The most watched esports event of the year is just over one month away, and this week will decide the majority of the teams that will vie for the championship.
That’s after a weekend of playoff games that paved the way for an exciting set of finals.
And in China, EDward Gaming, winners of the Midseason Invitational and the team riding into the playoffs as the undisputed best in the world, were unceremoniously executed by LGD Gaming, the new rulers of the Middle Kingdom, who will face the upstarts Qiao Gu Reapers.
The League Championship Series (LCS) in Europe and North America will play their final games on the same day as China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL)—Sunday, August 23. Then, later that week, Korea’s top league, the LCK, will reach its own conclusion.
The Riot World Championships will feature the best League of Legends teams from across the globe, and next week’s slate of high-powered playoff finals will decide who is in and who must survive a gauntlet of foes in the Regional Finals.
In each region, one team has already secured a spot at the World Championships thanks to superlative play through both seasons of play. LGD Gaming, Fnatic, Team SoloMid, and SK Telecom T1 will all compete at Worlds this year as one of their region’s top two seeds.
But this week’s slate of thrilling playoff bouts will decide who joins them on the big stage.
LGD Gaming vs. Qiao Gu Reapers
Sunday Aug. 23, 5am ET
China’s bout pits veteran playoff terrors LGD Gaming—hot off a 3-0 sweep of what was considered the top team in the league, EDward Gaming—against the new kids on the block, Qiao Gu, and their star jungler, Baek “Swift” Dae-hoon. But this match has less on the line than the other finales—LGD Gaming has already booked their ticket to the Riot World Championships as China’s top seed with 500 circuit points to their name.
The LGD Gaming and EDward Gaming semifinal may have been the most important match of the playoffs, since the victor secured the top spot.
That said, the finals itself may still play a role for Qiao Gu Reapers: If they win, they avoid Invictus Gaming in the first round of the Regional Final, which in China is a double elimination bracket where the upper and lower victors advanced to Worlds. While Snake is no easy opponent, Invictus Gaming beat EDward Gaming 3-1 in the LPL’s third place match, and Qiao Gu needed five games to pass them.
Fnatic vs. Origen
Sunday Aug. 23 11am ET
European titans Fnatic seek to complete a perfect undefeated season and secure their second straight LCS championship, and their fifth out of the six LCS seasons so far, against Origen, a team built from the core of the lineup that won three of those Fnatic titles.
Even better: The only way Origen guarantees a spot at Worlds is by beating their former organization.
As a team in their first LCS season, Origen earned no championship points in the Spring, putting them behind Unicorns of Love and tied with H2k Gaming. That means that an Origen loss will see the winner of the third-place match between those two teams earn the second seed for Europe thanks to their point tally. And Origen will, in turn, fall to the Regional Final, which in Europe and North America is a gauntlet of consecutive best-of-five series to decide a single entrant to Worlds. If H2k Gaming takes third, Origen will need to win two series to reach the big dance.
Beating Fnatic in one series may be the easier route. Or maybe not, considering how dominant Fnatic has looked all year. Either way, the final and even the third-place match, at the Hovet Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, should be series with epic implications.
Team SoloMid vs. Counter Logic Gaming
Sunday Aug. 23 3pm ET
It was supposed to be the biggest rivalry in League of Legends, but ever since the inception of the LCS, Counter Logic Gaming has never held up their end of the bargain. While SoloMid has reached every single LCS final in America, is seeking its third straight LCS title this week, Counter Logic has never placed higher than third, with its two most recent efforts only in the top six. That’s a far cry from the team that eliminated SoloMid at events like IEM Cologne and IGN ProLeague 3 in 2011.
But this season’s Counter Logic is different. They weathered a midseason slump and came out strong. They didn’t choke in the playoffs. And they’re on their way to earning a berth at Worlds for the first time since 2012, the second season of League of Legends.
But it won’t be easy for Counter Logic. While they enter the final as the top seed and, perhaps, a mild favorite over a Team SoloMid that has struggled all season, the TSM boys already have their Worlds berth secured thanks to their point total. If Counter Logic loses, they will miss out on a guaranteed spot and that second seed if Team Liquid takes third place over Team Impulse.
SK Telecom T1 vs. To Be Determined
Saturday August 29 4am ET
The SBENU Champions Summer split still features four remaining teams in a gauntlet-style playoff. SK Telecom T1, the regular season winners with a nearly perfect 17-1 record, await a challenger. KOO Tigers battles CJ Entus tonight, with the winner facing KT Rolster for the right to play SKT on Friday.
All three matches play into who earns that second Worlds berth. The winner of tonight’s KOO Tigers vs. CJ Entus bout will go to Worlds unless KT Rolster wins the championship. That means KT Rolster win on Friday will provide the most exciting storyline: A finals match between the year’s best Korean team and KT Rolster, the team with the 8-1 second-half record fuelled in large part by the midseason addition of former support player Lee “Piccaboo” Jong-beom, an SKT castoff.
That lone loss came in a 2-1 series against SKT where KT Rolster scored a game one win. It’s the rematch everyone wants to see. But CJ Entus and KOO Tigers can easily throw a wrench in the works.
Of course, the Regional Finals, scheduled for the first week of September, and their gauntlet-style format (outside of China) will provide a Thunderdome-style spectacle where the last-man-standing will win those final spots in the World Championships.
The big event itself will kick off at Le Dock Pullman in Paris on Oct. 1 with the event spanning the entire month. There’s still a long road between here and the Oct. 31 showdown at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, but this week will put us squarely on the way towards what will likely be the most watched esports event ever.