Since the beginning of League of Legends esports, publisher Riot Games has exerted strong control over how the scene operates. One of its more befuddling rules is a strict policy towards team rosters. Riot has historically only allowed five players and one normal substitute for playoffs and international matches. Additional subs are available only in emergencies.
Signs that Riot’s stance is changing started appearing a few weeks ago, when NA LCS teams were allowed a second coach on stage for the draft phase. The change—which took place in the middle of a competitive season and will last through the playoffs—took many people by surprise. But then even bigger news dropped: as first reported by Esports Heaven, NA LCS teams will be allowed a seven-person roster for the upcoming league playoffs.
This change has been a long time coming, according to league commissioner Chris Greely.
“At least some teams have asked [for expanded playoff rosters] every split,” Greely told Dot Esports. “The change this split came through the competition committee, which also advocated for strategic coaches on stage.”
Expanded playoff rosters makes sense in the context of what’s happened in the NA LCS this year. After the league was franchised, all 10 organizations were required to field a full Academy roster, employing a minimum of 10 players among the LCS and Academy teams. The increased player pool has allowed some teams like Cloud9, Echo Fox, and OpTic Gaming to utilize their Academy players frequently as LCS subs. Now, they can continue that practice in the playoffs.
When asked whether the change would extend to other leagues, Greely demurred, indicating that other leagues operate under different requirements. But it really should be a change that happens around the world and extends to international events. Roster sizes should be expanded to seven, or even 10 players, at international events.
This could benefit regions with larger player pools, but that’s already the case—regions with more players are more likely to field a starting five with superior talent. What substitutes could bring is more variance, especially in a best-of-five setting. And variance is something that weaker leagues—and let’s admit, the NA LCS is one of them—could benefit from.
Things are unlikely to change before Worlds this year. But as League esports continues to grow—Europe will be franchised next year—this is an adjustment that needs to happen.