigious youngsters that could make a big splash in 2019:
Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin
Fnatic is one of the biggest teams on the CS:GO scene, but they have fallen on hard times of late and they have turned to 16-year-old wunderkind Brollan in a bid to improve their fortunes. The teenage Swede burst onto the scene last year and he has already played as a stand-in for Krimz last year as Fnatic won the WESG 2017 European qualifiers. He has now joined the team full-time from Red Reserve to play alongside heavyweights such as Krimz and JW, and there is plenty of pressure on his shoulders. “I know that Ludvig is the final piece of the puzzle,” declared JW, the stalwart of the once-great Fnatic team. “He is extremely talented, he has a hunger that spreads within the team and he is an extremely hard worker. I see the 16-year-old version of myself in him. The motivation within the team has never been higher, and now it’s time to get back to business and show people exactly what we are made of.” Fnatic has a long way to go before it can catch the likes of Astralis and Team Liquid, but with a new roster in place, Fnatic could enjoy improved fortunes in 2019 and it might prove popular with esports bettors at Unikrn that are seeking an intriguing dark horse at the big tournaments.
Mathieu “ZywOo” Herbaut
The 17-year-old French starlet is on course to become one of the world’s greatest CS:GO players after dazzling with moments of individual brilliance this year. He has been hailed as the new kennyS and that is something he will simply have to deal with in his fledgling career. But he shows no signs of being fazed by such comparisons and he could thrive alongside experienced teammates at Team Vitality in 2019. The French team has the potential to do extremely well, and the young sniper could be a crucial component. He should benefit from the tutelage of players like apex, and his neat and clean style of play could see him terrorize some top-tier teams. He has exploded onto the CS:GO scene out of nowhere and his ace against Luminosity at DreamHack Atlanta was a joy to behold. He possesses great speed and fantastic aim, while his decisiveness is strong for one so young.
Jere “Sergej” Salo
Sergej is just 16 years of age, but he is already a crucial component in a pretty strong ENCE team. The Finnish side has been winning tournaments and capped off an impressive year by beating the likes of mousesports and NRG to the $125,000 Starladder Season 6 title in October. Sergej broke a record by becoming the youngest player to ever receive the HLTV MVP award for his heroics at that tournament. Only one player, Rokas “EspiranTo” Milasauskas, had ever won an MVP honor before turning 18 as he was on fire at Dreamhack Summer in June, but Sergej broke the record by a considerable distance. His slaying was solid throughout the final against Vega Squadron and it announced ENCE as a potential force to be reckoned with in 2019 and beyond. Then he went to DreamHack Winter 2018 and once again led his team to a strong victory, walking off with another MVP award as player of the tournament. ENCE’s ability to break into the global elite next year will largely depend on the form of Sergej, who has been inconsistent at times, but his potential is vast and he is a fragging machine.
Tsvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov
The 18-year-old Bulgarian is already very famous thanks to his exploits as a talented sniper for the highly-rated NRG Esports. He has been on fire in recent months, delivering a number of stunning performances to vanquish vaunted opposition. He shone with 23 kills, 13 of them with an AVP, and 100.1 damage per round for a net rating of 1.67 as NRG closed out a 3-1 victory over Optic Gaming at the Grand Finals of the cs_summit 3. A few days later he annihilated MIBR at IEM Chicago as he wound up the top server frag in the series with 25 kills per map. He pulled off some massive plays against North in a thrilling encounter at last month’s ECS Season Six Finals, and then he finished with 33 frags as NRG surged past Kinguin at SuperNova Malta. He has shown a great deal of individual brilliance already and the sky is the limit for CeRq in 2019.
Robin “ropz” Kool
The phenomenally talented 18-year-old was part of the mousesports team that beat NRG to the ESL One New York earlier this year. It was the culmination of a tough journey for ropz, who had to deal with personal tragedy before going pro. Legends of the game, including dv1ce NiKo to Dennis, rate him as one of the greatest players in the world, but his time as a professional has not all been plain sailing. His team has flopped at a number of big tournaments, so the victory at ESL One in Brooklyn was all the more special. Teammate chrisJ took the plaudits for a sensational ace, but ropz was solid throughout and there is clearly more to come from him, so it will be fascinating to see if he delivers on his immense potential next year.