If you’re a religious individual, I’d get to praying. With the group stages for the League of Legends World Championships drawn, we now know that North America has some long odds to overcome if they want to advance. So what’s it going to take? Should we even bother waking up at 4 AM to watch? Is Worlds 2020 going to be another disappointment for NA? Let’s check it out.
North America’s Long Sad History At Worlds
It can be difficult being a North American esports fan. Despite the incredible popularity of video games in our country over the last 30 years, our esports scene still lags behind other countries. South Korea was making rock stars out of Starcraft players way back in the ’90s when the idea of playing video games professionally here was a joke. Due to that, our infrastructure for developing esports talent lags behind much of the world.
Sadly, that legacy continues in League of Legends. Too often, our teams are comprised of aging veterans from other regions and young talent that isn’t up to snuff. And the results at Worlds reflect that, year in and year out. Despite being one of the original two regions, we’re the only region of the big four – China, Korea, North America, and Europe to never win Worlds. Discounting season 1, where only North America and Europe competed, the closest we’ve come is a 4th place finish in 2018 by Cloud9.
Is 2020 the year?
In a word? No. North America is not going to make noise at Worlds 2020. I’m sorry. I don’t want to sound like a naysayer. Truly, I believed last year we had a shot. I thought Team Liquid was good enough to go to Europe and win it last year. This year, I have none of that confidence. Let’s take a look at the three teams that qualified for Worlds from North America.
FlyQuest – North America’s 1 and 2 seeds are TSM and FlyQuest. I’ll give you a moment to go back and read that again in disbelief. Yes, anyone who watched the Spring Split would have expected it to be Cloud9 and… someone? But we don’t live in that world. Cloud9 is on the golf course and FlyQuest is helping to lead the charge for North America. They boast one of the two oldest players to compete at Worlds this year, Solo at age 27. They also drew into the dreaded group of death with DragonX out of Korea and Top Esports out of China. Only two teams will escape group D, and even without the fourth competitor being known yet, FlyQuest isn’t beating either of those two teams.
Team Solomid – Cloud9’s long time rival makes it to the big dance and they have an interesting path forward. They were drawn into Group C, alongside Fnatic and Gen. G. So here’s what’s interesting. I think TSM can compete with both of these teams, and I think could potentially beat one of them. As long as LGD Gaming doesn’t wind up in their group, they have a chance. Now that said, I’m still not picking them to make it. TSM has a horrific track record at worlds. Doublelift, the other oldest player competing this year, has never performed well at Worlds. I just don’t see how it works out for them.
What about Team Liquid?
What can I say besides…. “eeehhhh? Maybe????” Team Liquid boasted an unbelievable turn around this summer. After a dismal 9th place finish in the spring, they retooled and powered back to make the playoffs and eventually the world championship. I think talent-wise, they’re pretty good, but they’ve got a long road ahead of them. Their group includes INTZ, Legacy esports, MAD lions, and Papara Supermassive. They are capable of beating all of those teams, so long as they play their best game.
The main issue is that then they have to compete in the group stages. And I’m not sure what group they could be drawn into that I would like their odds of escaping. Maybe group C, at the cost of TSM. However, group B will probably go to JD Gaming and Damwon, while group A is likely to be won by G2 and Suning. At the end of the day, there’s just way too many “they can win, but only if”s for me to pick them to make it.
Sorry North America, I fear we’re all destined to another month of waking up early just to be disappointed at Worlds 2020. But hey, my predictions for Worlds are almost always wrong. So fingers crossed!
This article has been updated to make corrections to TSM’s ranking
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Photo by Michal Konkol/Riot Games