Every time the League of Legends World Championship rolls around, there’s always one group of teams that are expected to go far in the tournament. Whether its China’s No. 1 seed or Europe’s fiery top squad, it’s easy to place your faith in the strongest.
At almost every Worlds, however, there’s always one team that no one sees coming. From incredible Cinderella stories in minor region teams to a sudden hot streak that sends an unlikely candidate into the fray, fans have seen the impossible happen before.
Here are some of the teams you should watch out for at Worlds that could pull off a deep run through the tournament this October.
Not many people know much about the LPL’s third seed, but there’s plenty of chances this team can make some noise when the group stage starts this October. Suning qualified for the World Championship by finishing fourth in the regular season but losing to Top Esports during the playoffs.
They eventually beat LGD Gaming in the third-place match, and swept them during the Regional Qualifiers to book their ticket to Shanghai. Pay attention to the team’s veteran support SwordArt, as well as their jungler SofM. The latter had a huge performance against LGD Gaming, outplaying Peanut in each game.
Suning landed in the widely-coveted Group of Life alongside G2 Esports and the PCS’ Machi Esports. Barring a massive fall from grace, this team could make a pretty deep run into the Knockout Stage behind the power of their talented young top and ADC, combined with the calm, calculating core of their mid-jungle combo.
The young guns of Europe have come to play. MAD Lions stunned the world by taking over the 2020 LEC Summer regular season, finishing in second place with an impressive 12-6 record. Their aggressive, flashy playstyle paired with some great drafting from coach James “Mac” MacCormack could prove to be crucial to their success this year.
The biggest pitfall that could weigh on this young roster is their lack of Worlds experience. The pressures this tournament brings—even without an audience—is still palpable for any player getting their first taste of the big stage.
It also doesn’t help that if they are able to get out of the play-ins as many people expect, they’ll be automatically placed in a group with China’s number one team, Top Esports, and Korea’s second seed, DRX. But if the Eastern teams underestimate their opponents in a best-of-one setting—which is where Western teams thrive—MAD could stun a team with a unique gameplan.
If this fiery team can calm their nerves and bring the fire that we saw in Europe, they could surprise some teams when the play-in stage starts Sept. 25.
Gen.G might have had to sneak into Worlds via the LCK’s Regional Gauntlet, but the roster has improved throughout this past summer to warrant some worry from teams.
Don’t sleep on their powerful duo of Ruler and Life. We might be looking at one of the best bottom lane combos at Worlds this year. The former had the most kills in the LCK this past summer, and the latter was one of the better performing supports in the league.
If they’re able to get going, Gen.G could easily find themselves in the Knockout Stage once again with some stable drafting and playstyle.
Fnatic’s 2020 summer form might not have been convincing, but you can never count out this perennial LEC champion. By the end of the season, the team seemed to have ironed out the trust and synergy issues that plagued the roster all split and were able to reach the Summer Finals once again.
Even though they were swept by G2 Esports, this roster still has the potential to pop off in the group stage. Behind the heroics of their bottom lane star Rekkles and their talented mid and jungle of Nemesis and Selfmade, this team is looking to taste international success once more.
Two years ago, Fnatic faced off against Invictus Gaming for the Summoner’s Cup. Not many people expect them to reach that pinnacle again, but maybe, rising from the shadows is exactly where they want to be.
North America is usually an afterthought to many fans and analysts when figuring out where teams will end up in the Worlds standings. But sometimes, the LCS has a surprising hero that makes it through to the knockout stage.
For many years this hero title was always reserved for Cloud9. After Cloud9 made an unceremonious exit from Worlds contention, however, Team Liquid might be the organization to pick up the mantle.
The team has a budding young star with AD carry Tactical, who is coming along with CoreJJ, Jensen, Impact, and Broxah—all players who are looking to erase their failed past with a strong showing at Worlds. There are reasons for doubt, especially after a shaky loss to TSM during the 2020 LCS Summer playoffs. But don’t be surprised if a favorable group draw sends Liquid to the knockout stage.