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LCS organizations reportedly pushing for NACL withdrawal as early as this summer

North American League's developmental pipeline could be on the verge of bursting.

North American League of Legends teams are moving towards a major shift in the domestic esports ecosystem, with an effort to make the league’s developmental program, the North American Challengers League (NACL), completely optional. 

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According to a report from Sander Hove of The Game Haus, all 10 LCS owners unanimously agreed to make the NACL an opt-in league, meaning the process of fielding a Challenger-level team could be optional in the near future. No timeline for this proposed change is confirmed, although it’s possible that the NACL could become an afterthought as soon as this upcoming LCS split. 

The NACL is the equivalent of some traditional sports’ development systems, including Minor League Baseball and the NBA G-League, which are pivotal to developing those sports’ young players. The North American League scene has often been criticized for its ability to do just that, as many LCS teams have prioritized importing talent from overseas instead of bringing native players through the ranks. 

The LCS’ import-heavy bias was furthered by a leak that came through the cracks last month. Cloud9 AD carry Berserker spoke on his personal livestream about the possibility of the league expanding its oft-debated import rule to include a third slot for non-NA players in 2024. Traditionally, the league has only allowed teams to have two imported players on their roster, a rule that came to fruition (and has been under constant discussion since) the 2014 season. 

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This Spring, only two teams—100 Thieves and Team Liquid—featured true rookies on their rosters, while seven of 10 teams in the league used up both of their import slots.

Should the NACL become an optional system, dozens of players in the “minor leagues” of North American LoL would face immediate job security issues. As cost-cutting measures and organizational sales begin to hit the LCS, the idea of dropping their developmental rosters to save money could be appealing to many teams in the NA League ecosystem. 

Riot Games and the LCS are expected to make an official ruling on the future of the NACL come Monday, May 8, according to Hove’s report. 

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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.