Top esports teams. Image: WePlay Holding

Top esports teams: Which are the most renowed teams in the world?

Aug. 2, 2021
Education 18 min read

In esports, the same organization can be prominent in many disciplines.

Esports organizations are not just becoming huge: they already ARE giants. Taking cue from the growth of the gaming industry, many of the teams decided to venture into different disciplines, becoming powerhouses in several games at once; teams such as Team Liquid (the highest prize money winner in the gaming world), Evil Geniuses, and Invictus Gaming are among the biggest organizations. Whether in single-player games or team-based esports, those teams are creating — and changing — the ways of competitive gaming!

In order to give you a better understanding, we will separate teams by four major disciplines: Dota 2, Fortnite, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Many of those teams are popular and relevant in different games such as Rocket League, Super Smash Bros., and other disciplines. We will mention organizations that achieved huge success across tournaments and have collected hefty prize pools. Also, our methodology will be to count only the total prize money collected by the teams, seeking to have an objective criterion to choose the biggest organizations in each discipline.

Dota 2

When talking about prize money, there’s no competing against this Valve Corporation giant. Dota 2 is the game with the highest prize pools by far, offering its biggest at 2019 The International, won by OG Gaming. The team took home, at this tournament alone, more than $15 million. Such impressive numbers make Johan “N0tail” Sundstein’s squad in 2019s one of the most important esports teams in history — even if we do not consider all the other tournaments! But there is. So. Much. Competition.

OG

As previously mentioned, OG won the biggest esports tournament ever made. Half of the team’s total earnings come from 2019’s The International. However, there’s much more to OG than just that. According to Esports Earnings, the organization has already earned more than $33 million in prize pools, after 70 tournaments played. OG has also competed in titles such as Valorant, CS:GO, and Super Smash Bros., but 98% of the team’s total income comes from Dota 2, where they figure as the top prize money winners of all time so far.

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Team Liquid

Team Liquid is the most successful esports team in the world (if we consider overall prize money earnings, according to Esports Earnings). In Dota 2, the juggernaut organization figures as the second-highest prize winner of all time (over $22 million in 97 tournaments played), and Valve’s game is responsible for 63% of the team’s total earnings. The Dota 2 team was home to many famous players, such as the Bulgarian Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov and the German Kuro “KuroKy” Takhasomi. Team Liquid is also very relevant in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Starcraft II, and, more recently, the North American League of Legends competition called the LCS.

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Evil Geniuses

In every corner you look at, Evil Geniuses have a representative. Born in Canada and currently based in San Francisco, California, the North American organization has players competing in 19 different games, from The Witcher's Card Game GWENT to League of Legends. It’s in Dota 2, however, that most of the prize money was awarded to them. Evil Geniuses figures as the third most successful Dota 2 team in history, collecting more than $20 million as prize money. Their most notable result was winning 2015’s The International, with over $6 million in monetary awards. However, they finish in high places regularly in Dota 2 majors, and they already competed in 116 different tournaments.

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Newbee

Our fourth place is the Chinese organization Newbee, winner of the 2014’s The International. Newbee’s main focus is Dota 2, but they also have players in Hearthstone, Fortnite, and Starcraft II. The team emerged as a super machine in the year 2014, with Zhang “xiao8” Ning as their captain; after winning that year’s tournaments, Newbee stayed firmly in the scene as a strong and influential team. The team has earned over $13 million, having disputed 98 different official Dota 2 tournaments.

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Team Secret

Right now, Team Secret is the real deal in Dota 2. After winning the 2020’s Team of the Year award, they have established dominance and are reaping the rewards of such a position. Team Secret started as an ideology: after Na’Vi and Fnatic not performing well in the 2014’s The International, already mentioned players N0tail and KuroKy decided to start their own organization. The European team is the 5th biggest team in terms of prize money in Dota 2, winning several tournaments in 2020, but their highest money award came from 4th place in 2019’s The International. Team Secret also grabbed second place in the WePlay! Dota 2 Tug of War, being defeated in the tournament finals by Nigma. As a curiosity, one of Team Secret’s founders played for Nigma during that finals: KuroKy. Life is a circle!

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League of Legends

Riot Games’ League of Legends is the most-watched PC game in the world since 2012. Their World Championship audience metrics are astonishing, and while the tournament prize pools aren’t as huge as in Dota 2, they are still impressive. LoL has had so many emblematic teams that it’s hard to create a list without being biased towards some remarkable squads (such as 2012’s Moscow Five). But as we are trying to be objective here, the top 5 will feature the most successful LoL esports teams money-wise, except for Samsung, since the team does not exist anymore — the roster has been inactive for over four years. And yes, we will have some special guests on the list — it’s impossible to talk about LoL and not mention G2 Esports. Cloud 9 and Team SoloMid are also worth talking about.

T1

Formerly known as SK Telecom T1 and now called T1, it was home to Faker, arguably the best League of Legends player of all time, for several years. The pro player has partially acquired the team, and despite T1 not being at their prime right now, the Korean League of Legends organization is still very relevant, moving multitudes around the world. SKT T1 is one of the most famous esports teams due to how dominant they were for too many years. The team still stands strong as the most successful team in LoL, earning more than $7 million dollars in 49 different tournaments, and their competitors are not even remotely close to that figure. T1 has a serious history of success in Starcraft II as well.

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Invictus Gaming

The Chinese organization Invictus Gaming is another powerhouse. With almost $5 million earned in Dota 2 and over $4 million earned in League of Legends, Invictus is one of the most successful esports teams in multiple disciplines. However, after being home to the Korean superstar Song “Rookie” Eu Jin and winning the 2018 World Championship, Invictus figures as the second-highest prize winners in LoL. The team always ranks well in the Chinese LoL league — LPL — and is active in the game since its release in 2011.

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Royal Never Give Up

Another Chinese organization, Royal Never Give Up, shocked the world by winning every single LoL esports tournament they disputed in 2018, except for the World Championship. The team, however, had only 26 tournaments in the League of Legends world under their belt at the time, and the roster has undergone many changes since 2019. Nevertheless, the team figures as the third-highest prize winner with over $3 million collected in different championships, starting to become more popular in the 2016 season. The team’s earnings beat famous squads such as Team SoloMid and Fnatic.

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Fnatic

Fnatic is one of the most popular LoL teams, but its total earnings are divided between the three biggest esports disciplines: CS:GO (28.56%), Dota 2 (25.88%), and League of Legends (17.48%). With the Asian dominance of LoL tournaments, which peaked during Faker’s era, the European Fnatic struggled to have excellent results outside the European League (LEC). However, everything changed in Worlds 2018: the team managed to beat the favorites and reach the championship finals (they were beaten by Invictus Gaming). Nevertheless, the organization still poses a major threat in the global League of Legends scenario, collecting almost $3 million as tournament rewards and being remembered for their exciting games over 73 tournaments. Fnatic is one of the first organizations to become a professional team in League of Legends.

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G2 Esports

The Europeans G2 Esports started as a meteor. Owned by the former professional star Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez, G2 is relevant in the League of Legends, CS:GO, Hearthstone, VALORANT, and Rainbow Six Siege competitive scenes. The esports team won tournament after tournament in the European esports universe, and its best result is a second place in the 2019 World Championship — they lost the finals to the Chinese FunPlus Phoenix. Even with the defeat, G2 is still considered a major favorite at esports tournaments, being a serious contender for the Team of the Year award in 2020. G2 was founded as “Gamers2” and its logo is one of the first images that comes to mind when you think about top esports teams in 2021.

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Team SoloMid

Team SoloMid may not hold one of the top spots in terms of prize pool earnings, being only the tenth with $1.6 million collected, but they have such an influential past in the League of Legends world that it’s hard to not mention them. The North America-based org is one of the most relevant esports teams in the world, being active since 2011, and was one of the key reasons that League of Legends is so watched in the world. Legendary teams featuring Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Peter “Doublelift” Peng comes to mind when thinking about TSM, who have an impact in games such as Fortnite (where the team’s major income comes from being the fourth most awarded team), Apex Legends, Chess, as they signed Hikaru Nakamura, a chess super grand-master, and many other disciplines.

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Cloud9

Asia, and more recently, Europe, are the two major threats in the League of Legends scene. Being considered North America’s biggest hope for years after ranking high in the LCS regularly, Cloud9 is one of the biggest esports organizations in the world, with significant pro participation in a lot of different games such as Rocket League, Call of Duty, and many others. In League of Legends, the team holds the eighth spot by prize money awards, with slightly over $1.6 million already collected. The team’s most notable player was Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, who played as ad-carry for the team prior to his retirement and is very well-known not only for his in-game skills but his cosplaying activities as well.

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Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

When we talk about the biggest disciplines in esports, the first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive occupies the second spot in terms of prize pool size, behind Dota 2 only. However, CS:GO has the highest number of pro players among the top 5 games and has spicy organizations all around the world. As we already mentioned powerhouses such as Team Liquid and Fnatic (second and third highest prize winners), we will focus on esports teams that didn’t appear on the list yet.

Astralis

For a long time, Astralis was the “dream team” in CS:GO. The Danish organization collected almost $9 million in prize money playing only Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and recently started venturing into other esports. They are still one of the most awarded teams across all the disciplines, such was their dominance in CS:GO. Featuring galactic pro players such as Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, the organization had its most successful year in 2019, when they won nine of the 22 major tournaments they engaged, including the StarLadder Berlin Major, taking home $500.000 in prize money.

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Natus Vincere (Na’Vi)

The Ukrainian organization has noteworthy results in Dota 2 as well, and the MOBA earnings are still higher if we compare monetary awards alone, but it’s in CS:GO that they became an unstoppable powerhouse. The game’s arguably best player of all time, Alexander “s1mple” Kostylyov, is responsible for a large part of the team’s success over 165 tournaments. They’ve won our WePlay! Clutch Island in 2019, and in 2021, Na’Vi have already shown what they are made of with a decisive victory in the BLAST Premier Global Final for a $600,000 prize. In total, Natus Vincere has collected $4.5 million in rewards. Besides those two games, Na’Vi is well-known in disciplines such as PUBG, Heroes of the Storm, and World of Tanks.

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Virtus.pro

Another team with cross-gaming success, Virtus.pro’s top income also comes from Dota 2 (almost $10 million!), but its participation in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is very relevant as well. In 2021, they rocked as runners-up in the IEM Season XV and won the cs_summit 7, two important tournaments in the CS:GO major league. Virtus.pro has been around since the early days of Valve’s first-person shooter, formed in 2012, and has already collected almost $4 million in prize pool money. They have already competed in 166 tournaments in that discipline.

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FaZe Clan

Compared to other top teams, faZe Clan has fewer tournaments disputed: “only” 107 so far. However, the team has impressive results in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, being a top contender in games such as Call of Duty — the organizations’ original dedicated esports — and PUBG as well. The team has Thomas “Temperrr” Oliveira as CEO and owner, and its most impressive tournament win was the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2017, awarding $500,000 as prize money. So far, the team’s earnings are over $3.7 million just in CS:GO.

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Ninjas in Pyjamas

Talking about longevity, there’s no CS:GO top team that has contested more tournaments than NiP. The Swedish esports organization was founded in 2000 and has already participated in a whopping 188 CS:GO tournaments, being awarded almost $3 million in total. Their most important victory in terms of prize money is the ESL One: Cologne in 2014 ($100,000). Ninjas in Pyjamas is also a top contender in Rainbow Six Siege and has participated in Dota 2 competitions, but their primary discipline is still Counter-Strike.

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MIBR

It’s not easy to talk about Counter-Strike without mentioning MIBR, the stellar Brazilian team that has revealed Marcelo “coldzera” David and Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo to the world. Holding a discrete 15th place when ranked by prize money awards, MIBR was repeatedly dismantled and re-created, which made them dispute much fewer tournaments than the average for an important organization. Despite the organization’s problems, MIBR has a stunning fan base in South America, especially in Brazil, and they were responsible for the popularization of CS:GO in their country. The team has been on a long hiatus, created in 2002 but appearing before the Global Offensive community only in 2018. Their highest result in terms of prize money was a second place in 2018’s Esports Championship Series Season 6, losing to Astralis in the finals.

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Fortnite

Fortnite came like a clap of thunder in 2018, wrecking viewership charts and establishing itself as one of the biggest esports titles in the world. With over $100 million already awarded as total prize money, viewership and player statistics are also incredible, especially considering that Fortnite is much younger than the other mentioned disciplines. Using the same tactic of not repeating teams, we will dive into the top 5 award winners in this game.

Lazarus

Lazarus Esports has one of the biggest mixes of different competitive disciplines, but it’s in Fortnite that they really shine. The originally Canadian esports organization founded in 2010 stands as the top prize-winners with $3.7 million awarded over 46 tournaments, with their most impressive result being second place in the huge 2019 Fortnite World Cup as a duo. The team, formed by the Dutchman Dave “Rojo” Jong and the Briton Jaden “Wolfiez” Ashman, collected $2.5 million from that tournament. Their solo representative, Nate “Kreo” Kou, also did well, finishing in fourth place and largely contributing to the team’s first place on our list.

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Cooler Esport

If you were wondering who won the 2019 World Cup duo, here’s your answer. Cooler Esport, the second most awarded team in Fortnite history, won $3 million from David “aqua” Wang and Emil “Nyhrox” Bergquist being crowned champions of the mentioned tournament — more than 90% of the team’s total earnings. However, the team has already competed in 31 Fortnite tournaments, standing as champions in five (counting the Duo World Cup).

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Sentinels

The recent Riot Games’ first-person shooter VALORANT is where Sentinels are impressing the world after earning the 2019 Fortnite World Cup (solo). The S3 million in prize money won by their representative, Kyle “Kyle” Giesdorf, from that tournament counted heavily towards placing them as the third most successful Fortnite team. Sentinels’ history is still being written as they’ve ranked well in many Fortnite tournaments, but it’s hard to compete against such a dominant prize pool.

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100 Thieves

100 Thieves is well-known for regularly disputing many major tournaments across several disciplines, including the American LoL LCS, Call of Duty, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. However, the American organization has got its top earnings in Fortnite: $2.2 million over 40 tournaments. As a curiosity, 100T is owned by the NBA sports team Cleveland Cavaliers, and aside from their third place in the 2019 World Cup duo, they’ve made their statement by winning 2020s Dreamhack Anaheim.

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NRG Esports

NRG Esports has a dominant presence in disciplines such as Rocket League and SMITE, and they have earned a good chunk of money from CS:GO as well, besides Fortnite. Therefore, they should be considered a top esports team. After earning almost $2 million in Fortnite — mostly due to a third place in the 2019 World Cup solo by Shane “EpikWhale” Cotton, worth $1.2 million — the team has established its position in the ranking. However, it’s worth mentioning that they hold first place in Rocket League and second in SMITE — two disciplines that combined, distributed over $20 million as prize pools.

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The esports universe has a lot of important teams

Being distributed into so many games makes esports a place where teams can shine, whether by focusing on only one game/genre or being multi-game potencies. This list didn’t specifically mention top teams such as PSG Esports, owned by the French sports team Paris-Saint German, and the traditional Counter-Logic Gaming and Complexity Gaming, when both have been around for many years. Despite that, we still consider them prominent players in the esports scene, and if different methodologies were used, they would have their spots secured in the ranking. Overall, esports has conquered the hearts of half of the world, so it’s only logical that many teams would rise to the occasion.

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