Millions of Americans will celebrate Labor Day this weekend, honoring the contributions workers by taking a day off. But for eight League of Legends teams, this weekend will decide whether they’ll even have a job.
The 2016 Spring Promotion series for the League Championship Series (LCS), which decides who will compete in Riot Games’ huge professional league next year, are scheduled for Saturday in Europe and Sunday in America. Just two of four teams in each region will qualify for the league, with top teams from the Challenger scene battling LCS squads who were relegated after subpar regular seasons.
SK and Gambit are two of League of Legends’ oldest professional squads. SK has over 15 years of esports history, entering League in September 2010. Both teams were regular tournament contenders and winners during the pre-LCS era, and both easily qualified when Riot instituted its professional league. But recent splits have not been as kind. Gambit Gaming survived relegation last year, but now find themselves in the same dire straits. SK Gaming, after dominating the Spring Split, suffered a major collapse in the Summer.
They’ll be the favorites against challengers Gamers2 and Mousesports, but anything is possible in a best-of-five series with hungry players. Gamers2 features rising star mid laner Luka “Perkz” Perković and has improved since former Unicorns of Love jungler Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek joined the team in July. Like Gamers2, Mousesports has bounced around the Challenger scene for years, but now enters promotion with perhaps the best lineup to wear their colors.
Unlike Europe, America’s relegated squads are new to the LCS. Team 8 won their way through promotion before this year’s Spring Split by beating Complexity Gaming in a close 3-2 series. In their rookie season, they nearly qualified for the playoffs, falling on the last day in a tie breaker to Gravity Gaming. But the Summer Split was not as kind. Mid laner Andrew “Slooshi” Pham, a rising talent in the Spring, played only six games before going inactive for personal reasons. The team finished with a 6-12 record, sending them to relegations as the eighth ranked team.
Team 8 will play Imagine, a squad featuring two LCS veterans in Zachary “mancloud” Hoschar and Pierre “Steeelback” Medjaldi. But their real star is rising jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate, who was recently scouted by Team Liquid.
The other match features Enemy, who put up a disappointing 4-14 record in their inaugural LCS season, and Team Coast. In some ways, it’s a match that should have happened before the Summer Split. In the Spring, Team Coast won only a single match during the entire LCS season, setting a record in futility. That led to their automatic relegation from the league thanks to a new rule instituted by Riot Games prior to 2015. Their replacement? Enemy, a team who absolutely dominated the Challenger scene in Spring, dropping only 2 games out of the 16 they played in the season and playoffs combined.
Now, Team Coast gets the promotion series they never had due to Riot Games’ new rule. And they’re bringing a lineup much stronger than the one that only won one LCS game. Cristian “Cris” Rosales and Brandon “Mash” Phan return, but they’ve got some exciting new talent around them, like Korean jungler Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon.
It should be an exciting weekend of League of Legends. The final three teams will qualify for the Riot World Championship just before amateurs and pros play intense promotion series with their jobs on the line.