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Believe me when I tell you that I’m as enthralled as anyone by roster-mania. Watching the annual musical chairs of League of Legends talent around the world is tons of fun. It’s exciting to see where our favorite players from last year end up, to dream about our favorite team becoming a powerhouse. But here’s the problem: it’s all for naught.
Team Liquid last year was by all accounts a super team. Impact in top lane. Xmithie in the jungle. Jensen in mid lane. And a bottom lane of Doublelift and CoreJJ. That is as close to having the best North America has to offer as there has ever been. You could make an argument that Svenskeren would be a marginal improvement over Xmithie, but that’s about it. The point is that even that team wasn’t good enough to compete at Worlds.
So as we watch teams reshuffle the deck and prepare for 2020, it should be abundantly clear that these players aren’t going to get us over the hump internationally. Which is why I say it’s time for a youth movement. If the current crop of players don’t have the ability to win it all, then it’s time to start looking at the next generation of talent.
Stumbling Into A Solution
Dignitas might be the first to experiment with this, but not because they planned on it. After re-signing Huni to a massive 2.3 million dollar extension, they exhausted a third of their operating budget on one player. Reportedly, they’re now struggling to land top tier talent within their budget. The result is likely that they’ll be turning to young rookie talent to fill out the roster.
This might not be the disaster many are making it out to be. A lineup of 4 young talents and a veteran like Huni could actually have the makings of a bright future. Admittedly, this year is probably not where it bears fruit. However, FunPlus Phoenix showed us this year what a young line-up can accomplish. This is where the Dignitas scouting department is going to really prove their worth.
Where Infrastructure Pays Off
Every year, college and high school programs are buying more and more into esports. The result is going to be better and more prepared talent coming up through the pipeline. The next generation of esports athletes in North America will be a more polished and capable product than the one before them. If North America truly wants to compete internationally in League of Legends, it will be critical to harness those players coming up through high school currently.
I’m a huge Team Liquid fan. I’m excited to see the product this year with Broxah added into the mix. However, part of me has really lost hope that this incarnation of Liquid is going to be able to get it done. So while I’ll be keeping an eye on my favorite team, I’m also going to be watching for a team that breaks the mold. The one that decides to invest in some young rookie players and look a couple years down the line. Wouldn’t it be fun to watch a young squad develop over the next couple years and eventually compete internationally? I think so.