Riot Games kicked off the main stage of their 10th League of Legends World Championship on Oct. 3. In the first four days of games, the Chinese LPL teams went a combined 9-3, the Korean LCK teams went 7-2, the European LEC teams went 5-4 and the North American LCS teams went… 2-7.
It’s embarrassing at this point; the inevitability of NA showing up to the Worlds stage and losing hard. It’s happened year after year, with Cloud9 being the only team to ever defy expectations, yet Cloud9 is not at the tournament this year. Instead, North America is left with Team Liquid, who went 1-2 with a world champion top laner and support, Flyquest, who have already exceeded expectations by winning even once, and the ever infamous Team SoloMid. TSM Doublelift has been to Worlds a record seven times, while TSM Bjergsen has been there six times. Both of them lead the entire world as individual players with the most times losing in the group stage at the World Championship. The only time Doublelift didn’t lose in groups was in Season 1, when Chinese and Korean teams didn’t even play the game.
For comparison, let’s look at Sneaky. He played on Cloud9 from 2013 through 2019, and was also in North America. He went to Worlds every single year. In S3, he lost in quarterfinals, in S4 he lost in quarterfinals, in S5 he lost in groups, in S6 he lost in quarterfinals, in S7 he lost in quarterfinals, in S8 he peaked at semifinals, before losing in groups in S9. In that timeframe, Korea won Worlds five times, China won Worlds two times and Europe made finals in the last two years. By all accounts, C9 and Sneaky were mediocre.
What if I told you that team was the best team North America has ever fielded, that Sneaky is the most accomplished single North American player to grace the Worlds stage? In this same timeframe, how many other NA teams made it out of groups? TSM in 2014. That’s it. They lost 3-1 to the eventual world champion, the Samsung White team.
It’s unbelievably hard to support the level of play that NA is putting out there on stage. But why has NA, the region where Riot Games is based, so far behind in international results?
To narrow it down to one reason would be disingenuous. There’s the lack of infrastructure, for one. Eastern nations are leagues ahead of the Western world when it comes to accepting eSports as legitimate. There’s the lack of a real way to bring new players into the scene. Europe has different country-based tournaments where players who aren’t in the main league can show off their abilities, the main one being European Masters. The Korean leagues actively scout people out of the video game itself. Another notable reason is the lack of discipline in the NA solo queue. North America is home to a lot of the top streamer personalities, diluting the pool of the top players from people trying to go pro with other players who are mostly in it for the lucrative streaming careers and having fun.
It all adds up to one big mess every fall at the Worlds tournament. They put their “best” teams out there, filled with washed up veterans and watch them get wiped out by every other major region. It’s almost pathetic. It makes me want to stop watching the North American scene and honestly I don’t see them changing anytime soon.