The greatest competition in League of Legends esports, and arguably all of esports, is the annual World Championship
Each year the top sides from around the globe converge for a month-long tournament where the greatest team cements their name in the history books. 2020’s World Championship will be no different, with competitors making their way to Shanghai where they will battle to become the newest champion in a tournament where no former winners have qualified.
The play-in stage is the platform on which both wildcard teams and lower seeded major region teams fight for their place in the main event group stage. Though usually competed by twelve teams, Vietnam’s COVID-19 policies have meant that the region’s usual two sides are unfortunately not able to attend and the play-ins will instead be played out by ten teams.
Two groups of five teams will now battle it out in a single round-robin, after which the top sides from each group will progress to the main event. The 2nd to 4th place in each group will move on to a mini-elimination bracket. 3rd and 4th seeds will play against each other in a best-of-five, with the winner then going on to another best-of-five against a 2nd seed. The victor from this series will then join the 1st seeds in the main event.
Play-ins kick off on Friday 25th September with the groups running until Monday 28th, after which the knockout will take place on Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th where the final main event competitors are decided.
Due to COVID-19 complications, the entirety of the tournament (both play-ins and the main event) will be held in Shanghai, China rather than the previously planned multi-city event across the country. Each team was required to travel two weeks early and quarantine in specially prepared hotels ahead of the tournament kicking off.
The groups were decided based on a pooling system whereby the strength of a team’s region gave them a better/worse seeding. Pool 1 contained sides from the LPL, LEC, LCS and PCS, while pool two included teams from the LCL, CBLOL, LJL, LLA, OPL and TCL.
|Team Liquid||LCS||North America||1|
|PSG Talon||PCS||Southeast Asia||1|
|Unicorns of Love||LCL||Russia||2|
MAD Lions proved themself a top side in Europe over the Summer and would’ve been sorely missed at Worlds if they were to have been beaten by Schalke in their qualification-defining series last month. Despite their playoff blip (at a time where G2 and Fnatic had both picked up form), MAD shouldn’t have an issue moving on from this group and will fancy themself for the top spot.
Team Liquid have failed to show the form that saw them dominate NA in 2018 and 2019 and make an MSI final last year, however the switch from Doublelift to Tactical in the bottom lane has led to much more consistency from the side. With two former World champions in Impact and CoreJJ as well as 2018 finalist Broxah, TL should also be able to make it out of the group as is expected from a pool 1 side.
Putting up the best attempts at an upset will be Brazil’s INTZ and Turkey’s SuperMassive, who both come from regions that have fought valiantly at international tournaments in the past but are yet to see a team make a significant run.
LGD Gaming enter the tournament from the game’s strongest region, China’s LPL, and is a shoe-in to reach the main event to potentially make a deep run. Veteren Korean imports Peanut and Kramer will look to lead them through to the group stage where, due to all other groups already having Chinese teams, they will inevitably land in group C alongside LCS’ Team SoloMid, LEC’s Fnatic and LCK’s Gen.G.
Despite entering the group in pool 2, Russia’s Unicorns of Love stand a good chance at bettering their 2019 17th-20th finish in a play-in group featuring a relatively weaker pool 1 opponent. Despite Southeast Asia’s PCS side PSG Talon looking solid throughout the Summer split, “travel restrictions and VISA requirements” have forced them into roster changes which will see 3/5 of their starters swapped out with loanees for the entirety of the play-in stage. Though undeniably a huge blow for PSG, this ultimately opens the door for UOL to make groups for the first time in their history.
Recent years have also seen better showing from Japan’s LJL sides and V3 Esports will look to build on this, while the LLA‘s Rainbow7 is made entirely of players who have never played on a major international stage and will be looking to impress on their first outing.