When Riot Games announced franchising in the North American League Championship Series for the 2018 season, the outlook for many of the organizations in the North American Challenger Series was grim. With teams already in the LCS having a distinct advantage in gaining one of the ten permanent partner positions, the teams of the NA CS will have to go the extra mile to prove their worthiness of joining the main league.
One of the organizations aspiring to obtain a permanent partner position is the well-known Gold Coin United. Gold Coin United first appeared in the NA CS prior to the 2017 Spring Split of the NA CS, a team grounded in veterans and rising talent led by veteran LCS coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-sub. GCU immediately became a favorite to win to win the NA CS, and would deliver upon that potential by overcoming Team eUnited in the Spring Finals.
GCU would come excruciatingly close to becoming a member of the LCS in the Spring Promotion Tournament, winning their first round series against Team EnVyUs but falling in the final elimination series. Despite falling behind two games to one, Team EnVyUs was carried to a come from behind series victory on the back of jungler Nam “Lira” Tae-yoo. Relegated to another year in the NA LCS, the sting was only worsened when franchising was announced as GCU realized their failure to enter the LCS could haunt their future as an organization in League of Legends.
Unsatisfied with their results from the previous Split, the Spring runner-up eUnited made two of the biggest moves in the Challenger scene when they signed two former Korean pros, Choi “DanDy” In-kyu and Lee “GBM” Chang-suk. Behind the strength of their new jungle and mid combination, eUnited would secure the top seed in the NA CS Summer Playoffs as they cruised through the regular season.
GCU would make their own changes by signing former Longzhu Gaming mid laner Song “Fly” Yong-jun, and adding rising AD Carry Richard “Rikara” Oh. After a close series against Tempo Storm, GCU was able to advance to Finals for a rematch with eUnited. Despite entering as slight underdogs, GCU would secure a 3-1 series victory and their second consecutive NA CS Championship.
Looking forward, GCU claims the strongest case for a permanent partner position of any team in the NA CS. The ability to field a competitive roster in the NA LCS will likely be a significant factor when determining permanent partner positions, and with an unmatched history of success, GCU has the strongest current roster of any of the Challenger organizations.
Another important factor will be the ability to secure significant investment in the organization. GCU boasts the backing of J2K Esports and Technology, a group owned by New York real estate mogul James Kuhn and managed by his son Jake. Through their significant financial backing, GCU has also been able to secure an extensive support staff that includes multiple coaches and a sports psychologist.
With a strong organization and a history of success, GCU are clearly the best candidate to be awarded a permanent partner position from the NA CS. Although it may still be an unlikely outcome, GCU has proven they are already close to an NA LCS caliber roster and should be able to compete immediately if selected.