The culmination of a year’s efforts begins this week for the League of Legends community worldwide. All of the (first) blood, sweat, and tears have brought the best 24 LoL teams to a final tournament and sole victor.
The 9th annual League of Legends World Championships is upon us. Similarly to Champion’s League, the Superbowl, and The International, the World Championships represents an entire campaign worth of dedication to be the best team from the furthest reaches of the globe. Historic victories that will be remembered long after those who perform them have retired will be demonstrated and fans everywhere will seek for that once in a lifetime opportunity at glory.
For the first time in what seems like… ever, a European team is in the mix of tournament contenders. Of course, I am referring to the dominance of one G2 Esports, who earlier this year were crowned victors of the Mid-Season Invitational. G2 is approximately the fourth outright favorite coming into the 2019 Championships. Part of that is due to their sheer peak throughout the Spring and Summer splits – rolling over all of the European competition, but also after the world saw what they could do against the best Eastern teams during MSI. If you fancy a roll of the die on your Western representatives, you can take a look at the best sportsbooks for some enticing payouts.
The MSI was one of phenomenal storylines. G2 may have taken home the title, but the semi-finals featured what was likely the greatest upset in League of Legends history. A familiar North American roster, Team Liquid was almost 20:1 underdogs against the 2018 World Champs, Invictus Gaming. I would call it David v Goliath provided Goliath had 20x the talent, arsenal, experience, and intimidation of David…so yeah, David v Goliath seems appropriate. Well not only did Liquid defeat Invictus, but they also did so in 4 games. Until that point, IG had very much been toying with their opposition. It was difficult to even class them as both ‘professionals’ in the same sense of the word. However, Liquid did it and facing G2 in the final, who also scored an upset against the powerhouse Korean organization, SK Telecom T1, seemed like an anti-climatic ending. In fact, if it had not been for Liquid beating Invictus Gaming, the Western League community would have been incredibly impressed by the G2 win. G2 went on to sweep Liquid in the best-of-five finals, but it was a remarkable MSI as it marked that the West has arrived to threaten international titles to come.
The 2018 World Championships also saw Western organizations surpass expectations. Invictus, of course, won, defeating Fnatic in the finals, with G2 and another lowly North American roster, Cloud9 finishing 3-4. It markets a streak of three consecutive finals that featured only Korean finalists and the first year in six that a Korean organization did not lift the trophy. You would have to go back to 2014 to find a non-Korean team in the finals, and back to 2011 to find a European one.
South Korean League, and to only a slightly lesser extent China, will continue to benefit from the highest quality of teams and ecosystem for some time yet. However with back-to-back international competitions showing a clear surge of European and North American teams not only taking games but entire series off the East, it is clear that the West is here to stay. That said, there is still such a stigma that Western teams stand little to no chance to make deep tournament runs.
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