What should the North American esports expectations be in 2021?

Esports is an international sport, with teams and organizations from every corner of the globe. That said, not every region is seen as being equal to the others in terms of performance. The region which takes the cake in terms of having low expectations among fans nowadays is the North American region.

Difficult times have befallen multiple esports in the region, as teams struggle to perform against cross-regional adversaries. There is a big push by established organizations to set the record straight this season. Let’s take a look at what NA fans can expect this season.

TL winning

© Team Liquid

Why are North American expectations low?

The low expectations of North American fans towards the NA scene are not baseless. In the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, none of the North American teams made it out of the group stage. This was the first time an NA team had failed to qualify for the knockout stage since Worlds 2015. 2015 was also the first time Cloud9 did not make it past groups, which was considered by many as the international low for NA. Since then, things have not been the same. Another disappointing LCS finish at Worlds 2020 only helped cement that feeling of disappointment.

CS:GO is not fairing different either. CS:GO did go an industry-wide losing spree, but much of the issues come from NA. Last year was not good for NA CS:GO, with teams consistently failing in the rankings and organizations 100 Thieves and Chaos EC completely departing the scene.

Finally, DOTA 2 probably has it worst. A troubled scene has seen teams struggle to keep themselves afloat financially, as most strong competitors are struggling to source or retain sponsors. Evil Geniuses the most notable team from the region can only find opposition in two teams (Quincy Crew and 4Zoomers) neither of which hold sponsorships or are considered established esports organizations.

Even, Rainbow Six Siege is having issues retaining a fully competitive scene nowadays, with Ubisoft moving to merge both US and Canada to salvage the scene. The decision came after Tempo Storm, eUnited and Susquehanna Soniqs all released their R6 rosters.

Despite all this, there have been some changes on the horizon that might bring success to the NA scene.

Promising coaching  and player changes for teams

A number of North American teams have went on a buying and promoting spree in the offseason. Notable players have retired, yet remained in their organizations and the overall vibe is that NA will have a strong season across several esports genres.

An excellent example is TSM’s Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. One of NA’s most iconic LoL players could very well translate into a strong coach for the team and guide TSM to the light. A similar example is Cloud9 promoting Academy coach Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin moving to Head Coach. Big roster moves like Luka “Perkz” Perković moving from G2 to Cloud9, or Xerxe and Alphari both making the move to NA from EU is a big boost to the region’s talent pool.

CS:GO is having a minor renaissance also. Cloud9 manager Henry “HenryG” Greer built a 5+ million dollar roster set to set the scene ablaze in 21. Team Liquid also looks to contend heavily this upcoming season and made moves on their own. Brazilian superstar Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo is the newest addition to Liquid’s roster and another legendary esports superstar making the move to North America.

The perspective of esports in North America

It seems that the “west” is in a perpetual state of change. As one might imagine, being part of a region that is always expected to lose is not a good look for anyone involved.

Cloud9 CEO, Jack Etienne took to Twitter to voice his concerns on the matter, saying that “all of our teams need to reevaluate how we operate as this is not acceptable.”

The sentiment is shared across the board, especially with NA being considered a retirement home region or just a money bank for players to get paid and get out. On the other side of the coin, amateur and up and coming organizations are having a hard time building up or staying financially sound. Pushing homegrown players up the pipeline is becoming a challenge in itself.

With LoL Worlds, The International and IEM Katowice being the largest tournaments for each of the main esports titles, sponsorship potential is at its highest. If any brands are looking to get into esports and sponsor a North American team, they have years worth of proof that the NA scene has not been doing as well as their international counterparts. Not only can this affect sponsorship opportunities, but viewership during NA matches might decrease as well.

Players transitioning to coach roles and prospects being picked up by top-tier teams are a part of the change, but the regional mentality itself will need to shift. We won’t know if recent changes are successful until the 2021 season gets going and cross-regional events start happening. But so far, it seems NA as a whole is pushing hard to bring the region back to relevance and trickle down the potential success for the benefit of the entire region.

In the end, we do expect NA to perform well in both CS:GO and League of Legends internationally this season. Dota 2 will have to wait for better days.

Contributed by: Gabriel Ionica
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