For a region that produced one of the most decorated teams in League of Legends history, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) often found itself getting the short end of the stick when it came to esports competition.
Even Moscow Five and Gambit Gaming, the Russian-based team that was once perhaps the best in the world, struggled to compete in the League Championship Series (LCS), bogged down by visa issues that forced a prohibitive travel schedule. Those issues have kept many talented players from other CIS nations locked in their own competitive world despite their proximity to the Europe and the EU LCS.
Today, however, Riot announced its new Continental League (LCL), CIS teams and players will finally have a place to call home.
The LCL will serve as the CIS region’s answer to the LCS and other similar leagues in regions worldwide, like Brazil’s CBLOL and the Turkish Champion’s League (TCL). The Continental League will feature eight teams in the region competing in a two-split season with a prize of 4.5 million rubles, or more than $60,000. In addition, Riot will provide monetary compensation to players and coaches competing in the league. Each team will also receive a housing grant to afford them the opportunity to rent a gaming house to train together.
Matches will be broadcast on Twitch from a Riot Games studio in Moscow on Saturday and Sunday, but the competitors won’t be playing there. The regular season will be played entirely online culminating in a LAN playoff.
In addition, the league will feature some kind of relegation system involving what was previously the region’s top competition, the League StarSeries, which was hosted by tourney organizer StarLadder. StarLadder has partnered with Riot Games to produce the LCL version of the Challenger Series. That competition will begin in February, but more details on how that process work are yet to be announced.
The LCL season itself will begin alongside the NA LCS on Jan.16 with a battle between Natus Vincere and the champions of last season’s StarSeries, Hard Random. The LCL will consist of 8 teams mostly culled from the top ranks of the StarSeries last year:
- Hard Random
- Vaevictis eSports
- Team differential
- Team Empire
- Vega Squadron
- TORNADO ROX
- Team Just.MSI
The LCL should be a welcome addition to Riot Games’ growing portfolio of regional competitions. In fact, the CIS region could quickly become the most competitive region outside the big four—Korea, China, North America, and Europe. CIS players have the advantage of being able to play on the EU West League server with playable conditions, allowing them to interact with an internationally competent region and build their skill to a similar level.
In some ways, this isn’t a huge change for players within the region. They were already competing in a similar league. But with Riot’s backing, the stakes are higher. There’s more money involved. It’s easier for players and teams to treat it professionally. And perhaps most importantly, the stage is bigger than ever. The LCL, in fact, may already feature talents who could make an impact on the LCS—if they received a chance. Now they’ll have the chance to prove it.
Image via League of Legends