ESL announced on Wednesday (16 February) that it will be hosting the 2021-2022 Dota Pro Circuit (DPC) Spring Major in Stockholm, Sweden in May with a live audience — the first time that a Dota 2 Major will be held in front of a crowd since DreamLeague Season 13: The Leipzig Major in early 2020.
As with every Major in the current DPC format, the ESL One Stockholm Major will feature the 18 best teams in the circuit competing for their cut of a US$500,000 prize pool and 2,700 DPC point pool.
The tournament is split into three stages; with the preliminary wildcard and group stages taking place from 12 to 19 May before the main event, which will be held from 20 to 22 May in Stockholm's Hovet Arena.
The 18 participating teams will be comprised of four teams each from Western Europe and China, three teams each from Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, and two teams each from North and South America.
ESL has yet to disclose other details about the upcoming Major, including health and safety protocols for the fans in attendance.
All Dota 2 tournaments have been without a live audience since early 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic first hit.
The last events that had a crowd in attendance were the 2019-2020 DPC season's Leipzig Major in January and the StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 3, which was held in Kyiv, Ukraine in March.
The coronavirus pandemic forced the rest of the Majors for the 2020 season to be cancelled, with The International 10 (TI10) postponed to the next year and the entire circuit put on hiatus.
The 2021 DPC season was mostly held online, though the ONE Esports Singapore Major in March and the WePlay AniMajor in June were both hosted as LAN tournaments without a live audience.
The hosting of TI10 was also met with complications after it had to pull out of its original venue in Sweden after the Swedish government refused to give the tournament official recognition.
Dota 2 developer Valve Software later announced that TI10 will be held in Bucharest, Romania in front of a live audience, though this decision was later repealed due to rising coronavirus infection rates and new restrictions in the new venue.
The 2021-2022 DPC season was also plagued by the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic, with the Winter Major getting cancelled over growing concerns that new coronavirus strains would make hosting an international LAN tournament unfeasible.
The Winter Major has since been replaced with online Regional Finals, with the second half of that tournament series being held from 18 to 20 February.
With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to complicate any plans to host a LAN tournament with a live audience, the success of the upcoming ESL One Stockholm Major is sure to be a major factor in determining whether the competitive Dota 2 scene will have more live events in the future or stay primarily online.