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NA's Teams At Worlds Will Be The Strongest In Region History Yet

Oshin Tudayan/Riot Games via ESPAT

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

16th Sep 2021 17:30

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The League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) underwent drastic format changes for this season, resulting in three separate champions. Although the start of the year was clouded with uncertainty that gave the league a race to the top between Cloud9 and Team Liquid, the end of the year showed a promising result—a more abundant, more top-heavy section of the standings that made things more competitive. This, in turn, has made the three teams it’s sent out to Worlds the strongest yet. 

It’s no secret that seemingly as time has gone on North America’s performances at the international level have dulled, this is more apparent at Worlds as even though the region’s Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) performances have been far from consistent, the region has still managed to reach the finals two times. Although North America is categorized as one of the “four major regions”, what they’ve been able to bring to the table isn’t comparable to the other regions.

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The region isn’t in the calibre of the Koreas and Chinas of the world, and it never has been. Korea’s early dominance to start the esport to later China becoming a formidable force; these two regions are practically in a league of their own. The only region that North America historically has been able to compete with, or compare itself with has been Europe. But even then, Europe has highlighted itself as a region that can punch above their level after recent breakthrough performances at the international level with the likes of the G2 Esports powerhouse, old guard Fnatic and off-coloured teams such as Misfits and others. 

Image via Riot Games
Image via Riot Games

Seemingly year after year, North America sends a number of weak teams to Worlds, with the only consistencies found in just Cloud9 with Team SoloMid lagging behind as the only other team to make it past groups. As an organisation, Cloud9 has been the only North American team to make it past the group stage more than twice: the years 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018—2018 was the only time they made it past the quarterfinals. Outside of this, the region has failed to make it past the group stage in the last two years.

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With underperformances in essentially all of Worlds history and lack of post-group stage success, this puts the region now in 2021. A year that is certainly different from past years for the region—mainly due to the new format—, is the perfect setup for North America to see success. But for one to see possible success to come, one first must see the region’s history at the tournament. 

2011 - Season 1 World Championship 

As the first-ever World Championship, and the first year of somewhat structured League of Legends pro-play this was the tournament that didn’t really have a clear favourite, at least when it comes to regions. It also helped that there were only three regions that competed. Going by historical standards, for all intents and purposes, this was the best year for North America at Worlds. Three teams made it into Round 2 in Team SoloMid, Epik Gamer and Counter Logic Gaming with Team SoloMid being the sole team to make it in Round 3 after they defeated Epik Gamer. Unfortunately for them, Team SoloMid would lose that Round 3 matchup versus future second-place finishers, against All Authority. 

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2012 - Season 2 World Championship 

Although still early in League of Legends history, things began to heat up fairly quickly. It was more than just Europe and North America present, the soon to be Korean powerhouses showed faces, while the LMS and Chinese regions also joined the fray. Here, North America sent Team SoloMid and Counter Logic Gaming once again, with Dignitas as the newcomer. Out of the three teams, only Team SoloMid made it into the quarterfinals where they were swept once again by eventual second-place finishers, Azubu Frost.

2013 - Season 3 World Championship 

This year was the first year that regions had structured leagues. For North America, the LCS would become the hub or the home for all of the region’s best teams. Season 3 gave birth to one of the now legacy organisations in Cloud9 after their explosive and dominant joining of the league. North America had never seen a team this dominant before, Cloud9 were there to take names and take trophies and give the region its best chance at Worlds as the other two teams didn’t quite stack up.

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Image via Riot Games
Image via Riot Games

As the World Championship that truly put League of Legends as an esport on the map, the Season 3 World Championships were one to behold. Yet again, Team SoloMid was one of the teams that represented the region, making it their third appearance in a row. They were accompanied by two newcomers in the form of Team Vulcun and the soon to be North American history-making Cloud9. Out of the three teams, this new Cloud9 team was the only one to make it past the group stage and into the quarterfinals. They were stopped short by Fnatic. 

2014 - Season 4 World Championship

After 2011, this was the best performance North America had put out yet. Yet again, Team SoloMid made it to Worlds and were paired up with Cloud9 once again and a newcomer in the form of LMQ. In this year, Team SoloMid began to put themselves above the rest alongside Cloud9 after finally ending their finals losing drought against them. 

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Out of the three teams, two of the teams made it past the group stage but were pit against undoubtedly two of the favourites to win it all in the Samsung teams. Although both Team SoloMid and Cloud9 lost in a 3-1 fashion, both had their moments, with Cloud9 showing glimpses of brilliance.

2015 - Season 5 World Championship 

Following what was a decently strong showing at the Season 4 World Championships, the LCS was looking to replicate that. Out of all of the years, this was the year that in many people’s eyes, the region had sent their best number one seed yet in the form of Team SoloMid. This Team SoloMid was one of the most dominant in the organisation’s history as it had given the region its only international win in the form of IEM Katowice and had full control of the league. Unfortunately for them, they had a disappointing performance at that year’s MSI and were looking to rectify it at their fifth consecutive Worlds.

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Alongside Team SoloMid, Cloud9 once again was at the World Championships while after three years, Counter Logic Gaming made their return. This was the first year in the region’s history where all of the teams failed to make it past the group stage. A what was a dominant Team SoloMid finished dead last in their group boasting only one win, while Counter Logic Gaming wasn’t too far behind at two. This left Cloud9 as the only team to almost make it out of the group stage if it wasn’t for a tiebreaker loss versus the LMS’ ahq eSports Club. 

2016 - Season 6 World Championship

The same three teams that represented North America at 2015 Worlds represented the region again for this year: Team SoloMid, Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming. Only this time around, Team SoloMid wasn’t as dominant and Counter Logic Gaming reached the finals of that year’s MSI—a first for the region. 

Like 2013, Cloud9 was the sole team to make it past the group stage and into the quarterfinals where they lost their rematch versus a refurbished Samsung organisation. 

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2017 - Season 7 World Championship

This year had Team SoloMid yet again making it to the World Championships, with Cloud9 following suit and Immortals as the third team. The previous year’s actions repeated again as Cloud9 were the only team to make it past the group stage where they had a narrow 3-2 loss in the quarterfinals versus Team WE.

2018 - Season 8 World Championship

As the first year that Team SoloMid didn’t make it to Worlds, it was a bit of an exchange, a bit of a fresh start for the region. Although Cloud9 once again made it Worlds, there were two new teams that represented the region, Team Liquid and 100 Thieves. This year was the start of what later became a four-time in a row LCS championship-winning Team Liquid dynasty and the age of new blood in 100 Thieves. 

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Even with that in mind, Cloud9 yet again were the only team to make it past the group stage all while having their deepest playoffs run at Worlds yet. This Cloud9 team managed to sweep Korea’s Afreeca Freecs, making it the first time North America had beaten Korea in a series. Their run ended short after they faced off against Fnatic in the semifinals in which they lost 3-0.

Image via Riot Games
Image via Riot Games

2019 - Season 9 World Championship

Perhaps the worst performance that the region has shown to date, the LCS once again sent out Team Liquid and Cloud9 with Clutch Gaming taking the third spot—Team SoloMid missed out on Worlds a second time in a row. The teams were just not up to par. This Worlds was the first time North America had gone winless in a group after Clutch Gaming’s 0-6 performance in Group C while Cloud9 only put on two wins. Team Liquid were the only LCS team somewhat close to making it out of the group stage with a 3-3 record but it wasn’t quite enough. 

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This year was also the year that began to heighten the eye-brow raising and the question asking pertaining to North America’s strength as a whole.

2020 - Season 10 World Championship

Somewhat mirroring the previous year’s performance, North America yet again had another 0-6 group stage performance at the hands of Team SoloMid while newcomer FlyQuest and former dynasty, Team Liquid finished with a 3-3 record. 

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This was Team SoloMid’s first year back to the World Championship after missing out on it for two years in a row. Team SoloMid had just come off a historic playoff run and were looking hot as can be, just to underperform and be completely shut out. FlyQuest got put in what was one of the harder groups in all of the tournament as they had to face both one of the tournament favourites in China’s Top Esports and the number two seeded Korean team, DRX. 

NA's Teams At Worlds Will Be The Strongest In Region History Yet

This all leads to how the teams North America’s sending to Worlds this year will be the strongest it’s sent yet.

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As is natural for the start of the League of Legends year, teams were slow to get up into their grooves. For this year, the LCS was making a lot of big changes when it came to formatting, this change of formatting led to three different champions at different stages of the year. It first started with Team Liquid becoming the first-ever Lock In champions, followed by Cloud9 winning the Mid-Season Showdown (MSS) qualifying for their second MSI, and actually being able to compete there, and it was finished off with 100 Thieves winning their first-ever LCS championship in an astonishing fashion.

Going into the year, both Team Liquid and Cloud9 were the teams to beat by virtue of their rosters on paper alone and it showed. The first two tournaments of the year had both of teams battle it out in the respective finals with Team Liquid taking Lock In and Cloud9 taking MSS. This set an expectation that had many thinking that this would happen once again come to the end of the summer but that didn’t end up being the case.

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Image via Riot Games
Image via Riot Games

Once in summer, things began to drastically change. Cloud9 lost themselves after MSI and Team Liquid were just inconsistent in the regular season. This propped up other teams into the limelight. Team SoloMid, Evil Geniuses and 100 Thieves all were raising eyebrows and catching eyes. This led to top-heavy LCS standings in which every team could take each other out at any given moment. An argument could be made that at a different point in time, each team out of these five would have been a good representative for the region at Worlds.

The LCS being this competitive this late in the game—the summer—is not common. There is usually one or two teams that are strong from start to finish with an unexpected third contender taking the final spot for Worlds. This time around, these three teams that are going to represent the region at Worlds were all in the running at some point and it showed through their performances and eventually tournament winnings.

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Team Liquid looked dominant in Lock In and took it over Cloud9. This Cloud9 was shaky to start but took that Lock In experience and ran with it all through spring, eventually booking themselves an MSI trip. While all of this was happening, 100 Thieves also performed well in Lock In but fizzled out come spring due to not having the pieces they needed to get over the hump. In the transition between spring and summer, the Thieves went and got those missing pieces and elevated themselves to a status they’ve never been to before.

All of these things combined together has made the region strong, and not only that, these three aforementioned representatives will be the strongest North America has fielded at Worlds yet. 

 

 

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How Cloud9 Rectified Last Year's Performance

Oshin Tudayan/Riot Games via ESPAT

Written by 

André González Rodríguez

Posted 

9th Sep 2021 18:30

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