The LoL MSI will run May 10-19.
League of Legends esports will see Korea host its first international LAN event since the 2018 World Championship as this year’s Mid-Season Invitational heads to the city of Busan. One of two international events in the LoL calendar, MSI sees the spring winners from all regions converge to crown the World’s best at the midpoint of the season.
The Mid-Season Invitational brings together each region’s top team from Spring for a miniature World Championship-like competition to see who is currently the game’s strongest squad.
Though League of Legends esports is split into 12 regions, the ongoing Russian invasion in Ukraine and subsequent pause of the CIS’ LCL has meant that the region will not field a side at MSI. The remaining 11 teams are initially split into a Group stage, with a duo of groups containing four teams and a single group containing three.
The two larger groups will play out a double round-robin and the smaller group a quadruple round-robin, after which the top two teams from each group move on to the Rumble stage.
|Team Aze||Latin America||3|
|Royal Never Give Up||China||1|
|PSG Talon||Southeast Asia||2|
|Evil Geniuses||North America||2|
The remaining six teams then make up another group, again decided through a double round-robin, and the top four from that will qualify for the single-elimination Knockout stage. The knockouts are played through the normal single-elimination style format that developer Riot Games continues to utilize at international events, despite ongoing calls for double elimination to be adopted which has already been the case in many of the game’s regional playoffs.
Two venues will be put to use for the tournament, with the Busan Esports Arena to hold the Group stage while the city’s Bexco Exhibition and Convention Center, boasting a 4,000 person capacity, will host the Rumble and Knockout stages.
Groups begin on Tuesday, 10 and conclude on Sunday, May 15. The Rumble stage takes place from Friday, May 20 until Tuesday, May 24 and the knockouts then kick off on Friday, May 27. The grand final on Sunday, May 29 will crown the latest MSI champion.
There are two clear favourites coming into the tournament and it’ll surprise nobody to hear that those are T1 and Royal Never Give Up. The Korean and Chinese organisations are the only two teams to have each won two MSI titles, the latter achieving this feat last season and the former also boasting three World Championship titles in their trophy cabinet.
RNG was perhaps a surprise winner of the LPL spring split after a star-studded Victory Five roster failed to turn their regular season first seed into a successful playoff run. However, winning the LPL as a favourite or not undoubtedly means that the side enters MSI as one of the heavyweights and will have every expectation from their home fans of retaining the title.
T1 will look to play spoiler to RNG’s MSI retention hopes and edge their Chinese adversaries as the tournament’s outright favourite. The Korean side made history by winning the LCK spring split undefeated and will now see anything other than winning MSI as a failure in comparison.
Some way off as the outliers in pool 1, though still favoured some way ahead of the remaining teams in terms of title chances, is Europe’s G2 Esports. Despite their previous LEC dominance and 2019 MSI win, the 2021 season was a disaster as the star-studded side failed to make the World Championship or claim an LEC title. What followed was a shakeup of their roster, replacing 3/5 of their former members and bringing in an entirely rookie bottom lane in Flakked and Targamas. The side then miraculously reclaimed the European title, beating out superteams in the form of Fnatic and Vitality and did so through a dramatic lower bracket run.
Also earning their spot through a playoff lower bracket is North American representatives Evil Geniuses, whose qualification closely mirrors G2’s in their status as underdogs, success with rookie talent and, of course, loser bracket miracles. Unlike G2, however, there seems very little likelihood of an EG title push with NA teams having notoriously struggled on the international stage.
A region now showing more international fight than ever is Southeast Asia, whose PSG Talon are regular attendees at international events and even came in third, ahead of both Europe and North America, at the Rumble stage of MSI 2021. They’ll look to build on that success and aim for another Knockout stage qualification.
Rounding out pool 2 is Saigon Buffalo who found themselves lucky to qualify for the tournament after finishing second in Vietnam’s VCS this split, only for champions GAM Esports to back out of MSI in order to instead appear in the upcoming Southeast Asia Games.
While the pool 1 and 2 sides are expected to fill the six Rumble sports, pool 4’s DetonatioN FocusMe will likely have the biggest chance at causing an upset and making it through. The Japanese outfit became the first from their region to reach a World Championship main event last season and they’ll fancy their chances at sneaking group A’s second spot ahead of Vietnam’s 2nd seed Saigon Buffalo.
Korea’s T1 has been the in-form team on the planet so far this season, pulling off an unprecedented feat in sweeping their native LCK with a 20-0 record after winning all regular season and playoff matches. The side even took down their closest competition in Gen.G through a 3-1 playoff finals series despite the majority of T1’s roster unknowingly battling COVID-19 at the time.
T1’s stiffest competition is likely to come from the only side who have won as many MSI titles as the Koreans; China’s Royal Never Give Up. The LPL champions first tasted MSI success in 2018 and more recently won the tournament last season, meaning they now have a chance to become back-to-back champions.
All Pool 1 teams come from the game’s strongest regions, though the remaining side G2 Esports is arguably much less likely to take home what would be the organization’s second MSI trophy when comparing their current strength to their Asian rivals. G2’s new look 2022 roster, which included an entirely rookie bottom lane, caused upset after upset when they ran through the LEC’s playoff lower bracket but a similar miracle occurring at MSI seems much more unlikely and it would be hard for me to tip either them or RNG over the in-form T1.