With the recent news of TSM top laner Dyrus retiring, many have made guesses regarding who will be taking his spot on one of the most prestigious teams in the entirety of the League of Legends scene. Most of these guesses however, don’t seem to include North American challenger tier top laners. In fact, as the trend of foreign players in North America has grown over the last few seasons, many believe TSM will bring in such a player for their top lane. There are also beliefs that they will also bring in foreign talent for either their now vacant Jungle and Support positions, which were previously held by foreign players Santorin and Lustboy, respectively.
This brings up a fairly talked point across all of the major regions; Why don’t North American teams try bringing up Challenger Talent and attempt to form them into LCS ready players? Is there just no talent in North America across all 5 positions?
I’m here to talk about the reasoning behind top North American teams and why they typically don’t bring in newer talent from the North American Challenger scene.
First, we have to get all of the most known reasons why there seems to be a lack of talent in the North American scene. First of all, and this does seem to go unnoticed when it comes to actual talks in terms of potential talent, North America as a server has the smallest amount of players that play the game. While you can make the argument that there are still two-hundred players that can call themselves Challenger Tier, the absolute amount of potential players that can be good enough at the game to hit that level, is smaller. The level of competition within North American solo queue suffers because of this, since there is no incentive to try your hardest to improve once you hit that level, since there are very few people that can actually challenge your placing in solo queue, or your ability to get out of Masters and into Challenger. This is the most missed fact when it comes to discussing talent in North America. For comparison, there are (according to http://www.lolsummoners.com/stats/na) 1,744,863 players currently in North America. Compared to EUW which contains 2,552,194 players, and EUNE contains 1,287,791 players. So there is roughly double the potential players to choose from in regards to high level Challenger talent from the entirety of EU. Korea contains 2,725,424 players, as well.
While many people disagree that number of players lowers the overall level of play amongst solo queue, and even more players disagree that solo queue has anything to do with competitive, it actually does help filter those that are able to climb the ladder and challenge the pro players that are actually at the top of the ladder (Although there are pros that are fairly low down). However, it does allow you to potentially choose from players that have a higher understanding of how to adapt to the harsh environment of competitive play, due to needing to be a higher level of player to be noticed.
Considering people don’t like to discuss solo queue in regards to players being high elo, but not being able to transition into pro play, a lot of people also ignore that there really is no incentive to play professional in North America. Most of our high elo players attempt to make it big off of streaming, or just play with no intention of making it to pro play because they are happier just going the route of heading to college and making a living after they go to college. The North American mindset in terms of actually getting better is very very poor. The Masters and Challengers of North America most likely that not just don’t see any incentive in pursuing a career as a professional League of Legends player. So they don’t see a reason to improve the overall level in their games. It’s not nearly as competitive to prove yourself as it is in Korea, China or Europe.
Lastly, and this is honestly the most important reason why we hardly see fresh talent in North America, organizations value their veterans and big names WAY too much. The organizations of North America value their face brand and player popularity when it comes creating a fan base above all else, at least the top teams do. Regardless of whether or not those players are under performing (Looking at you WildTurtle), teams will continue to try and facilitate those players and use them, even though it means they won’t have a good run at Worlds. Naturally, there are still a few exceptions in North America in terms of veterans that still show up big. But North America seems to have this twisted philosophy that veteran players are overall easier to bring in than it is to try and raise new talent from the Challenger Scene. No one’s willing to take in fresh blood and try and mold them towards the perfect 5s model. But is this a fault of the players inability to learn, or is it the Organizations inability to teach players?
In past seasons, there hasn’t been a fresh team of faces within the LCS that have placed well, since the first days of Cloud 9. In recent history we’ve come across teams like NME and Team 8, which had at least 80% of their team made up of NA Challenger players, yet they were unable to even make playoffs with their rosters. Was this a fault of the players or due to them being a young organization? When was the last time that Cloud 9, TSM, CLG, Liquid or Dignitas made an effort to bring in NA Solo Queue talent? They’ve all recycled players or brought in foreign players, with the only exceptions being Azingy for Dignitas, and Gleeb for TSM. Neither of these players saw much success, and were replaced well before they could get an entire split beneath their belts. It is of course, hard to say whether they would have ever turned into great players, but it’s the lack of effort on the organizations part to go for a long term goal, rather than a short term fix in order to make it to Worlds. Compare it to teams like Origen, who went an entire split not in the EU LCS to build themselves as a team and develop players like Niels and Mithy (Who was banned prior to that time) into a World Class duo under the leadership of veterans. Having veterans isn’t bad, by any means, but you can’t expect to gain an immediate edge by having them, nor will this do you any justice in the long run. You will not be able to facilitate a healthy, longstanding team, that can contest a championship at Worlds if you’re unable to bring up and develop young talent, especially from your own region. Not to mention the fact that you’re hurting your own region’s solo queue talent by recycling players that only have a a year or two left before they eventually stop playing, because you’re only reinforcing the thoughts to those players that there’s no incentive to get better, because the top teams will always look for a veteran or an import over you.
Ultimately, it comes down to this. There is an innate lack of talent in North America due to the disadvantages in overall player base, as well as the culture within North America when it comes to trying your hardest to get what you want, especially in a volatile career such as this. However, there is a massive problem within the top organizations, and the younger organizations, when it comes to facilitating and bringing talent to world class players, and it’s a fatal flaw within North American League of Legends. Teams need to understand that if you don’t start looking for a longer fix to your problems, and learn how to build teams into dynasties or how to scout talent North America will be unable to win a World Championship, and will ultimately become the weakest of the major regions.