Why more international stars are headed to the NA LCS
With Samsung Galaxy's win over SK Telecom T1 in the Worlds final last weekend, the League of Legends offseason has swung into full gear.
As usual, the start of the offseason has brought a swirl of rumors involving free agent players, coaches, and staff. Some of the juiciest ones involve North American teams.
It appears that OpTic is ready to make a big splash as an LCS newcomer. They'll be fighting with other new entrants for talent.
And don't forget the incumbent teams: Two of the craziest rumors involve NA's defending champs TSM. TSM has been linked to Hung "Karsa" Hua-hsuan, jungler for Flash Wolves, as well as Jesper "Zven" Svenningsen and Alfonso "mithy" Rodriguez, G2's successful bot lane.
Offseason player transfer rumors should be taken with a grain of salt, and some of the sources are extremely suspect. But at the same time, it makes sense that NA should be at the center of the rumor mill.
The reason? Money.
Worlds glory not included
Karsa has been one of the best players in the LMS for years. But for nearly his entire career, he's been let down by subpar side lanes. It would make sense if he's tired of being the face of Flash Wolves, trying to carry a ragged band of teammates to Worlds year after year. Playing alongside mid laner Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg may be exactly what he needs to succeed in October.
But playing with Bjergsen is not the most compelling reason to move to NA. TSM owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh admitted in a recent interview with Duncan "Thorin" Shields that TSM's goal of winning Worlds is years in the making. It's not going to happen overnight, regardless of who the organization brings in to play with its mid lane star.
But dollars and cents? That makes sense. Since Immortals joined in 2015, there has been a steady surge of international stars coming to North America to chase big paydays. Immortals were the first heavily VC-backed team to enter the scene, and when they lured Heo "Huni" Seung-hoon and Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin from Fnatic, the whole marketplace changed.
All of a sudden, other VCs started to join with teams, long before franchising was thought of as a realistic possibility. The incumbent teams also had to step up their game in order to sign players. The market got hot and fast, creating a bubble in player salaries that has yet to abate.
The salary bubble is only going to grow
That bubble extended to other regions. The evidence is in the transfer news: Kim "Ssumday" Chan-ho, Noh "Arrow" Dong-hyeon, and other stars from Korea all of a sudden decided that NA was their prime destination. Now we're hearing rumors that more Europeans are on the hunt for NA paydays as well.
Of course, the NA player salary bubble has been met with criticism from teams. Talented players who leave other regions to come to NA leave holes in the teams they came from. And the NA salary bubble has made player salaries more expensive everywhere, including regions with less revenue.
Finally, the fact that franchising is only happening in NA—for now—only makes those problems worse. NA teams, backed by the promise of greater league revenues, have a temporary, but huge advantage over nearly everyone else.
But complaints from other regions aren't going to stop NA teams from offering big contracts and gobbling up all the star talent they can. With several new teams in the LCS building from the ground up, the market is only going to get hotter.
Get ready for more international stars to head to North America.