Team Liquid scored a massive victory for eSports when they successfully avoided relegation in the NA LCS Promotion Tournament. Defeating both of the Challenger Series’ top two teams, Gold Coin United and Team eUnited, Liquid was able to secure their place in the NA LCS for the summer split. On the heels of large investment in the off-season, Team Liquid failing to qualify would have been a significant deterrent to future investment and may have limited future sponsorship opportunities for eSports teams worldwide.
When Steve “LiQuiD112” Arhancet assembled the roster for the 2017 Spring Split, he never would have imagined things would play out the way they did. Riding a wave of investment from large NBA and entrepreneurial names such as Ted Leonsis and Peter Guber, Team Liquid may have had the deepest pockets of any LCS team when they set out to sign their new roster. They immediately made a splash by signing former NA MVP and arguably the best jungler in NA at the time Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin, a testament to the strength of their financial backing.
Yet Team Liquid’s roster failed to meet expectations, and as they continue to see their record slip panic began to set in. They moved AD Carry Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin to the mid lane to replace the struggling Greyson “GoldenGlue” Gilmer. When these changes failed to create a significant impact, the potential for the team to be relegated from the NA LCS became very real. Desperate, Team Liquid flexed their financial muscle once more by trading for former Team SoloMid ADC Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng as a temporary remedy for the team.
A super team that now included three former All-Stars in Piglet, Doublelift, and Reignover, was still not enough to uproot Team Liquid from the bottom two spots in the standings, and they were forced to play in the Promotion Tournament to earn their place in the NA LCS. An organization and owner who had been at the forefront of the NA League of Legends scene from the very beginning, were now in danger of falling from the spotlight of its top league.
With their backs against the wall, Team Liquid’s stars stepped up and delivered them back to the NA LCS. Reignover was a dominant force throughout the entire tournament, going as far as ‘flame horizoning’ Gold Coin United’s Lucas “Santorin” Larsen. Piglet held his own in both series against two of the Challenger scenes best mid laners, including former teammate Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun. Doublelift was a strong and steady force, proving he still is one of NA’s best ADCs and his shot-calling presence provides enormous value to any team he is on. Although their series against GCU came down to the very last game, Team Liquid finished the tournament 2-0 and once again will play in the NA LCS next split.
Team Liquid’s victory in the tournament was a victory for eSports, as an NA LCS without Team Liquid would be a huge loss for the scene. One of the largest eSports organizations, Team Liquid has a high caliber team or player in every major eSports title and has found great success as a whole, boasting a deep history and expansive fanbase in the eSports scene, especially in League of Legends. Just as the region would suffer without Team SoloMid or Counter Logic Gaming, the LCS without Team Liquid would not be the same.
As important as Team Liquid is in the history of eSports, they are more important to its future. With a massive investment of capital placed into Team Liquid, dropping out of the eSports title with the largest player base and viewership would be a disastrous step back for future eSports investment. With the failure of NRG already making investors nervous about League of Legends, the loss of Team Liquid would have been an even larger red flag considering the amount of investment funneled into the organization.
Team Liquid’s influence extends beyond their investors to the partnerships and sponsorships they have in place. One of the best organizations at connecting with other businesses, Team Liquid has been able to secure deals with major companies such as HTC, Razer, and Nissan in the past. The loss of visibility for these sponsors from the eSports team could hurt future sponsorship opportunities for Team Liquid and cause sponsors as a whole to hesitate when looking at connecting with League of Legends organizations.
Team Liquid’s fall towards the bottom of the NA LCS has once again ignited the question of whether the NA LCS should move towards a franchise model. While there is value in having to earn your place in the NA LCS every split and preserving the competitive integrity of the LCS, a franchise model could provide stability and help encourage investment and sponsorship by limiting risk. Team Liquid came very close to being another cautionary tale of how deep investment is not a guarantee of performance and position in the NA LCS.
The NA LCS Owes A Debt Of Gratitude To The Birthing Grounds Of Team Liquid:
Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham
Matthew "Akaadian" Higginbotham played Jungle on the Team Liquid Academy roster between February and April of 2016, until the beginning of May where he was replaced by Galen "Moon" Holgate. He is now doing very well on the Echo Fox roster and was classed as one of the best rookie Junglers in the Spring Split.
Benjamin “LOD” deMunck
Benjamin "LOD" deMunck is the current AD Carry for Team Dignitas and played with Team EnVy throughout last year. This has been LOD's breakout to his professional career, but it hasn't been his first attempt. First playing for Team LoLPro he was picked up by newly branded Team Curse as their substitute AD Carry. He stayed with the team throughout the entire of season 4 before eventually leaving for greener pastures.
Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black
Zaqueri "Aphromoo" Black may just try and forget his stint with Team Curse as he left Counter Logic Gaming in late Season 3 to join the team for less then a month before returning home where he has remained to this day. Aphromoo has constantly been called the best Support in North America and a contender for best Support in the west.
Johnny “Altec” Ru
Johnny "Altec" Ru was the AD Carry for Curse Academy from January until July in Season 3 when he was picked up to be a substitute for Team Solo Mid. He has been on many other teams such as Cloud 9 Tempest, Evil Geniuses and Gravity.
Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett
After one of the most public departures from a team, Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett left Team Liquid last year and traded places with Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin to join the Immortals squad. Dardoch is one of the best examples of Team Liquid birthing a strong national talent and letting them go.
Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell
Kevin "Hauntzer" Yarnell may now be classed as one of the best Top laners in North America. However before he was known as Team SoloMid's backbone he played top lane for Team LoLPro and stuck with the team when they branded as Curse Gaming, eventually leaving for Team Gravity.
Galen “Moon” Holgate
Galen "Moon" Holgate has somewhat of a similar story to Keith. Originally playing for the Liquid Challenger roster, he was bumped up to the main roster when Joshua "Dardoch" Hartnett was suspended for poor attitude. However the team seemed to fall apart without Dardoch and he was taken off suspension and Moon was retired back to the Challenger roster.
Eugene “Pobelter” Park
Eugene "Pobelter" Park has had multiple stints with Curse rosters, originally playing for their main roster he left to join Meat Playground, however he rejoined shortly afterwards and joined the Curse challenger line-up. He bounced around other teams for quite a while before landing back on Curse for less than a month in October at the end of Season 3.
Andy “Smoothie” Ta
After a disappointing start to Andy "Smoothie" Ta's collaboration with Team Liquid, he jumped between the main roster and the challenger roster. Team Liquid wanted to utilize both rosters, but Smoothie ended up playing on the challenger roster almost non-stop. He left the team in April 2016 and shortly after was picked up by Cloud9 who he has stayed with ever since.
Alex “Xpecial” Chu
Rewind time to season 4, Alex "Xpecial" Chu is a superstar support. Playing with Team SoloMid for 3 years will give you that reputation. After being released from Team SoloMid shortly after Season 4, he joined Curse Gaming and stayed with them for four splits and two seasons through their rebrand to Team Liquid. After some drama between Xpecial and AD Carry Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin he left the roster to join Apex Gaming.
Derek “Zig” Shao
Derek "Zig" Shao has been with the Team Liquid organization the longest of any player on the list, staying with the organization almost two years, playing on both the challenger and main roster of both Team Curse and Team Liquid. He left team Liquid in Season 6 to join Phoenix 1.
He currently still plays Top lane for Phoenix 1 and they are tied third in the North American LCS
Yuri “Keith” Jew
Yuri "Keith" Jew has somewhat of a sad story to begin his league career. Used by both Team Liquid and Team SoloMid when their previous AD Carries weren't performing up to scratch, Keith would come in, perform really well and then his competition would begin playing well again. He helped Liquid overcome a rough 1-3 start in the spring split of season 6.
Apollo “Apollo” Price
Apollo "Apollo" Price is now a well known name in the North American LCS, however this wasn't always the case. His time with Team LoLPro was so unknown there isn't even a certainty on the time he spent with them. He left the team to join Team Impulse in December of 2014 and he now plays for Team NV in the North American LCS.
Lae-Young “Keane” Jang
Originally playing for the Oceanic version of Team Curse Lae-Young "Keane" Jang wanted bigger things and eventually moved on to the Curse Academy roster. He stayed with the team until the end of Season 5, when he left to join Team Gravity and has stayed with the team through all its rebrands ever since.
David “Cop” Roberson
David "Cop" Roberson is one of the veterans on this list, not only has been been playing on professional teams since at least season 1, his skill also transcends the rift. Playing with Team Curse and moving to Curse Academy from December 2011 all the way through until January 2015, his most recent team has been Team Dignitas where he has returned to coach the team during their 2017 Spring Split.
William "Stunt" Chen is the youngest player of the bunch, now representing Immortals. He was one game away from qualifying for the LCS with Team Liquid Academy last year in the summer split promotion. Going to a full 5 games, Stunt and the rest of TLA failed to qualify for the 2017 Spring Split.