After three weeks of professional League of Legends competition in 2016, we finally know the eight teams that will compete at the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) World Championship.
The annual event will take place from March 4 to 6 this year at the Spodek Arena and ICC Hall in Katowice, Poland. It will feature two League teams from four of the game’s biggest regions—Korea, China, North America, and Europe.
The tournament will feature winners and runner ups from two previous events that occured in 2015, IEM Cologne and IEM San Jose: China’s Qiao Gu Reapers, Korea’s Ever, Europe’s Origen, and North America’s Counter Logic Gaming. Of those, only Qiao Gu hasn’t struggled in its professional league since the beginning of the year, with Ever not even competing in the League Champions Korea (LCK).
The remaining four teams were invited by ESL, the tournament organizer behind IEM. Unlike last year, however, there was no requirement that each team be first in their respective regions. It’s uncertain what the exact criteria were: The Korean invite went to 2013 and 2015 World Champions SK Telecom T1, who are currently fourth in their region after roster changes this offseason. The North American invite went to Team SoloMid, who are tied for third in their region after roster changes as well. The European invite went to Fnatic, who are tied for seventh after losing three members this offseason.
The final team is the only of the invite to be top of their region: Chinese team Royal Never Give Up. That team made big acquisitions in the offseason in the form of three Koreans and one local superstar in Jang “Looper” Hyeong-seok, Choi “inSec” In-seok, Cho “Mata” Se-hyoung, and Zhu “NaMei” Jia-Wen.
For some fans, it’s questionable why top teams from other regions are missing from the tournament. In North America, Immortals is undefeated and leads the pack, while Europe has a top of the barrel tie between H2K Gaming and G2 Esports. Korea also has an undefeated powerhouse in ROX Tigers, who were the runner up at the Riot Games World Championship last fall.
Regardless, we’ll see if IEM Katowice proves to be a worthwhile tournament in just over a month. For now, it seems likely that Qiao Gu and Royal Never Give Up have the advantage due to both being top of China by a large margin, but that could change over the next month.
Photo by Helena Kristiansson via ESL/Flickr (All rights reserved, used with permission)