LCS announces big changes to Challengers League amid rumors of orgs wanting out

Declan Mclaughlin
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The LCS has announced changes to the North American Challengers League after reports of organizations in the league wanting to opt out of fielding a roster in the developmental competition.

The Challengers League has gone through many iterations since its inception as the feeder league into the LCS. Before the league was franchised, teams could compete in Challengers with the hope of battling through a promotion tournament to qualify for the LCS.

After franchising, the competition turned into a developmental league for LCS teams to sign up-and-coming talent and expose them to high-level play with a decent salary.

Later on, Riot Games let non-franchised amateur teams and collegiate squads mix in with LCS Challengers teams in third-party other competitions to create a true amateur league experience.

LCS teams no longer need to field Challengers League teams

LCS organizations reportedly voted to nix the rule saying teams must field NA Challengers League rosters, according to a report on May 6. Days later, the LCS confirmed that teams asked to remove the rule and that it will go away starting in the Summer Split.

The change was made to “unlock more operational and financial flexibility” for teams in the North American League of Legends competition.

In the announcement, the league said it is still committed to having a North American talent development pipeline and will continue to operate the Challengers League going forward.

With LCS orgs leaving the second-tier league, Riot Games will implement promotion and relegation systems into the competition. Previously, teams would battle in other tournaments for a shot at making the NACL with LCS Challengers teams waiting in the league for their arrival, now all teams will be on an equal playing field.

The announcement also revealed that they will make the league “more geographically accessible” by using the game’s servers in Chicago, as opposed to the Los Angeles servers pro teams use as they are stationed in California. Riot will also help teams in the league financially with Twitch subscription opportunities and broadcast integrations.

Arguably the biggest reveal in the announcement for the future of the league is a tease of “cross-region competition for the Americas.” Unlike the EMEA regional leagues, the second-tier system in North and South America does not interact or play in tournaments together.

While the statement did not commit to an EU Masters-like tournament, it did say Riot is “excited to explore what cross-regional competition can look like in the Americas region.”

LCS Players Association responds to Challengers League changes

The LCS Players Association issued a statement after the news dropped from Riot, voicing the player’s displeasure with the move.

“Three weeks ago, Riot claimed to be building the future of sports globally. Today, Riot abandoned that future in North America. While the statement today was framed as a commitment to the NACL, the reality is that as many as 70 players, coaches, and managers will lose their job overnight,” the organization’s statement said.

The association also said Riot told the players that no changes were going to be made for the Challengers League as recently as one week ago and called on members of the community to demand Riot reverse its decision.

The statement also said that framing the move as a way to give orgs more financial flexibility is disingenuous, claiming that the average annual salary cost for an NACL team is “less than 17%” of an average LCS org’s League of Legends-based salary costs.

The statement also listed the association’s proposals for Riot in 2024 which included changing how NACL teams are paid, allowing affiliate orgs to operate NACL rosters, introducing revenue sharing opportunities for LCS teams and promotion/ relegation along with revenue sharing for outside organizations that invest in NACL.

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