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League of Legends’ LCS and eSports success depends on the future of NA teams at Worlds

League of Legends LCS Worlds tournament lacks NA popularity and here’s why

In order to reach mainstream success, the major eSports leagues needs to become a household name in North America. As League of Legends broadcasts offer the most professional presentation and color commentary (a mix between pro football and WWE), they seem like they’ll be the first to really break through. They’ve gotten incredibly close, yet still, as the League Championship Series (LCS) pinnacle event moves on to the next stage, there’s not one North American team in the knockout stage.

That’s not to say that they didn’t have a shot, though. Cloud9, the best of the North American League of Legends teams was the only team to have a shot at making it past the group stage. They were eliminated in the last game of the group round in a tie breaker that saw ahq e-Sports Club beat them convincingly. While they lost under arguable terms in the game prior to this, which forced the tie breaker that eliminated them, their performance last week got them here to begin with. That, for the most part, seems to be the major issue behind the lack of success for League of Legends teams in North America.

Team SoloMid (TSM), Counter Logic Gaming (CLG), Cloud9 (C9), Team Dignitas (DIG), Team Liquid (TL) and Team Impulse (TIP) were all front-runners to represent North America in the LCS Worlds tournament. TSM, CLG and DIG are the most well-known of the group, while C9 has rightfully earned a lot of popularity in the last few years. Notoriety, however, is not the issue with North American teams, it’s their lack of following their own meta-game.

Arguably the most effective meta in LCS is the Korean meta, which involves using a larger champion pool with a higher focus on in-game goals. The North American meta is more of an organized chaos, with a focus on winning fights and then taking objectives. The European meta is more of the 2-3 headed beast, with at least one member of the team pushing objectives at all times, causing the opposing team to have to shift focus or lose. The problem with the NA meta in these match ups is that you have to be looking for a fight, which means that slowly the team will starve itself for gold and/or get forced into situations that are unfavorable. This means the NA teams die, a lot. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Korean and European teams have a KDA ratio in the double digits, including supports. NA teams are in the low single digits.

Now, this isn’t to say that the NA meta is completely broken. Actually, when executed properly, it works wonderfully because there’s no real game plan to counter it. At the same time, it generally focuses on a lane to be successful. In most cases, that lane is the bottom one. The top lane is usually a distraction and the weakest role. The other metas balance power out, this is where NA falls short. C9 uses a hybrid of the Korean and NA metas and it works, for the most part, but their limited champion pool and flashy picks caused them to lose important games.

Therein lies NAs biggest issue, how do they build a winner? If a NA team were to win worlds, the attention nationally would be incredible. Unfortunately, as teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Minnesota Timberwolves know all too well, no one likes a loser. This is what NA has become in League of Legends. Even C9 at their very best ended up being like the Denver Broncos. Awesome in the regular season, choke artists in the playoffs.

NA teams have started importing talent, teams like Dignitas are now more Korean than North American. This is the typical sports team reaction, buy up the best players available and win. As the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys know, that doesn’t really mean much of anything. C9 and CLG actually have the truest North American roster, they also performed better that TSM or any of the other NA LCS teams. Perhaps keeping the sense of identity and not asking imported team members to adapt to a new meta works? We’ll likely know next year as almost all C9‘s biggest names have all become free agents.

North America needs to build a team that can use the best parts of their native meta, while also being flexible enough to adapt at the international stage. That doesn’t mean that they need to build a super team though, in fact they need to focus on developing talent in-house that has an understanding of the roles they will fill with deep champion pools. All of the NA teams need to get better because if all you play is trash, then you’ll never be any better than it.

League of Legends‘ position in the North American market as the front-runner for eSports is now in jeopardy. Especially with DOTA2’s NA team, Evil Geniuses, winning TI5. Like I said before, no one likes to watch a loser and now, League of Legends‘ NA LCS teams are nothing but that.

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Longtime games journalist and Florida resident. I'm a Guinness World Record holder, wordsmith extraordinaire, MOBA fan, devoted dad and husband. I'm here to spread the gospel of video games.

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