History was made in Germany on Sunday, when Team Liquid became the second team to complete the Intel Grand Slam, winning its fourth ESL or Dreamhack Masters in a little more than two months to win the grand prize of $1 million.
In the final of Sunday's ESL Cologne tournament, Team Liquid held off the efforts of Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut and the French side of Team Vitality to win 3-1, adding an extra $300,000 to their grand slam prize.
Following Denmark's Astralis winning the most recent Counter-Strike: Global Offensive world championship, IEM Katowice in March in Katowice, Poland, the era of Team Liquid began in full. The all-North American squad has reeled off tournament win after tournament win en route to the Intel Grand Slam, positioning themselves as the new undisputed world No. 1, with the next tournament for the world title quickly approaching in August in Berlin, Germany.
For years, North America -- and more specifically, Liquid themselves -- were the poster boys of choking on the international stage. Their previous greatest success was accredited to a single player, Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev, rather than the team, and it wasn't long before he left Liquid to join Natus Vincere. North America Counter-Strike was rarely expected to contend, and if it did, there had to be a superstar from Brazil or Europe on the roster to make sense of the anomaly.
Team Liquid, though, thought differently. While other teams were happy raking in top-eight finishes and just being relevant, Liquid, which originated in the Netherlands as a StarCraft fansite by founder Victor "Nazgul" Goossens, strived for more. Backed by aXiomatic, an investing group backed by the Disney Incubator Program and including other investors such as Golden State Warriors co-owner Peter Gruber and Washington Wizards co-owner Ted Leonis, Team Liquid have been aggressive in their moves on the free-agency and transaction market.
When former world champion Jake "Stewie2K" Yip became available at the end of 2018, Liquid wasted no time signing the former MIBR player to complete their dream team of North American star Counter-Strike players. Although the team failed to win a world title in its first outing, falling in a quarterfinal upset at Katowice to eventual runner-up ENCE of Finland, the team has rebounded since, using Astralis' sabbatical from most major tournaments other than BLAST to surpass the Danes.
What might at first have been excused as rust from Astralis not being at top tournaments has turned into reigning world champions lagging behind the North Americans, with little question of who the top team in the world is when they're forced to put their crown on the line in Berlin.
While Liquid's Counter-Strike side might be the centerpiece of their company at the moment, the organization is no one-trick pony. From top to bottom, Liquid have approached each game with the same steadfast thought process they brought to Counter-Strike.
When co-owners Nazgul and Steve Arhancet see an opportunity to turn what they're building into a champion, they pull the trigger and make the moves needed.
In League of Legends, Team Liquid found themselves floundering in mediocrity for years but saw the chance to drastically improve during the 2017 offseason when Immortals were forced to disband after being denied from the upcoming franchised North American league. Liquid pounced on the core of Immortals, picked up former world champion Jung "Impact" Eon-yeong and finished their rebuild by locking up superstar Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng to a long-term deal.
In a matter of days, Liquid went from going nowhere to the top of the North American standings, winning back-to-back domestic titles in 2018.
They weren't done. Team Liquid switched up their starting five once more to bring in even more talent in 2019, most notably Jo "CoreJJ" Yong-in, another former world champion to add to the team's wealth of experience and accolades.
In one season with the new roster, Team Liquid won another domestic title, CoreJJ won league MVP, and the team broke through on the international stage, upsetting world champion Invictus Gaming in Taipei, Taiwan, to make the finals of the Mid-Season Invitational. The team lost in a blowout to G2 Esports in the final, but their audacious moves paid off, and they got one step closer to their goal of being the best in the world.
Liquid aren't afraid to make moves even with their most accomplished rosters. Their The International 7-winning Dota 2 squad, which has featured the same starting roster for two years, parted ways with Lasse "MATUMBAMAN" Urpalaine and brought in Aliwi "w33" Omar with the next Dota 2 world championship only a month away in Shanghai, China.
If Team Liquid sees a chance to get better, they do it. When Fortnite first blew up, they were one of the first established esports organizations to invest in battle royale phenomenon. Now, they have a player such as Noah "Vivid" Wright, who qualified for the upcoming Fortnite World Cup Finals in New York City, where he has a chance to win $3 million in one weekend.
Apex Legends blew up? Team Liquid is there.
Auto-Chess? Team Liquid wants to be one of the first in the market.
Teamfight Tactics? There isn't even ranked play for the game on the League of Legends client, but Team Liquid are already investing in the game and want to be among the first to the punch.
Waiting can be your worst enemy in esports. One day, the biggest game on the market could fade into irrelevance while a random, shoddily made creation becomes the next League of Legends or Fortnite. Team Liquid have shown patience by not going all-in on unknown markets such as Auto-Chess, but they want to make it clear that they're in the scene. They want to build that foundation they have with the more established games they've already become staples in, and if Auto-Chess becomes the next trend, they're ready.
With the year more than halfway done, Team Liquid have established themselves as the runaway front-runners for esports team of the year, with world-class talent in almost every major esport in the world today under their always-expanding brand.
If another team, say a G2 Esports or Cloud9, pulls into their rearview mirror in the coming months? Liquid will make the necessary moves to stay ahead.
They always do.