Yesterday, the newly-minted North American League of Legends pro team NRG introduced itself on the game's popular subreddit, revealing it'd bought its spot in the 2016 Championship Series from Team Coast. This would be routine pre-season eSports news if something similar didn't happen practically every other week.
The League of Legends championship series is a months-long regional tournament that decides which teams from a region (in this case, North America) go to the World Championships that year. Ten teams compete in the NA LCS, and only three make it to Worlds afterwards. A post on the League subreddit yesterday helpfully reminds us what ten US teams are currently in the competition set to begin in January next year. They are:
- Team SoloMid (TSM)
- Counter-Logic Gaming (CLG)
- Team Liquid
- Team Dignitas
- Team Impulse
- Gravity Gaming
- Immortals/Team 8
Of the teams currently on this list, Team 8, Team Impulse, and Gravity Gaming have all announced plans to sell their LCS spots before the 2016 season gets started. Team NRG and Renegades are both new teams that will compete in the LCS for the first time -- Renegades got their by qualifying (i.e., competing) for a spot in mid-August, while NRG, which was purchased by the co-owners of the NBA team Sacramento Kings, bought its spot.
That leaves the first five teams on this list -- TSM, CLG, Liquid, Dignitas, and C9 -- as the half of next year's tournament that's actually played in the LCS before. But even saying that isn't entirely fair. TSM jettisoned almost its entire lineup in mid-October after completing a disappointing run at 2015 Worlds. Team Dignitas just announced a new roster for itself last night. Counter-Logic Gaming hasn't revealed all of its plans yet, but the team has already lost its star play DoubleLift to TSM. It also let go of its head coach at the end of October. This essentially leaves C9 and Team Liquid as the only established teams going into 2016.
Personnel and roster changes always happen during the off-season in League eSports, much as they do with old-school analogue sports. But there hasn't been a pre-season quite like this before. With so much being changed in just a few weeks, it's become extremely difficult to know just what to expect in the coming year of League eSports in the US.
It's not like the many changes to the competing North American League teams came out of nowhere, however. The US had a very poor showing at the League of Legends World Championships last month; none of the three teams that made it to the competition managed to survive past the first round of eliminations. And that was the best year that NA teams have had at Worlds!
Let's see if all the changes help the NA pro teams do better in 2016.
Image via RNG's Facebook page.