Cloud9 beat FaZe Clan in a grueling best-of-three series Saturday at the ELEAGUE Boston Major to take home the first major victory by a North American team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive history.
As the top organization in North American Counter-Strike for the past four years, Cloud9 had made it past the group stage only once in its history, and that was in 2014. Since then, the team has attended six majors, all of which ended with group-stage exits.
The only significant success North America has had in majors was with Team Liquid, which had a final and a semifinal appearance in 2016. Even then, there remains a significant caveat on these placings for North American fans as the best player on the team was Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, the prodigy from Ukraine.
Despite a couple strong rosters and some decent placings at top tournaments, it seemed like North American teams were never contending for the major titles. Even coming into this ELEAGUE major, Cloud9 was far from the favorite to win it all.
But Cloud9 did just that in front of a bombastic home crowd to win the most celebrated trophy in CS:GO.
This trophy means so much for a region that has historically disappointed, and it means all the more given who Cloud9 beat. Unlike Gambit Esports, which beat only one elite team on its way to the PGL Major Kraków trophy, Cloud9 beat the top four teams in the world. It came back from the brink of elimination to pass through the group stage and eliminated Astralis in doing so. Then, C9 drew the hottest team at the tournament, G2 Esports, in the quarterfinals, and dismantled the favored European squad. In the semifinals, Cloud9 faced the legendary Brazilians of SK Gaming and managed to win 2-1 in convincing fashion.
Those matches, somehow, were the least of Cloud9's worries. In the finals, it faced the best team at the tournament, FaZe Clan. And somehow, the North American underdogs did it again.
The way Cloud9 played was the sign of an evolution in North American Counter-Strike. A far cry from the stereotypical pick-up game playstyle of its region, C9 looked coordinated, confident and, above all, versatile. Force-buys on the second round, clever Counter Terrorist-side setups on Mirage, changing the pace of the Terrorist-side; Cloud9 was not afraid to innovate. Beyond pushing the boundaries, C9 was fundamentally sound and incredibly patient: Its character won the team this major as much as its play style.
Cloud9's ability to be composed and creative on both sides of every map it played earned it the major trophy. That's a sign of the maturity that North American fans complained their teams lacked: C9 is all grown up, and its victory pulled at the heartstrings of every Counter-Strike fan watching.
As Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham said in the postmatch interview, "I'm not crying. You're crying."