Breaking down TSM’s LCS departure and what it means for NA LoL

After 10 years in the LCS, TSM is making a one-of-a-kind move to compete in a different major region.

Photo by Robert Paul via Riot Games

On May 20, longtime North American League of Legends franchise TSM announced that it would be leaving the league that it’s called home for over 10 years, departing from the LCS in the near future. While TSM will stay in the League space, team owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh revealed plans for the franchise to take its efforts elsewhere and join another major region. 

Although the move is striking, Dinh confirmed that it had been in the process for the last three years. TSM’s plans leaked last July when a report surfaced that the organization was planning a potential move to Europe. Currently, no landing spot for TSM is official, although Europe’s LEC, Korea’s LCK, and China’s LPL all remain in play, considering Dinh revealed that the team is looking to move to another “tier-one” region. 

Ahead of the Summer Split, Counter Logic Gaming was purchased by NRG Esports, signaling the end of another of NA’s most historic organizations. Dating back to the dawn of the League scene in North America, TSM and CLG had the most historic rivalry in the scene, as they were the only two North American League teams to compete in every split of the LCS since its inception in 2013. Now, with one of those teams dismantled and another set to head overseas, any remnant of the “old LCS” that still existed within the league is officially gone. 

How TSM’s LCS departure relates to league-wide cost-cutting measures

League in North America is currently in a transitional period, with each team in the LCS focused on cutting costs and making their economic profiles more sustainable. Last week, Riot Games made the LCS’ minor-league program, the NACL, completely optional for franchised members, allowing teams to save money on player salaries and developmental costs. 

Related: Only 3 LCS organizations will participate in NACL this summer

That is definitely an owner-friendly decision, and it could signal an economic shift in professional North American League of Legends. Still, any move Riot makes towards making the LCS more welcoming for owners (and their wallets) comes too late for TSM. The team had been making strides towards leaving the LCS since 2020, according to Dinh. 

When the LCS switched its model to introduce franchising in 2018, reports of a $10 million buy-in price were widely circulated. It’s unclear how much a new team would have to pay to buy any potential expansion slots Riot may introduce. Alternatively, it’s possible that Riot would mediate any sale of TSM’s slot since their region-to-region move would be a one-of-a-kind circumstance. TSM’s spot in the league is being offered up at an initial price of $20 million, according to a report from Kellen Browning of the New York Times

Seeing the bright spots in TSM’s move out of NA

Photo by Marv Watson via Riot Games

With esports in a state of turmoil and financial dial-back, TSM’s move out of North America could be advantageous for the team from both competitive and financial standpoints. If winning a World Championship is still the centermost goal for the organization—as Dinh clearly states it is in the franchise’s update video—then moving out of a region that’s never won Worlds is a considerably strong first step. 

Furthermore, TSM has been a practical laughing stock in North American League over the last two-plus years. From their lackluster on-stage results—such as the 2022 Spring Split that saw their 17-split playoff streak come crashing down—to the off-stage controversies, including the financial fiascoes of disgraced former coach Peter Zhang, as well as the organization’s involvement with dissolved crypto giant FTX, TSM have been the subject of many finger-points from LCS fans. Moving out of the region could wipe the slate clean, developing a whole new host of fans in the process. 

It’s still a gamble to predict that North American fans who have followed their team for well over a decade would follow the franchise overseas and cheer for them now that their regional roots have been yanked out of the ground. While many pro players in League history have kept their fans after moving cross-regionally, no team has ever done so, giving TSM’s League division a massive question mark as the organization conducts its great experiment. 

TSM will still compete in the LCS this summer—likely for the last time before moving to another region. No date is set for TSM’s move, although it’s likely to come prior to 2024. 

About the author
Michael Kelly

Staff Writer covering World of Warcraft and League of Legends, among others. Mike's been with Dot since 2020, and has been covering esports since 2018.