After months of speculation, hundreds of applications, and several shocking exits, ten franchisees remain.
According to reports from ESPN eSports, Riot Games has completed the first phase of the North America League Championship Series franchising process.
Long-time fans will recognise several familiar faces among the new teams: Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Echo Fox, FlyQuest, Team Liquid, and Team SoloMid will join four new recruits to the North American league. However, not all of the pre-existing fan favourites will return next year.
Team Dignitas, Team EnVyUs, Immortals, and Phoenix1 are conspicuously missing from the final list. Instead, endemic eSports brand OpTic Gaming, as well as three new NBA teams will take their place.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets have each secured a spot in the league, rounding out the final list with a basketball twist.
The inclusion of four new NBA teams eludes to a growing trend in the NA LCS. Over the past year, several LCS teams have acquired investors with ties to the basketball franchise.
Last Summer, the MSG Company, owners of the New York Knicks, acquired a majority stake in Counter Logic Gaming. FlyQuest eSpots similarly accredits its ownership to an NBA team with Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens acquiring the team in 2016, when they qualified for the LCS after a split under the Cloud9 Challenger banner.
These two teams are not the only ones with connections to the basketball league. C9, Echo Fox, and Team Liquid have also received investment from wealthy benefactors with basketball connections. Clearly, there is an overlap in interest between the two leagues.
The influx of NBA investors shows a promising trend for the future of Riot Games considering that most NBA owners have historical ties to other sports.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert owns a hockey team, Warriors owner Joe Lacob was a minority owner of the Boston Celtics,and Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was a major investor in the Houston Texans.
These three people have an eye for sports investment, and have made their careers of of its returns. Their faith in the longevity and profitability of the LCS is a promising sign for the future. If anyone can forecast the future of a sports league, these men can.
There is cause for confidence in the future of the NA LCS. With such a tightly packed application phase and several major non-endemic investors, the future is bright for LoL eSports.
League of Legends is smoothly transitioning into the world of franchised sports. The so-called eSports “bubble” is looking less and less likely to pop, at least in the world of League. It seems like the NA LCS still has many years yet of prosperity to come.