North American organisations FaZe Clan and NRG Esports are reportedly among more than two dozen teams throwing their hat into the ring to join South Korea’s premier League of Legends competition from 2021 onwards.
Riot Korea unveiled plans to pivot the long-standing LCK, originally founded by OnGameNet in 2012, into a fully franchised league early last month. Riot began accepting applications soon after the announcement, with teams required to submit business plans, team operation plans, and fundraising plans before the designated June 19, 2020 cutoff date.
According to a report from Korean publication Fomos, 25 esports orgs have already declared interest in joining the South Korean domestic league, including surprise applicants FaZe and NRG. All 10 LCK teams — including three-time world champions and Spring 2020 victors T1 — and eight Challenger Korea teams have reportedly also filed letters of interest.
Riot explained soon after the news broke that a letter of intent does not necessarily mean an organisation has officially submitted an application, however. Some teams have simply said they are preparing a bid. Those interested teams have until mid-June, the league’s governing body added, if they want to formally table an offer to become an LCK partner in 2021.
FaZe and NRG may be two of the biggest western companies to put their hand up, but they are not the only organisations not currently in the League of Legends ecosystem that are said to be preparing bids either. American org the Pittsburgh Knights, as well as Korean orgs World Game Star and RunAway, have also suggested they will be submitting applications.
Riot Korea’s move to franchise the LCK in 2021 marks the final of the international “big four” regions involved in the League of Legends publishers’ esport system to enter into a franchise partnership system. The LPL was the first league to enter into a competition model without promotion/relegation in 2017. The LCS (2018) and LEC (2019) have also already switched.
As Snowball Esports understands, if successful in their franchise partnership proposal, new LCK organisations will be notified by September. All 2021 orgs will be required to pay all players on their roster at least 60 million Korean won (~$75,000 AUD) per calendar year.
South Korea has long been regarded as one of the greatest League regions in the world, and from 2013 to 2017 an LCK representative won every World Championship. That dominance has waned lately, however, with Europe and China contesting the past two Worlds finals, and the LPL winning three of the last four Riot-hosted international events.
Riot said its aim in accepting ten franchised partners heading into the 2021 season was to, in part, combat the rising strength of the already-franchised LEC and LPL, and “strengthen LCK’s competency. Global head of communications David Higdon said the switch would hopefully “ultimately create a more satisfying experience for all participants of the league.”
The league’s final season before franchising begins in 2021 will be the 2020 Summer Split, which is set to begin on Wednesday, June 17. T1 enter as the defending champions, while Team Dynamics earned their spot in South Korea’s top competition with successful Summer Promotion tournaments. Drama-mired Griffin dropped out of the LCK in the other direction.