It’s been a long time since TSM held the North American crown. Their last LCS title was over two years ago in the 2017 Summer Split. Four splits later, TSM failed to qualify for the World Championship for the second time in a row. Before 2018, TSM never failed to qualify for Worlds.
After the end of another failed season, the team that was once unbeatable is forced to consider what to do to avoid a third year of disappointment. And, perhaps more importantly, Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, the team’s star player, must do the same. Many fans still consider Bjergsen to be the best player in the LCS, despite Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng passing him in many key stats this year, such as most LCS titles won.
In any other sport, if one of the most renowned players in the world was met with nothing but failure for as long as Bjergsen has, there’s a good chance they’d search for a new team or a new opportunity. Maybe it’s time for him to do the same.
Bjergsen’s options are limited
Before we get into whether Bjergsen should bail on his longtime brand for greener pastures, we must first consider his options. Where could he go? And if he doesn’t go anywhere, what happens then?
One of the most popular suggestions on Twitter and Reddit has been for Bjergsen to head back to Europe. This isn’t surprising since the LEC is widely considered to be one of the best regions in the world thanks to improved year-over-year talent and elevated expectations from fans. The region won MSI this year and had a team in the Worlds finals last year. Going into Worlds 2019, one of the region’s teams, G2 Esports, are favored to win it all.
But Bjergsen can’t go to Europe. Well, he can, but it’s very unlikely that he will. Bjergsen has residency in North America, which means teams in the LCS will pay top dollar for him to show off his extremely impressive import talent without taking up an import slot. With very few exceptions, the mid lane talent pool in North America has dwindled, making him far more of a hot commodity in the U.S. In Europe, he’d have to compete against some of the best mid laners in the world, which could hamstring his paycheck. Sure, it’s not always about the money, but there has to be a reason he’s stuck with TSM this long.
Since he most likely won’t return to his home region, his options are limited. He can either look for a new team in North America or he can stay on TSM. If he stays on TSM, the team could either nuke itself and start with another new roster focused around him or it can keep trudging along with the same players in hopes that things will improve. No one else on TSM is the same from two years ago, which means they’ve already tried blowing everything up, even from a coaching level. That means the deeper-seated issue either lies within team management and ownership, or, for whatever reason, it’s Bjergsen himself. Even if it is Bjergsen and not TSM ownership that’s the problem, sticking around doesn’t make sense. The smart move would be a change in scenery.
That leaves one good option left for Bjergsen: Find a new home in the LCS.
Who could use Bjergsen?
Now that we’ve established that Bjergsen’s days are, or at least should be, numbered on TSM, and his residency is too valuable to pass up on, we can start predicting where he might end up.
The mid lane talent pool is dried up in North America, which means there are more than a few teams that could use someone like Bjergsen to bolster the ranks. But Bjergsen won’t just go with a fat paycheck, he’s going to go with the team that he thinks can win titles and, at the very least, qualify for Worlds. And there are a couple of teams who shouldn’t give up the mid lane talent that they have already, like Team Liquid or Clutch Gaming. Obviously, that shrinks the pool quite a bit. Here’s who we’re left with.
1) 100 Thieves
100 Thieves is the easiest choice to mention. They’ve had a lot of weaknesses over the last three splits, and although it probably isn’t their biggest weakness, the mid lane has always been one of them. In fact, the mid lane was even an issue during the one split they performed well (Spring 2018). They’re limited on import slots, assuming they at least keep Bae “Bang” Jun-sik in the bot lane, which means Bjergsen’s residency matters a lot. And Bjergsen is good, which is a step up from the passable-at-best mid laners they’ve had since day one. There’s also the added bonus of joining up with a former teammate.
The move would make a lot of sense, but there’s one big caveat. This team has had some of the best players the LCS has ever seen under its roof and it’s still failed so miraculously split after split. This means the issue is most likely not the players themselves, but rather on team management, who would be failing to bring the talent out of the players that we already know is there.
100 Thieves need a new coach and Bjergsen probably sees that, too. Bringing in legendary LCK caster Chris “PapaSmithy” Smith as GM is a good step, but that coaching slot needs to be changed, too. Otherwise, 100 Thieves is just going to be another TSM for Bjergsen: A team with good players and no trophies.
We can already hear the sound of one thousand keyboards pounding away to tell us how stupid this suggestion is, but hear us out. Cloud9 isn’t a bad team. We’d venture to say they haven’t had a single point in their history where they’ve been a bad team, and that’s something no other LCS team can say definitively. That being said, their performance, whether it be domestically or internationally, relied on the same person overachieving for a number of splits: Nicolaj Jensen.
The team isn’t bad, but it was Jensen’s reliability to carry when he shouldn’t have been expected to that allowed C9 to go above and beyond over and over again. And it was the few moments where he didn’t perform stupendously that C9 missed trophies by an arm’s length. It was unfair to him, obviously, because no one player should be expected to clutch every single game. Without Jensen, C9 hasn’t been able to show off quite as much as they once could. That’s not a knock on Yasin “Nisqy” Dinçer at all, there’s just only one Jensen.
But who’s better, or at least equal to Jensen? Depending on the person you ask, nobody in North America, but Bjergsen has always been in that conversation. For a long time, Jensen was compared to Bjergsen rather than the other way around. With Bjergsen, C9 might be a step closer to finally winning another LCS title, and in turn, Bjergsen might finally do literally anything at Worlds under the guidance of C9’s coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu.
The third and final team on our list is the most difficult choice to justify. Their current mid laner, Eugene “Pobelter” Park, isn’t a bad player by any stretch of the imagination. He has a bad split occasionally, but overall, he’s been a successful player throughout most of his career. The issue is, though, he’s always lacked something.
Call it the “it factor,” call it whatever you want, but Pobelter has always just been reliably good, not showstopping good. He’s never been a Jensen or a Bjergsen or a Lee “Crown” Min-ho, and while that certainly has a place on many teams throughout the LCS and the rest of the world, FlyQuest needs someone to step up and be the carry other than just jungler Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen. Throughout all of 2019, FlyQuest’s success was dictated by how Santorin performed on any given weekend. He’s a great jungler, but that’s a lot of pressure, and he needs a strong voice to join him and share the mantle. Bjergsen could be that voice.
Plus, he’s already played with both Santorin and bot laner Jason “WildTurtle” Tran on TSM in the past, so their communication might hit the ground running.