‘Chiu on This’ is a short and regular opinion blast
Functionally speaking, ESL Pro League must be an online league. The reason for that is because it costs less, gets the ESL the most hours and thus gets them the money, in turn, to put on bigger LAN events. Teams, players and casters benefit from this format for the same reason. There are obvious downsides for everyone, but at this point we can safely say online leagues are here to stay for a while.
Because that is the case, I’ll now propose an alternate solution. I don’t know if it’s viable because the nuts and bolts of the contracts may require something like, “We need to see Astralis in X amount of games per season.” But My alternative is to use the TeamLiquid StarLeague online qualifiers portion to replace the online league. What this essentially does is splits the round robin format into around six online tournaments (three in NA, three in EU), which is how it’s done in StarCraft 2.
It runs like a normal online qualifier where the winner gets the seed into the LAN. What it does differently is that a player gets points for finishing in second, third, fourth, etc. So half the qualified players won the online bracket, and the other half of players qualify by accruing the most points.
That is the system I propose for ESL Pro League. Make it three online tournaments for the NA and EU. The winners of each online tournament can get a direct seed at the LAN. Then the three teams that do the best online consistently will get the remaining three seeds.
If it is the case that you need to see a certain amount of games of a team in every online season, then there are two ways you can get this done. First, you can remove the winner from auto qualifying. Instead, they get a larger portion of points. Second, you can change the format of the three different online leagues to get the requisite amount of games needed. As I don’t know the requirements, I can’t say which kind of format would work.
Although this doesn’t fix the fact that online play will never be as good as LAN play, it gives the format more flexibility. Viewer fatigue will be less because of the different formats. The race aspect of the round robin format will be there, but it will be built faster because of the tournament aspect. Finally, it could be easier to schedule around depending on how it’s done, I think? Like I said, it’s difficult to create this system without knowing the full requirements. But it’s worth looking into.