League of Legends

New LCS rule gives hope to rising LoL stars from developing regions

by Andrew Amos

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A newly introduced LCS Academy import rule will give professional League of Legends players from smaller regions a chance at making it big in one of the biggest leagues in the world.

League of Legends esports has been top-heavy since the competitive scene first began way back in 2010 with the IEM Hanover Invitational. Major regions with big player bases and good support infrastructure have thrived in developing great talent.

However, that hasn’t meant that the minor regions haven’t been developing great talent they just haven’t been scouted. It’s risky to take players from smaller regions when you can take a safe pick from Korea or another region.

That’s all expected to change, with a new import rule in North America set to give players from minor regions a chance of breaking out and making a name for themselves and their region.

Paul de Leon for Riot Games
Paul de Leon for Riot Games
More opportunities in the LCS will be opening up for players from minor regions, like Oceania's Victor 'FBI' Huang.

The new rule set out in LCS Academy will grant each team an “emerging region” import slot for their active roster. This means teams will be able to sign an additional player from one of five developing regions, on top of their current import quota.

  • Turkey
  • Brazil
  • Latin America
  • Oceania
  • CIS (Russia)

Teams will still only be able to play at most two non-residents in every game, but it gives a chance for top-performing players in other regions to shine in the bright lights of North America. The import rule hasn’t changed at the LCS level, so only Academy teams will benefit from the change.

Michal Konkol for Riot Games
Michal Konkol for Riot Games
North America bowed out of Worlds in spectacular fashion, sparking debates about players from minor regions coming to NA.

Former League of Legends shoutcaster and team owner Christopher ‘MonteCristo’ Mykles brought the idea to the forefront of people’s minds during an October 23 episode of Cloud 9’s Summoning Insight. 

His idea to “remove import requirements on Latin American, Brazilian, and Australian players” sparked conversation on Twitter from pundits from around the globe, but MonteCristo believes that for the longevity of minor regions, having small players make it big is a must.

“I think it’s exciting for those regions, and you can say it might destroy those regions, but it’s objectively better for the players because right now they can’t get a fat LCS contract because no one is going to import them over European, Korean, and Chinese players,” he said.

Most conversation surrounding the introduction of a minor region import rule came after North America’s horrific campaign at Worlds 2019. The region only managed a 5-13 record and none of the three teams managed to get out of groups, making it one of the NA’s worst performances at Worlds in history.

Mark ‘MarkZ’ Zimmerman took a similar view to MonteCristo, saying that North America’s reliance on veteran players is hampering their ability to find young guns that can surprise on the world stage.

“We need to get better at developing talent, but not just NA talent,” he said. “If we can’t develop talent we’re screwed anyways. Why not find the best of the best everywhere?”

While it hasn’t been impossible for players from minor regions to move up in the League ecosystem, importing from a smaller region is a lot riskier compared to taking the safe route in Europe, Korea, or China.

Players like Lawrence ‘Lost’ Hui and Victor ‘FBI’ Huang have made it big in the LCS after starting off in the Oceania Pro League (OPL), while CBLoL star Flávio ‘Jukes’ Fernandes helped Cloud 9 Academy win the NA Academy 2019 Summer split.

Team SoloMid's star top laner Sergen 'BrokenBlade' Çelik is another high-profile player who cut his teeth in a wildcard region, namely Turkey, before making the swap to the NA circuit to prove his worth with a legacy org. Worlds finalist and MSI champion Rasmus 'Caps' Winther is another star who proved his worth in the TCL.

With the new rule in place, more players from across these minor regions will get a chance to show their talent on the world stage. The ruling doesn’t extend to Europe’s LEC or other major regions from around the globe, but it might be picked up in the future.