New franchised Counter-Strike league B Site signs six teams, to debut in March in Los Angeles

Cloud9 is among the teams set to compete in Counter-Strike's Los Angeles-based B Site league. Provided by DreamHack

B Site, a new franchised Counter-Strike: Global Offensive league that will begin in Los Angeles in March, has signed six North American-owned teams as its initial franchise partners, sources told ESPN on Sunday.

The league will include Cloud9, Gen.G, Dignitas, MiBR, MAD Lions and CR4ZY. None of these teams will compete in the ESL Pro League, which will have a schedule overlap with B Site. No teams that will participate in the ESL Pro League are expected to enter B Site for its inaugural season. In a blog post about the ESL Pro League restructuring, ESL said that it had invited Cloud9 and MiBR, who had both previously participated in the ESL Pro League, but both either declined or did not respond to the invitation.

Each B Site team will pay a $2 million franchise fee, according to a report from gaming news site DBLTAP, in return for partial ownership in the league and entitlement to revenue sharing. Players also will receive a revenue share cut.

The league will run an online play-in and invite additional partner teams, with the intent of reaching anywhere from 10 to 12 teams, sources said. Regular-season matches will take place in Los Angeles at a to-be-determined venue.

While many of the invited teams include players from Europe and Brazil, each team is now owned by North American organizations, with several entering Counter-Strike for the first time. DBLTAP first reported Cloud9, Gen.G, Dignitas and MAD Lions on Jan. 17.

Gen.G entered Counter-Strike in December by acquiring three players from Cloud9 and filling out their roster with two other players. MAD Lions, which was acquired by Toronto Defiant and Toronto Ultra owners OverActive Media in May, picked up the Tricked Esport roster in December too. On Jan. 20, Paris Eternal and Paris Legion owners c0ntact Gaming -- the esports organization founded by former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt's son, Drew -- acquired the CR4ZY roster. Cloud9, Gen.G, OverActive Media, c0ntact and MiBR parent company Immortals Gaming Club all own teams in the Overwatch League.

"We see B Site as one of the most foundational developments in esports today," OverActive Media Corp. co-founder and chief strategy officer Adam Adamou told ESPN. "OverActive Media sees this initiative as too important to the future of CS:GO esports not to step in and support it with all of the resources that we can bring to bear."

B Site will compete with the ESL Pro League, which made headlines in the past week after releasing a graphic on social media that listed 24 teams, including Astralis, Team Liquid, Fnatic, G2 Esports and others. The 24 prospective teams were invited to attend an ESL meeting and more than half did during a three-day summit in Paris last week.

Following the release of that graphic, DBLTAP reported that no team had signed agreements to participate in the ESL Pro League at the time the graphic was released but agreed to nonbinding letters of intent. Certain teams who had qualified or participated in the ESL Pro League in Season 10 were not invited to participate in the franchised structure but instead could compete in the Mountain Dew League, which is also run by ESL. Counter-Strike analyst and esports journalist Duncan "Thorin" Shields, who is helping organize the format for B Site, condemned ESL's actions on social media.

B Site will be operated by FACEIT, the tournament organizing company that ran the soon-to-be-defunct Esports Championship Series.

FACEIT teased a talent lineup for a new Counter-Strike league, later clarified by sources as B Site, on social media on Wednesday. That list included Thorin, Anders "Anders" Blume, Jason "Moses" O'Toole among others as well as the return of Auguste "Semmler" Massonnat to Counter-Strike and the addition of Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles. Throughout December and January, Semmler and MonteCristo announced their departures from the Overwatch League, after doing commentary for OWL for the past two years.

The impending launch of B Site and the restructured ESL Pro League comes just over three years after ESL found itself at odds with many of the teams participating in B Site.

At the time, several North American teams -- Cloud9, Immortals, Liquid, NRG Esports, Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming and Complexity Gaming -- formed the Professional Esports Association (PEA), as they desired to create their own Counter-Strike league and withdraw their teams from the ESL Pro League. Those teams vowed to continue to compete in the Esports Championship Series at the time.

The intent of that decision led to massive backlash between the PEA and the players competing on its member teams, who desired to continue to compete in the ESL Pro League where some of the best teams in the world competed. After significant reputational damage, the PEA said it would forego its Counter-Strike plans and its teams would remain in the ESL Pro League. The tension between the PEA teams and their players later led to the formation of the Counter-Strike Professional Players' Association.

Notably absent from B Site are Liquid and Complexity, both who co-founded the PEA but will participate in the ESL Pro League instead. Both Complexity and Liquid attended the summit with ESL in Paris. Liquid is now considered one of the best Counter-Strike teams in the world.

The business development for B Site was spearheaded by Cloud9 president Dan Fiden and Immortals Gaming Club and MiBR CEO Ari Segal, sources said. Prior to working at Cloud9 and Immortals, Fiden worked in investments in the San Francisco Bay Area and Segal served as a team executive for the NHL's Arizona Coyotes.