The World Championship is over for TSM and Cloud 9 after suffering quarterfinal losses to Samsung White and Samsung Blue respectively. Those losses left North American teams with a 3-10 record against Korean teams at the World Championship, a drubbing by most measurements. But for TSM and Cloud 9, those victories were a seminal moment in the history of North American League of Legends. They represent the first steps in a long climb back to international respectability.
Samsung White vs TSM was the first step. Not so long ago, Korean teams could get away with disrespecting NA teams in the Pick and Ban phase, and just style all over them with superior mechanics, but that is no longer the case. Samsung White tried to do so in their 3rd game against TSM, but got roundly smacked by a North American team tired of being disrespected. On the World Stage, every team deserves to be taken seriously. A lesson most teams should have learned already after EDG fell to AHQ, and Alliance fell to KaBuM. That victory was TSM’s first ever win over a Korean Team in international competition, and while unimportant in the overall context of competitive League of Legends, it remains an important building block for a team whose inability to beat a Korean Team had long since evolved from talking point to curse.
Samsung Blue vs Cloud 9 was the second step. Cloud 9 rolled into the quarterfinals and demanded respect from the start with a dominating performance in a game one stomp that came out of left field. SSB tightened it up, taking the next two games, leading to one of the craziest endings you’ll ever see. In game 4, Cloud 9 came a few hits on the nexus away from turning a surprise pick on Dade and Deft into a forced game 5, despite a 15k gold deficit. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be. But in putting a scare into one of the best teams in the world, Cloud 9 further cemented the fact that North American teams cannot be underestimated.
When a North American team finally reaches the top, they’ll talk about how that climb began at this year’s World Championship when C9 and TSM showed remarkable tenacity in the face of overwhelming opposition. Make no mistake, the gap between North America and Korea is substantial, but it’s getting smaller with every passing year as more and more teams invest in the necessary infrastructure to succeed. With the likes of Sneaky, Bjergsen and Meteos, North America finally has players who are capable of standing toe to toe with their Korean counterparts, and hold their own. That’s something North America has never had. The competitive landscape is ever so slowly beginning to change. Who knows, maybe next year we’ll talking about North American teams as a contender for the World Championship. For now, they’ll just have to settle with respect.