League of Legends: Champions to be Crowned

The League of Legends World Championship: a month-long tournament between the 24 top teams across 12 different regions. It is the culmination of what professional LoL players work towards the entire year. Every team that participates holds the same dream of hoisting the Summoner’s Cup at the end of it all, but only one team gets the honor.

The Play-In matches happen in the first week of October, where teams from “minor” regions battle for a chance to compete on the main stage, where the tournament favorites await them. The major regions typically consist of North America, China, Korea and Europe, meaning the Play-In stage is for teams from outside of those four. This year, the pandemic meant Vietnamese teams couldn’t make the trip to Iceland, so the Play-In stage was whittled down to 10 teams. When the four best from this pool are decided, they enter the Main Event, which starts on Oct. 11.

The lowest ranking of the main event is the PCS region’s PSG Talon. The PCS, which consists of southeast Asian countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong, earned their spot in the main event by advancing to the Semifinals in the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational, where they placed third in a group surrounded by the four major regions. PSG Talon might not have the same level of prestige as the rest, but they showed at MSI that they could hang with the very best. Even then, their opponents would not be easy prey.

North American teams have long since been deemed the worst of the four major regions for several reasons, with some more credible than others. They are given three teams (known as seeds) at Worlds, with one having to fight through the Play-In stage. The two finalists of the North American LCS, 100 Thieves and Team Liquid, are given low expectations due to NA’s continued mediocrity. NA has faced disappointment on the international stage year after year, but that underdog status makes them all the more exciting to watch when they win.

It might be unfair to call European teams the third best region, as they certainly have the talent to be at the top. But they don’t have the international titles to back it up, so that is where they fall for now. The second and third seeds of the region, Rogue and Fnatic, have been to the Worlds tournament before. However, it was MAD Lions who took the league by storm and claimed their first European title. This will be their first time appearing at the main event. Rogue has attended Worlds once before in 2020, but Fnatic is a mainstay of the event. In the now 11 Worlds tournaments, they have attended all but two, including a Worlds victory in the inaugural tournament back in 2011.

China’s LPL is the reigning MSI champion, but most would still rank them second in region rankings. Despite being a titan of the LoL world right now, it was only three years ago when Invictus Gaming gave China their first title at Worlds 2018. They won again in 2019 when FunPlus Phoenix took the crown and then placed second in 2020 when Suning fell short to Korea’s DAMWON Gaming. Fresh off an MSI victory, they have four seeds at the Worlds tournament, although LNG will have to fight their way out of Play-Ins. Their teams are a mix between fresh young faces and dignified professionals. Third seed Royal Never Give Up is one of the most successful Chinese teams in history, bringing Xiaohu and Ming, two players who have attended three previous Worlds tournaments, with them.

Two years removed from their Worlds victory, FunPlus Phoenix is returning with four members from that championship roster. China’s first-place team, Edward Gaming, was a mainstay of the international stage through 2018 but went two years without a Worlds appearance. They have plenty of talented players, but the big story is Meiko’s return. He has faithfully remained with EDG since 2014 and has lived through both their glory years and their recent slump. Now, he and the rest of the team are on the hunt for a championship.

Korea’s LCK is the undisputed king of the League of Legends world. They lay claim to six Worlds titles in 10 total seasons, including a stretch from 2013-2017 where they won five in a row. Four second-place finishes. Four semi-finals appearances. Nine quarter-finals appearances. They do not disappoint on the Worlds stage and they likely will not this year. They sent their best, too. DWG KIA, the reigning world champions, will bring back four members of the team that earned the title of the best team to ever play the game. Gen.G has been to two previous Worlds tournaments in 2020 and 2018 and is bringing back the exact same roster that made the quarter-finals last year. T1 has only missed two Worlds tournaments since 2013 and has played the exact same mid-laner every year. Seven-time Worlds attendee, three-time Worlds champion, the best player of all time: the Unkillable Demon King Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. T1 is the most prestigious team in LoL history and still fell to third in the region.

The World Championship is all about the storylines. Will Korea or China continue their dominance over everyone? Will Europe finally claim victory for the first time since 2011? Will North America finally gain some status within the international scene? Is PSG Talon more than just a wildcard? All of those questions and more will be answered over the next month, culminating at the Finals on Nov. 6 with a spectacle of a ceremony fit to be displayed to hundreds of thousands of viewers.