Riot Korea have formally announced the 10 leading candidates for franchises in the League of Legends Championship Korea (LCK) in 2021. Nine of the existing teams made the cut, with SeolHaeOne Prince being the only LCK organization left out.
The final bastion of promotion-demotion in professional League of Legends is finally making the transition to franchising. 25 teams in total were reportedly interested in joining the LCK permanently in the future — including FaZe Clan and NRG Esports — but the field has been trimmed down to 10.
Nine of the existing LCK teams have been named as Riot’s preferred candidates for franchising in 2021. They are:
- Afreeca Freecs
- DAMWON Gaming
- Hanwha Life Esports
- KT Rolster
- Sandbox Gaming
- Team Dynamics
The tenth team on the list is Brion Esports. They currently operate under the name hyFresh Blade in Challengers Korea — the second division of League of Legends in the country. Their roster, including former Vici gaming mid laner Choo ‘FireRain’ Hwa-woo and globetrotting jungler Kim ‘Mightybear’ Min-su finished sixth in CK 2020 Summer.
Brion Blade have competed in the CK since Spring 2019, achieving three 3-4th finishes across their three splits. They were once the home of now-LCK players Yoo ‘FATE’ Su-hyeok of Sandbox and Lee ‘HyBriD’ Woo-jin of SeolHaeOne Prince.
HyBriD’s current roster is a notable exclusion from the LCK franchising finalists. After promoting to the LCK in Spring 2020, SP will fall out of the LCK if all 10 teams Riot have nominated sign on to the franchised league.
[Official] Riot Korea has announced ten finalists for the #LCK franchise spots in 2021:— Ashley Kang 애슐리강 (@AshleyKang) August 28, 2020
Hanwha Life Esports
There is a saving grace for SP, however. Riot have confirmed SeolHaeOne Prince will have first priority to an LCK slot should one team decline to join the league. Four other CK teams will also have a chance if more choose to decline. They are, in order: Element Mystic, Jin Air Greenwings, Awesome Spear, and OZ Gaming.
Element Mystic, Jin Air, Awesome Spear, and OZ Gaming all currently play in the second-tier CK tournament. Jin Air and Awesome Spear finished first and second in the regular split respectively, and will face off against each other in the final on August 31. OZ ended the season in third, while Element Mystic failed to make the top four playoffs.
It’s unclear how much money each franchise will spend buying into the LCK. Similar franchise systems across the LEC, LCS, and LPL have typically drawn US$10 million on launch. Recent evaluations based off slot sales have put the price tag at upwards of US$30 million.