Emerging regions have taken the 2020 League of Legends World Championsip play-ins by storm.
Both groups appeared to be mostly decided before the tournament even began. Group A would see Team Liquid and MAD Lions secure spots in the next stage. LGD Gaming was predicted to top Group B with four smaller regional teams fighting for the last spot.
But at the end of the round robin stage, the leagues perceived as less-skilled including the TCL, CIS, and OPL all put on a strong showing. This level of parity across the smaller regions and the big four has not been seen before and it is mostly thanks to those smaller leagues and regions stepping up and growing to this level.
Many downplay the skill level in emerging regions as the level of talent in solo queues and leagues is lower than in bigger regions. The regions are small for a reason. Turkey, Russia, and Oceania all have a smaller player population than Korea, Western Europe, and China. A smaller player base naturally results in a smaller player pool with less high-level talent.
But thanks to the rise of imports coming in and out of these regions, the level of play has increased over the years. New talent entering into these regions has strengthened the solo queue talent pool and provided an added skill check to players who want to compete at the highest level in their country. Players that choose to leave and compete in bigger leagues like the LCS or LPL either return better than before, or stay and showcase the level of domestic talent in those regions.
These regions also have access to other servers that players can access to test their skills. The LJL can access Korean servers, Russian players can reach western Europe, and so on.
Adding infrastructure and giving players steady income is another way that these regions have leveled up their play. In some of the smaller regions where esports is less established and popular, there used to be problems with players not getting paid or teams without coaches or managers to help with basic team needs. This was an issue in the early days of the LCS, EU LCS, and even the LPL, but these troubles have continued to linger on in smaller regions.
Thanks to legitimate organizations entering the space and support staff becoming more common as the years went on, emerging regions have found stability which allows players to improve and compete worry-free.
Emerging regions have been improving year after year, something that has been seen year after year at Worlds. Because of the rise in skill, the teams that qualify to the event are no longer overwhelmed by LCK, LEC, or LPL teams. In some cases, they can completely outplay them. This play-in stage has been the most competitive ever and the expectations for next year’s tournament should be even higher.