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Can the NA region and its LCS teams perform at Worlds 2020?

Christian V. September 13, 2020

North America as a region has been struggling to find success at the annual League of Legends World Championship. But this year might be the one where an LCS team makes an unexpected deep run at the tournament. 

LCS teams are often considered worse than the other major regions, but is that a fair assessment by League of Legends fans? And will that assessment hold up this year?

LCS teams might be better than people think

LCS teams doing poorly at Worlds has become a meme amongst fans, but the North American region might surprise everyone when fans least expect. In recent years, Cloud9 has been the team to carry the North American torch at the World Championships, but this year it will have to be someone else after C9 narrowly failed to qualify.

The best result in recent years for the LCS was at the 2018 World Championship, where Cloud9 went all the way to the semifinals before being knocked out by Fnatic. In 2019, Team Liquid was able to make an impressive run at the Mid-Season Invitational, where they took down the defending world champions Invictus Gaming in the semifinals before losing to G2 Esports in the final. 

For this year, many fans have been skeptical about the LCS teams going into Worlds. The majority thinks that the representatives from Team SoloMid, Liquid, and FlyQuest will get overrun by teams from the LEC, LPL, and LCK. But the professional players themselves think that the LCS teams are being underestimated. 

In a recent interview, FlyQuest bot laner Jason “WildTurtle” Tran expressed that he doesn’t think LCS teams are bad at all. This comes after heavy criticism from fans, as well as some experts, who have been very critical towards the league as a whole. 

The most common concern about the LCS teams is that the region tends to play slower and more controlled than other regions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can seem questionable or even dull from a spectator's point of view. A good slow-playing team can choke out its opponents and win just as dominantly as an aggressive team can. 

Playing scaling compositions has also been praised by experts. Nick “LS” Cesare has been a big spokesman for slower compositions, saying that such a playstyle will often end up as the best, especially at Worlds. 

With that said, LCS teams don't always play that style. All three LCS teams at Worlds know how to play a controlled macro style, but they sometimes end up having to play that way due to indecisiveness. These are the games that worry fans the most, since the best LPL and LEC teams are likely to punish it. 

Another criticism towards the LCS is that its teams are not innovative enough, but that has been proven wrong recently, at least in part. A new jungle trend was recently started in the LCS by TSM jungler Mingyi “Spica” Lu. He pulled out a jungle Shen during the 2020 LCS Summer Split playoffs against Liquid, winning two dominant games on the champion. Shen was then picked up by G2 Esports jungler Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski the day after in the LEC playoffs, where it was played to great success. Shen is now considered a potential power pick heading into Worlds.

The new format makes 2020 World Championship groups harder

What makes it harder for all regions this year is the fact that the format has changed. The LPL and LEC will each have four representatives at the tournament because of previous years' performance. This means that the best regions in the world will have an extra team at the tournament, boosting the average level of competition. 

This is one of the big reasons why many fans are skeptical about the LCS teams this year, even though it will be harder for everyone else as well. While TSM secured the North American first seed, they could still end up in a group with powerhouses such as JD Gaming, DragonX, Gen.G, and other strong opponents. 

The overall level for the 2020 World Championship is probably higher than we have ever seen before, which will cause some teams to struggle. It will be the hardest test for the LCS in years, but it's not impossible. 

Having an LCS team make a deep run at the tournament still seems possible. The groups could end up being tough for the teams, but going deep in a tournament like this means that you have to beat great teams. 

The group stage consists of best-of-one games where everything can happen. Worlds is known to have many upsets and this year probably won’t be any different in that regard. The real question is if enough of those upsets can be strung together to push a North American team deep into the playoffs.