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It’s true what they say. Time heals all wounds. The bitter disappointment of another Worlds gone by has passed, and its time for some blind optimism. Yes, the LCS season starts tomorrow, which means we can all put aside our common sense and predict North America to win it all in 2020! Right? Right?!
Wrong. As much as I’d like to tell you that this is the year that North America breaks through, you’d be well within your rights to ask me “based on what?” As I look through the rosters of teams competing, I don’t see one that I would say has a good chance of winning Worlds, especially not in China. Team Liquid probably remains the best team in North America. While they may have made a minor upgrade at jungler, they’re pretty much the same team that got bounced in the group stage last year.
But does that mean I’m not excited for the LCS in 2020? Well, I’ll assume you read the title of the piece, so you already know the answer to that. I cannot wait for the LCS to return tomorrow. While my hopes of a run at Worlds are just that, hopes, this year is going to be fascinating for a number of reasons. Here’s five things I can’t wait to see this year.
1. Monday Night League
Honestly, this could occupy all 5 slots on my list. I think Riot’s move to capture the monday night scene is one of the two biggest moves in esports this year. The other is Overwatch League’s implementation of home and away matches. Monday Night Football has been a mainstay of the NFL for my entire life. There is a level of prestige to playing on Monday Nights in front of the national audience, with all eyes on your team. Riot games will now look to emulate that in esports.
Monday is typically a dead zone for esports. Sure, some major tournaments that run over a week will happen on Mondays. However, for the most part, Monday is a day to catch up on news and look forward. Now, that day will shift to Tuesday. Just as in traditional sports, the sporting weekend now ends on Mondays. For any of this to come to fruition of course, Riot has to deliver the goods. They’ll get their first crack at it this coming Monday at 8:00 PM EST.
2. Team Liquid
I know I just said they’re pretty much the same team, but with a minor improvement at the jungler position. And that’s true, but they’re still the team to beat in the LCS this split. Visa issues are currently plaguing the team, denying them their head coach, Cain, and their jungler, Broxah. However, they may have a solution at jungler in the short term. Shernfire was signed to their academy team in the off-season and has finally received his visa. It looks like he’ll be starting this weekend against Cloud9 and TSM.
I would expect a slow start from Liquid this season as they struggle to get their players into the country. However, once the team is together and has time to gel, they should be as fierce as anyone in the LCS. And at the end of the day, Doublelift will be entertaining if the team is not.
3. The Mid-Season Invitational
This year is putting a major focus on the Mid-Season Invitiational. MSI invites the top team in every region to compete in the first international tournament of the year. For the LCS, it’s whatever team wins the spring split. That will remain the case this year. However, with the spring split no longer affecting who goes to Worlds, more focus will be placed on representing North America at MSI.
Team Liquid went to the finals of MSI last year, giving North America a much needed jolt of excitement. MSI should once again give us an idea of how our teams can stack up internationally. However, it’s important to remember that success at the Mid-Season Invitational is not necessarily indicative of success at Worlds. Enjoy the tournament, but always with a grain of salt.
4. Evil Geniuses, Immortals, and Dignitas are back!
This year truly does mark the return of some classic endemic names in the LCS. Many people were stunned when Immortals were denied a slot, as they were coming off a year where they qualified for Worlds. Evil Geniuses haven’t been seen in the LCS since 2014, and Dignitas last competed in 2017.
Now all three of these major names will be making their comebacks with hopes of winning it all. Dignitas has merged with Clutch Gaming, fresh off an appearance at Worlds. Evil Geniuses made some major signings including Bang, Zeyzal, and last split’s MVP Svensekeren. Immortals, meanwhile, picked up Xmithie after he parted ways with Team Liquid. It’ll be fun to see if any of the legacy brands can compete for a split championship this year. I’d keep an eye on Evil Geniuses.
5. The Summer Split Playoffs
One of the biggest changes to this year will be the incorporation of the Summer Split playoff tournament. Gone are the days of teams earning points in the spring and summer split. Instead, the top 8 teams of the summer split will be seeded into a tournament. The top 3 teams of the tournament will earn North America’s slots at worlds.
Overall, I’m very excited for this change. Too often over the last 8 years, we’ve seen a team dominate the spring split and limp through the summer split to qualify for Worlds. While they did technically earn their spot, that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the best team to represent North America. Maybe they had a patch they were strong on, or maybe the current meta isn’t good for them. Either way, it doesn’t give North America the best shot at winning Worlds.