LoL Worlds 2020 won't happen in Shanghai, China, future unknown

Steven R. July 9, 2020

The 2020 League of Legends World Championship will not be taking place in Shanghai this year.

The national government of China has cancelled all international sporting events scheduled for the country through the end of 2020. This includes Worlds 2020, leaving the fate of the largest League event of the year uncertain. This follows claims from Riot Games parent company Tencent Holdings stating that the event was still scheduled to go on as planned.

The news should leave Riot Games and all stakeholders in the LoL pro scene a bit worried, if it should prove true. T1 CEO Joe Marsh has pushed back against the report, suggesting that it flew in the face of what he'd heard. 

The entire League of Legends calendar is built around qualifying for Worlds each year, which is consistently one of the biggest esports events of every calendar year. A great demonstration of the importance of Worlds came earlier this year when the majority of players from North America’s LCS voted to cancel the 2020 LCS Spring Split due to its lack of relevance towards earning a spot in Worlds 2020.

The split was played out regardless of the vote, but some players lacked motivation due to the lack of impact on World Championship qualification. 

Removing Worlds 2020 from the calendar entirely would leave pro players similarly frustrated across all regions. It would also rob teams from smaller leagues of the opportunity to compete with bigger names at a top event. 

LoL Worlds 2020 may still happen, but not in China

Fans shouldn’t start panicking about Worlds 2020 being cancelled quite yet. The event can still potentially happen in one form or another. 

The big challenge facing Riot Games is getting the players together in order to compete. While an online-only event would hypothetically be possible, lag and connectivity issues would likely mire it. Having teams from Vietnam play against teams in the United States, for example,  would be very difficult.

This could be remedied by creating multiple miniature “Worlds” events, bringing together geographically linked regions into a series of events similar to the retired Rift Rivals concept.

It’s also possible that Riot will work with a different international government in order to make the 2020 World Championship happen. Though many countries have closed themselves off from international travel over recent months, a number of different nations have offered themselves up as a landing spot for international sporting events that have continued on despite health concerns. 

Some fans and analysts have conjectured that it's still possible that the Chinese government, which works closely with Riot owner Tencent Holdings, makes a one-off exception for Worlds 2020 to take place in Shanghai later in the year.