Through five seasons, just two teams have won the League Championship Series (LCS) in North America.
That would be true no matter who came out on top in the finals of League of Legends’ biggest league on Sunday, when Team SoloMid squared off against Cloud9 in a rivalry battle. The teams have met in each of the last four LCS finals. After Sunday, Team SoloMid has now won the last two.
America’s team dropped the first game of the series against Cloud9 on Sunday, but they stormed back to win three maps, the last two decisively, securing their second-straight championship and third LCS title historically.
The victory almost seemed expected for SoloMid. The celebration was muted, compared to prior wins. The championship is merely a stepping stone for the team, another step closer to success on the international stage.
SoloMid topped the regular season LCS standings with a 13-5 record, but they dropped a game in the final week to Cloud9, opening the door for them to potentially take back the LCS title in the finals. But when the two met in a best-of-five series, SoloMid looked like the more solid team. While Cloud9 won the first map thanks to impeccable team fighting and made the second a battle, Team SoloMid’s preparation and the skill throughout their lineup proved too much for Cloud9 to handle. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg showed why he might be the best Western League player, dismantling Hai Lam in the mid lane, leading his team to the title, and winning a berth at the Midseason Invitational (MSI).
At MSI, SoloMid will try to show that their victory at IEM Katowice, the first time a Western team has won a major League tournament with Korean teams in attendance, was not a fluke. If they continue to play at the level they’ve established, and continue to show their resiliency in best-of series situations, Team SoloMid could go far, even against international terrors like GE Tigers, SK Telecom T1, or Edward Gaming.
Domestically, Cloud9 must lick their wounds and prepare for the Summer campaign. But right now, it seems like the team as currently constituted will not be able to surpass the monster Team SoloMid has built around Bjerg.
Elsewhere in the NA LCS, Saturday’s third place match saw Team Liquid shed the fourth place curse that plagued them in their past form as Curse Gaming. The team rallied from a 2-1 deficit to beat Team Impulse and claim third place, the best finish yet for a team aiming to win a spot at Worlds. The win also gives sweet revenge to the team’s veterans, who were reverse-swept by LMQ last season in the match that decided which team reached the World Championship.
While the stakes were not quite so high this time, it’s an impressive result considering where Team Liquid was just a few weeks ago: needing to win a tiebreaker to even reach the playoffs, on the brink of a disastrous finish to an up-and-down season filled with internal strife. But a successful playoff run makes it easy to forget. After a third place finish, it should be easy for Team Liquid to put all their past problems behind them and focus on what’s ahead: catching Cloud9 and Team SoloMid.
NA LCS Standings
- 1st 90 Team SoloMid
- 2nd 70 Cloud9
- 3rd 50 Team Liquid
- 4th 30 Team Impulse
- 5th/6th 10 Counter Logic Gaming
- 5th/6th 10 Gravity Gaming
The final standings are hardly a surprise considering what people expected before the season began. What was surprising, however, was how teams like Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming.
But the big story here is Team SoloMid and their ascension to the world stage. Their victory in the finals wasn’t necessarily easy, but it seemed somehow routine. The match went just as they expected: they’d lose the first game, but sweep the rest of the series. The team was ready for what Cloud9 threw at them, and ready to adjust to their strategies. They were happy with the title, but it wasn’t enough to sate them.
This wasn’t a team jumping on the stage, pumping their fists and screaming and hugging each other and revelling in accomplishing a goal after months of hard work. This wasn’t their goal. Their sights are set even higher.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr