How North America can finally win Worlds
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October 27, 2019

How North America can finally win Worlds

After one of North America’s worst international results since 2015, it is undeniable that the region needs to improve. But it is unclear how.

Much sets NA apart from regions like China and Europe. However, the region’s biggest hurdle is the massive difference in player population. Unfortunately, not even a massive NA marketing campaign can hope to breach the gap.

In early 2018, NA had 18 million accounts (not accounting for smurfs). While China boasted 117 million, at nearly 100 million more. But of NA’s 18 million, only 1.2 million players are ranked. By comparison, the European West server had a total population of 21 million with 2 million ranked players. NA’s ranked players sit around 6.7 percent of the server’s total population, while EUW’s is 9.7 percent. When considering populations of millions, another 3 percent is massive.

However, NA’s population disparity isn’t a solvable problem. Without a cultural shift, it will always hamper the region’s competitive chances. But there are still actions NA can take to make up for it.

Systems like the Academy League and Scouting Grounds exist but rarely intersect with LCS roster changes. Veteran players failing to keep up in the LCS are often relegated to Academy positions. Players like Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya are a clear example of this issue. His most recent tournament success was in 2016, at the LCS Spring Finals and a second-place finish at the following Mid Season Invitational. Since then, he has failed to accomplish anything competitively significant. Now, he takes a spot on Golden Guardians Academy. His position could be given to a newer player giving them experience playing in a competitive environment. Instead, it’s left to Darshan, who has no prospects of future international success.

NA has a habit of importing skilled players from other regions. Teams have a desire to find already experienced players to maximize the chances of regional success in a single year. But doing so leaves prospective NA talent at the backburner. Players like Darshan or Pobelter take up potential slots for rookies to practice against highly skilled imports like Yo “CoreJJ” Yong-in. Imported players can raise a region’s ceiling. But when a team can import up to two players, and underperforming veterans take up spots, the floor never budges.

Professional players like Peter “Doubelift” Peng have complained about NA’s extreme disparity.  Top NA teams can’t get quality practice in their own region, and can only improve in the months before international tournaments. NA needs to raise its skill floor. When Team Liquid can’t improve for nine months out of the year, while SKT and G2 are always grinding, it’s no wonder NA can’t find success.

To amend this, NA should reset their rules regarding the Academy. Currently, a lot of teams use Academy as storage for extra players instead of a training ground. There needs to be a rule change preventing players with previous professional experience from joining Academy rosters. Doing so will force teams to look more closely at NA’s prospective talent, and provide them the necessary experience to improve.

Many League of Legends personalities provided their own suggestions as to how to improve the region. But the common consensus is that something needs to be done. Failure to do so will result in the perpetuation of NA’s stagnancy as a relevant international competitor.

Written by Devon Huge

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