Soccer fans all over the world are gearing up to watch the FIFA World Cup, which starts this month in Qatar. Esports fans, meanwhile, are recovering from the excitement of the League of Legends World Championship, which came to an end on November 5, and are looking forward to the Elisa Masters Espoo 2022, starting November 16.

These are just some of the big events on this year’s esports calendar – a calendar that gets more crowded and interesting every year. As interest in and respect for esports continues to grow, new events are created and bigger crowds are attracted. All of this attention has also drawn in some big sponsors and partners, making esports a staggeringly lucrative industry.

If the world needed any further proof that esports had entered the mainstream and were now officially considered sports, they should look no further than the available sportsbook promos. The fact that bookmakers and sports bettors provide odds and place bets on the results of esports tournaments shows just how far they have come in being accepted.

The most popular esports games are Dota 2, League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Fortnite and Valorant. StarCraft was one of the first esports to have a big following and it still can draw a lot of attention but it has been upstaged by many of these newer games.

Anyone can play video games but it takes a special kind of talent to be able to compete in esports on the international tournament level. Most of the biggest esports teams are full of amazing players and often it’s a team’s ability to work together that sets them apart from the competition. There will always be stars, however.

Here are our picks for five of the top esports athletes right now.

Johan “N0tail” Sundstein

Don’t let his innocent babyface fool you – this 29-year-old Dota 2 player is one of the fiercest competitors in the game. He is one of the founders of Team OG and has won more than $7m over the course of his career.

Johan Sundstein began playing professionally in 2012. He moved from playing Heroes of Newerth to Dota 2 as HoN lost popularity. His natural leadership and strategic abilities made him a clear leader, in spite of his youth. He is currently inactive but we’ll see how long that lasts.

Jesse “JerAx” Vainikka

Jesse Vainikka is another Dota 2 player who has made the game into a very lucrative career. He has won nearly $6.5m since he began playing in 2013. He has been featured in several documentaries about esports and has played for many of the top teams, including Team Liquid, OG and Evil Geniuses.

Vainikka retired in 2020 but returned to playing by 2021. He is currently the coach for Team Liquid. Even if he is no longer interested in playing, his skills will still be put to good use.

Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf

Kyle Giersdorf started playing Fortnite professionally in 2018 and by 2019, he had won the Fortnite World Cup. That same year, The Game Awards named him the Best Esports Athlete of the year. At only 19 years old, Giersdorf has already won over $3m in prize money. He currently plays for Sentinels.

David “aqua” Wang

David Wang is another Fortnite player and World Cup winner. He has won over $2m since he started playing in 2018. He initially played for COOLER Esport but in 2021, he moved to LootBoy Esports. Despite a temporary ban in 2020 for stream sniping, he has had a very successful career. It’s unclear which team he will play for going forward but he’ll be an asset to any team he’s on.

Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen

Peter Rasmussen is a Danish CS:GO player who has won over $2m in prize money. He spent the first several years of his career bouncing from team to team before finally settling with Astralis. It was with Astralis that most of his big wins came, while he played for them from 2016-2021. Following a month on Astralis’ inactive roster, he made the move to Team Vitality in early 2022.

Although he hasn’t won the money, he has won the most CS:GO Majors events – alongside former teammates Nikolai “dev1ce” Reedtz, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth and Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander. They had one of the longest lasting and most successful partnerships in CS:GO. Their success shows how important teamwork is and the talent Rasmussen has for controlling his ego and working well with others.