Riot should combine NA and EU for the Spring Split
One of the coolest innovations of League of Legends season seven was the introduction of Rift Rivals.
The regional competitions exceeded all expectations and showed us how much fun international events could be. It also gave us a chance to test the NA vs. EU rivalry with North American teams coming out firmly ahead. All indications are that we'll have Rift Rivals again some time later in 2018.
But why wait that long? Here's a crazy theory: Riot should ditch the Spring Split and replace it with a souped-up version of Rift Rivals.
Why change the status quo?
Normally, NA and EU are in a state of friendly rivalry. But things went up a notch when Riot announced franchising for NA will start in 2018 and EU won't get its version until at least 2019. That led to four top EU squads applying to the NA LCS and for one consistent playoff performer to threaten to quit EU altogether.
Now, multiple EU stars have signed with NA teams, gutting the region of talent. And that's just the beginning of the issues. It's hard to fit both EU and NA broadcasts in one day, and Riot doesn't like to split viewership between the two. Oftentimes, NA streams have to wait until the day finishes in EU, one reason both regions are moving to best-of-ones in 2018.
But what if, instead of one region waiting for another, teams from both could play throughout the day? What if we could have Rift Rivals all the time?
Just get rid of the Spring Split
Riot should just replace the entirety of the Spring Split, which is already in an awkward place. Sure, the winners get invited to the Mid-Season Invitational and playoff teams earn championship points towards Worlds. But do those Championship Points really mean anything? Just ask FlyQuest and Phoenix1, two NA semifinal teams last year who hardly got to use their championship points after poor Summer Splits. In terms of Worlds qualifying, Summer Split is still king.
So Riot should leave the Summer Split alone. In the place of the Spring Split, Riot could move to an inter-regional competition that takes place over four months. At the start, five EU teams would fly to NA while five NA teams go the other direction. Over the next few weeks, the teams would play their cross-regional counterparts in a round robin, giving fans in both regions a chance to see their fantasy matchups.
After a few weeks, the teams could start swapping places, with the goal that fans in each region be given the opportunity to see every team at least once. Travel could be managed so that each team would only have to make one trip. With only two broadcast locations, logistics need not be a problem.
The best part? Nothing would have to change with regards to qualifications to other international tournaments. A tournament could still be held at the end of the split to determine NA and EU representatives to MSI. And Worlds Championship Points could still be awarded to those teams that do well.
The investment would be low on the part of Riot Games. But is the reward worth it?
Good for EU, good for NA, good for the LCS
This change would provide huge benefits to the LCS in both regions. Increased cooperation across the Atlantic would help the long-term business model of the entire LCS. And cross-regional competition could increase both the level of play and the overall size of the fanbase.
Teams like TSM already have fans everywhere—how much could they grow if EU fans had the chance to see them in person? EU teams like Splyce and Misfits already have significant ties through U.S.-based ownership. Playing in NA would help them take advantage of those ties and build bigger fanbases. Over time, the regional model could expand beyond the existing studios in Los Angeles and Berlin to grow the fan base even more.
Competing against a larger sample would challenge the teams to improve and learn different styles. TSM owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh has criticized other NA organizations for not challenging his team—so let's see how they do against EU competition on a regular basis. Both regions could share ideas for what to do against the Koreans and Chinese.
And the best part? When NA inevitably fails at Worlds, fans will be better prepared to pick an EU team to root for. Misfits became the pride of all the West when they took SK Telecom T1 to five games at Worlds. Institute this change, and next time, they'll have all of NA rooting for them.