TSM are leaving the LCS – here’s what to know

TSM logo that appears on their Valorant Challengers team's jerseyTSM

TSM have announced that they are looking to leave the LCS soon. Here’s an explainer to break down exactly what is going on.

TSM CEO Andy ‘Reginald‘ Dinh announced on May 20 that the organization had taken the first steps toward transitioning to another tier-one region in League of Legends. The decision, which TSM have been working on “for the last three years”, according to Dinh, will mark the end of the team’s long tenure in the LCS.

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The announcement is another blow to North American League of Legends, especially as it comes right after CLG’s merger with NRG. With CLG gone, TSM stand as the only organization that has competed in every split of the LCS, from its pre-franchise days to the modern era.

TSM’s eventual move to another region also leaves the LCS without its winningest team, although in recent years they have only been a shadow of their former dominant selves despite some high-profile (and expensive) signings over the years.

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TSM’s League of Legends budget has been slashed in the last 18 months, with the team only making the playoffs once in the last three splits.

Here’s what to know.

Why are TSM leaving the LCS?

According to Reginald, the main reason TSM are leaving the LCS is because of the organization’s long-term ambition of winning a World Championship. In order to achieve that goal, he said, it is imperative to put down roots elsewhere.

“I believe moving to another region will reignite our hunger to doing whatever it takes to win a world championship,” he said.

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TSM went to every Worlds between 2011 and 2017 but only attended one of the last four events. The team’s highest finish came at the inaugural World Championship, where the team placed third. Since then, they have only reached the playoffs twice (2012 and 2014).

TSM’s World Championship record:

  • 2011: 3rd
  • 2012: 5th-8th
  • 2013: 11th-12th
  • 2014: 5th-8th
  • 2015: 14-16th
  • 2016: 9th-12th
  • 2017: 9th-11th
  • 2018: Did not qualify
  • 2019: Did not qualify
  • 2020: 13th-16th
  • 2021: Did not qualify
  • 2022: Did not qualify

Another reason TSM might be looking for a fresh start for their League of Legends division is the recent loss of title sponsor FTX. The cryptocurrency exchange had agreed to a ten-year, $210 million naming rights deal with TSM only in 2021, but the organization was forced to suspend the partnership in November 2022 after FTX filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States.

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When announcing the partnership with FTX, TSM had referred to it as the biggest deal in the history of esports. Without a surprise, the company has taken a big financial hit from FTX’s collapse, laying off staff and scaling back their esports program. In recent months, several high-profile employees have left the company, including COO Walter Wang, VP of Esports Operations Dominic Kallas, and League of Legends General Manager Yang ‘Glen’ Po-Jen.

In March, just a month after TSM withdrew from Rainbow Six, the Sports Business Journal reported that the organization was considering selling its LCS spot and pausing some of its esports divisions.

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When are TSM leaving the LCS?

It remains unclear when TSM will bid farewell to the LCS, though it won’t happen before the end of the year – which could make the Summer split their farewell tour.

TSM have already announced their roster for the new split, with Lee ‘Ruby’ Sol-min signed as the team’s newest mid laner and Seong ‘Reven’ Sang-hyeon hired as the new head coach.

After a Spring Split in which TSM had the lowest budget in the league, according to former head coach Wong ‘Chawy’ Xing Lei, the off-season has given fans little reason to be excited about the team’s Summer prospects. They are rated as having only an outside chance of making the playoffs, which will feature the top eight teams of the regular season.

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TSM will begin their LCS Summer campaign on June 1 against Team Liquid.

What will happen with TSM’s LCS spot?

According to a recent report from The New York Times, TSM are looking for a fee in the region of $20 million for their LCS spot. Discussions with prospective buyers began in early May, and TSM have narrowed down the list “to about a dozen entities, mostly in the media and traditional sports worlds.”

The fee TSM are asking for is twice the amount they paid to remain in the LCS when the league moved to a franchise model at the beginning of 2018. Still, it’s considerably less than the $33 million that Evil Geniuses reportedly had to pay in 2019 to acquire Echo Fox’s slot.

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Which region will TSM move to?

In his announcement video, Reginald said that TSM would move to another tier-one region. This means one of the LCK, the LPL or the LEC.

In July 2022, Dexerto revealed that TSM had explored the possibility of leaving the LCS and entering the LEC by acquiring the spot that belonged to Misfits.

However, everything now points toward TSM setting their sights on competing in the LPL. According to independent reporter Jacob Wolf, rumblings about TSM’s interest in entering the Chinese league went as far back as November 2022.

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TSM’s banner will soon become a thing of the past in the LCS

Moving to the LPL is an appealing proposition, given the region’s massive player base and competitive strength. After all, three of the last five World Championships — and four of the last five Mid-Season Invitationals — were won by LPL teams. The recent MSI 2023 grand final was an all-LPL clash between JD Gaming and Bilibili Gaming.

If TSM end up moving to the LPL, they will follow in the footsteps of Swedish organization NIP, who acquired the Victory Five organization in August 2021, though they entered the league only in the Spring of 2023.

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TSM’s LCS legacy

TSM remain the most successful team in LCS history, with seven titles, but Cloud9 could equal that record this Summer already if they win the upcoming split.

While TSM have undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the LCS and North American League of Legends, many have criticized the organization for its lack of investment in recent years. The decision to abandon the struggling region at such a critical moment has also left a bitter in the mouths of North American fans and those trying to rebuild the LCS. Still, some will argue that this will be a positive in the long run as it will open the door to an organization that is more committed to the league. 

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“Honestly at this point all I can say is… good fucking riddance,” said LCS caster Isaac ‘Azael’ Cummings-Bentley.

The last two years have been one of the most troubling chapters in TSM’s history, not just on the LCS stage but also as an organization. In addition to the loss of FTX as a title partner, TSM have also had to grapple with investigations into claims of verbal abuse and bullying by Reginald and into financial irregularities by disgraced former coach Peter Zhang.

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Moving to another region gives TSM the chance to wipe the slate clean, but it also comes with the risk of losing a sizeable portion of the fanbase they have built over the years.

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