This year, League of Legends is getting a true world championship. In the past, most teams competing at the League of Legends World Championships were from the five major regions: North America, Europe, Korea, China and the League of Legends Master Series (Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau). There were usually one or two wildcard teams from small regions, such as Brazil or the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), but they rarely had an impact on the final results. This time around, however, all 13 professional leagues from around the globe are guaranteed at least one spot in the tournament. For many fans, this will be their first time seeing teams from Japan, Oceania, Southeast Asia, Turkey and Latin America. All in all, the tournament brings together 24 teams, up from 16, to China to compete for the Season 7 World Championship.
In order to accommodate the increased size, Riot has added a play-in stage where 12 of the 24 teams will play for the right to compete in the group stage, which previously was the first part of the tournament. The 12 teams will be split into four groups of three, and each group will play a best-of-one double round robin to determine the top two seeds. The No. 1 seed of each group will be randomly paired with a No. 2 seed from a different group, and they will play a best-of-five series to determine which one moves onto the group stage. At the end, four teams will rise from the play-in stage to join the other 12 teams in the group stage. The play-in stage will be played over Sept. 22-25 and Sept. 28-29.
The teams that make it out of the play-in stage will be drawn into groups for the group stage. Each of those groups have three teams already drawn and one remaining spot for a play-in team. The groups will then play a double round robin to determine the top two teams. The top two teams from each group will then be drawn into an eight-team bracket, each round being a best-of-five series, to determine the Season 7 world champion.
All three of Korea’s teams have already bypassed the play-in stage and have been placed into the group stage, because of Korea’s strong performances on the international stage over the past several seasons. Similarly, the GigaByte Marines have bypassed the play-in stage thanks to their strong finish at MSI this past summer. Lastly, the LMS has been awarded a third seed (in addition to their regular two seeds), thanks to their consistently strong international performances. The group stage will be played over Oct. 5-8 and Oct. 12-15. The bracket will be played over Oct. 19-22 and Oct. 28-29, with the finals being held Nov. 4.
Looking forward to the first part of the play-in stage this weekend, here are my picks for the results of each group after the double round robin:
Group A: 1. Team WE 2. Lyon Gaming 3. Gambit
Gambit makes its first international appearance since its post-disbanding reform in 2015 and its undergoing numerous roster changes, but Lyon Gaming is looking to convert its domestic domination into international success after a strong showing in the play-in stage of MSI this summer. After failing to qualify last year, Team WE makes its return to Worlds in order to redeem itself. With one of the best marksmen of the tournament in Mystic and one of the best junglers in Condi, expect the team to plow its way through this group in front of its home crowd. I give up the upper hand to Lyon Gaming because its bot-focused teamplay counters Gambit’s dependency on roaming support plays.
Group B: 1. Cloud9 2. Team oNe eSports 3. Dire Wolves
Oceania has long been considered one of the worst regions in the world, and Dire Wolves lived up to that reputation after finishing in the bottom four at the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) this summer. It has consistently struggled to snowball jungle advantages that it earns. Team oNe Esports is inexperienced, but it makes use of unique draft picks and coordinated team fight, and Cloud9 is a former quarterfinalist and regular attendee at Worlds.
Group C: 1. Fnatic 2. Young Generation 3. Kaos Latin Gamers
Fnatic is the only team in this group with international experience, so it’s doubtful that it fails to win this group. Young Generation and Kaos Latin Gamers also seem to lack the macro-play to keep up with Fnatic. It’s honestly a toss-up for second place, but I would give the advantage to Young Generation, as Southeast Asia has been drawing a lot of attention after the GigaByte Marines made a splash at MSI this summer.
Group D: 1. Hong Kong Attitude 2. 1907 Fenerbahçe 3. Rampage
Much like Oceania, Japan has been considered as one of the worst regions, and Rampage showed it at MSI by finishing second to last. Hong Kong Attitude and 1907 Fenerbahçe are simply out of Rampage’s league. It’ll be close for first and second place, as both teams play around a strong laning phase. I’d give the advantage to Hong Kong Attitude, which has recently clicked and is coming off of a lot of momentum in the LMS.
Be on the lookout next week for our recap of the play-in groups and our preview of the second part of the play-in stage next week. Tune into the play-in groups this weekend from Sept. 23-26 on Twitch, Youtube or LoLeSports.
Lawrence Zhao covers eSports. Contact him at [email protected].