League of Legends World Championship » Overview, history & top teams
Introduction to the League of Legends World Championship
The League of Legends World Championship is an annual tournament hosted by Riot Games, acting as the culminating event in the League of Legends (LoL) season. The first LoL World Championship was staged back in 2011 at DreamHack in Sweden, with British team Fnatic taking home the spoils. Riot Games commissioned the winner’s trophy, which is now known as the Summoner’s Cup, which weighs in at over 70 pounds. The first World Championship offered a total prize pool of $100,000, which has risen significantly over recent years, with the LoL Worlds 2019 expected to exceed $7,000,000 USD.
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As the League of Legends scene and player base grew bigger, especially with a mounting interest in Esports, the League of Legends Championship followed. Compared to its first iteration with only eight teams, primarily from EU or NA, the 2019 LoL Worlds is set to include twenty-four teams from all over the world. These added teams had even forced Riot to add an additional stage to Worlds, now with a play-in stage.
Currently, the League of Legends World Championship comprises of the; Play-in group stage, Play-in Knock out stage, Main event group stage (groups), quarter-finals, semi-finals and the finals. The group stages are a best of one, with the group stage scores directly translating into their game win / loss. The knock-out stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals are much longer, with teams going through a best of 5 series, leading to a higher accuracy in the determination of the superior team.
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League of Legends World Championship History
Started in 2011, the tournament has seen several changes over the years, in terms of prize money, host destinations, competing teams and accessibility for fans, with the ever-increasing demand for League of Legends action only helping to ensure that the event will continue to grow in the future. Let’s now review all the League of Legends World Championship seasons.
Riot Season 1 Championship
The First League of Legends World Championship: a New Era for League of Legends
The inaugural World Championship, known as the Season 1 Championship, took place at the DreamHack Summer in Jonkoping, Sweden between 18-21 June. With a total prize pool of $100,000, the tournament attracted eight teams from North America, South-East Asia and Europe. With over 1.6 million viewers watching live streaming of the event, including a peak figure of over 210,000 during the latter stages, it was British team Fnatic that came away with the win, seeing off against All authority in the final.
Some of League of Legends top teams were involved in the tournament, with Counter Logic Gaming, Epik Gaming, Gamed!de, Team Pacific, Team SoloMid and Xan making up the eight competing organisations. However, after many battles, it was Fnatic and against All authority who were the last two teams standing. Having not suffered a single defeat in the upper bracket, Fnatic were the undoubted favourites heading into the final. Having already been defeated by Fnatic in the opening stages, the final was a step to far for the French organisation, eventually going down by a 2-1 score line. Fnatic would take home a winning prize pool of $50,000, with team SoloMid finishing in third position.
Season 2 World Championship
After the success of Season 1, Riot Games announced that the $5 million would be paid out during the Season 2 Championship. $2 million of which went to Riot’s partners, such as the IGN Pro League, whilst another $2 million went to Riot’s Season 2 qualifiers. The remaining funds would be given to the organisers who hosted some of the independent LoL tournaments during the calendar year. The Season 2 Championship was staged in October 2012 in Los Angeles, USA, once again acting as a final competition of the League of Legends campaign. The tournament was comprised of twelve teams, four more compared to that of season 1 due to the addition of more international teams, particularly Korea and China. The event offered a generous prize pool of $2 million, the biggest in the whole of esports at the time.
The latter stages, including group stage, quarter finals and semi-finals took place between October 4-6, with the grand final taking place at the University of Southern California on October 13, in front of over 10,000 fans. With over 8 million esports fans watching on from around the world throughout the competition, including 1.1 million during the grand final, Taiwanese team, Taipei Assasins, claimed victory, defeating South Korean’s Azubu Frost.
A 3-1 victory handed the Taiwanese team $1 million in prize money, with Moscow Five finishing in third place after their playoff win over CLG Europe. Despite this, the tournament will perhaps be remembered for controversy, with issues surrounding the event format, cheating and technical problems. Teams such as reigning champions Fnatic and Azubu Blaze missed out on the tournament, instead choosing to compete at the IGN Pro League 5. As well as this, Azubu Frost player, Jang Gun Woong cheated by viewing the big screen at the Galen Center, with his team receiving a $30,000 fine as a result.
Season 3 World Championship
SK Telecom T1’s First World Championship
The Season 3 League of Legends World Championship grand finals were held on the 4th of October 2013 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA. With 14 of League of Legends top teams taking part, it was Korean organisation SK Telecom T1 who were crowned champions, taking home both the Summoner’s Cup and $1 million USD in prize money. Other competing teams included Fnatic, Lemondogs, OMG and Gambit Gaming, with SK Telecom seeing off Royal Club 3-0 in the final.
The 2013 World Championship final was viewed by over 32 million people, a dramatic increase from the 2012 finals. As well as this, tickets for the finals sold out in just one hour. As with the Season 2 Championship, Riot Games chose to seed the four teams that were victorious in their respective regional competitions, while other participants battled it out in a group stage, with the top two making it through to the next round. The second round consisted of the winners of regional playoffs taking on the winners of group stages in a best-of-three elimination match.
While SK Telecom and Royal Club finished as winners and runners-up respectively, it was NaJin Black Sword and Fnatic who would end up in third and fourth. Through SKT’s victory over RYL, this started a rivalry between the two teams for years to come, even laying the foundation for competition between the two major regions, Korea and China. SK Telecom T1 remain one of the best League of Legends teams to this day, with Faker still signed to this day, continuing to be one of the, if not the best player in the world.
2014 World Championship
League of Legends World Championship got renamed
Riot Games chose to rebrand the competition 2014, changing the name to the League of Legends World Championship. Also unlike previous events, the 2014 tournament was held in various different regions, before the grand finals were held in Seoul, South Korea on October the 19th at the Sangam Stadium. The sixteen qualifying teams made it through by winning a major professional league, such as the Mid-Season Invitational, or a regional qualifying tournament. Following this, a sixteen-team round-robin was played out, before the remaining eight teams took part in the knockout stage of the competition.
The competition was once again dominated by Asian teams, with Samsung Galaxy White claiming their first ever LoL World Championships, thanks to their win over the StarHorn Royal Club. The semi-finals were all Korean and Chinese affairs, with Samsung Galaxy Blue and Oh My God coming third and fourth respectively. A record 40,000 spectators attended the grand finals, along with around 280 million views on television and through online streaming platforms such as Twitch throughout the event.
There was more controversy in 2014, with SK Gaming player, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen causing a storm by acting in a racially insensitive manner whilst playing on the Taiwanese server. The Dane was fined $2,500 and had also been suspended for his team’s opening three matches of the tournament.
This 2014 League of Legends World Championship saw the gap widen between the EU / NA teams again the CN / KR teams once again, with Europe and North America failing to even enter the semi finals. Once again, a $2 million USD prize pool was shared among all participating teams.
2015 World Championship
League of Legends World Championship return to Europe
For the first time since its inauguration in 2011, the LoL Worlds schedule returned to Europe in 2014, with the likes of London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin all hosting stages of the competition. International wildcards Bangkok Titans and paIN Gaming joined the usual suspects, however it was SK Telecom T1 who would secure their second world title, defeating South-Korean rivals KOO Tigers in the final.
Despite many expecting a strong challenge from 2011 winners Fanatic, following their 18-0 record in the EU LCS Summer Split, as well as battling it out with SKT T1 over five games at the Mid-Season Invitational, the European team would have to settle for third place, with China’s best also falling short. The likes of Team SoloMid and LGD Gaming finished way off, with SKT T1 later defeating the KOO Tigers 3-1 at the final in Germany.
The final is estimated to have achieved viewing figures of 36 million, however further controversy and technical issues would once again take centre stage. Cloud9’s Hai Lam was fined $500 for making an offensive hand gesture to an opponent during the group stage, while an in-game bug occurred involving Fnatic’s Kim Ui-Jin, meaning that the contest could not be completed. Riot Games also decided to disable the “Gragas” character, from the rest of the tournament, along with both “Lux” and “Ziggs”.
2016 World Championship
The 2016 League of Legends World Championship was the sixth iteration of the LoL Worlds series, held between September 29th and October 29th across the United States. With sixteen teams once again qualifying for the tournament, including those from North America, South Korea, Europe and China, it was SK Telecom T1 who would defend their title from the previous year after the LoL Worlds schedule was all said and done. The South-Korean super team, SKT, once again including the likes of “Faker” and “Bengi” in their roster, carried their team to victory against rivals Samsung Galaxy in the final. Eventually coming out 3-2 winners, SKT T1’s “Faker” was unsurprisingly named tournament MVP, with the team also receiving over $2.6 million in prize money, one of the largest sums in the entirety of esports.
Record viewing figures
The final was followed by over 43 million people across the world, with its success thought to be vital in prompting those in charge of the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games to include an esports presentation in their pitch. The 2016 World Championships offered the biggest prize pool in League of Legends history, with only “The International” from the world of Dota 2 able to compete with such figures at the time.
SKT T1 became the first 3-time World Champions with their victory, the growth in the League of Legends scene and the esports industry in general demonstrated by the $3 million worth of prize money that has been growth funded through a portion of Worlds themed in-game purchases.
2017 World Championship
After the success of the 2016 event, the LoL Worlds 2017 had been held in four different cities across China, one of the strongest regions in competitive League of Legends. This had also been a strategic decision considering the major growth of League of Legends within China, giving hope to fans their home teams would be finally able to take out a League of Legends World Championship. With SK Telecom T1 going for a third successive title, coupled with the fact that the South-Korean’s hadalready won this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, the LoL Worlds 2017 promised to be an explosive affair, with the home crowd bidding to end their dominance in the competition. Unfortunately for the Chinese, the Koreans once again topped the leaderboards, with Samsung Galaxy and SK Telecom taking first and second place respectively.
New Format for the LoL World Championship
The event had added the in-play stage this year, due to the growth of the tournament extending to 24 teams, representing 13 professional League of Legends leagues. The 2017 LoL Worlds had been held between September 23rd and November 4th. Teams from Brazil, China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Latin America, North America, Oceania, South-East Asia, Taiwan and Turkey made up the competing teams, expectantly, containing a majority of the best players from their respective regions.
The finals had been set to be held in the famous Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, a former Olympic venue. While the viewership for the play-in stage had been lower than the rest of the tournament, this was expected, and was continued to be received well by fans. Riot Games had once again increased the prize money on offer to successful teams, with a base $2,250,000 plus crowd funding contributions from Worlds themed purchases from the in-game store. The final prize pool reached $4,940,000 USD, a worthy end to the 2017 season.
2018 World Championships
The 2018 League of Legends World Championship had been solely hosted in Korea throughout various venues around the country. The play-in stage started in Korea’s capital, Seoul. It then moved to Busan for the group stage and quarter-finals. Unusually, the semi-finals were hosted in the Gwangju Women’s University Universiade Gymnasium. The finals ended in Incheon with the largest venue of all, carrying a capacity of 50000 people.
Following the 2017 LoL Worlds format, a play-in stage was included prior to the main event, with 24 teams around the world invited in total. The teams competed for a share of approximately $6,450,000 USD, the highest ever prize pool in League of Legends history to date.
Having always been the strongest region, the Korean teams claimed both first and second place in the 2017 League of Legends World Championships. This led to the 2018 League of Legends Worlds event heading to Korea. This also allowed the Korean teams who qualified from the LCK to directly enter the main group stage, skipping the play-in stage that some other region’s teams had to compete in.
Despite a fairly strong group stage performance, the Korean teams, to the shock of many, were knocked out in the quarter-finals. This paved the way for either North America or Europe to finally enter the finals (for the first time since season 1) and stand a chance to take out the championships.
Has Korea lost their top spot?
Evidently, Korea were not the strongest region in 2018. The region showed signs of weakening with SKT constantly dropping the ball and even failing to quality for the League of Legends World champion For the first time since 2016, a Korean team failed to claim the top spot at the Mid-Season Invitationals. That said, KT Rolster had poor match making, pitted up against Invictus Gaming in the quarter-finals, losing 2-3, while Invictus went on the win the championship.
2019 Season World Championship
Words will be returning to Europe stopping by Germany for Play-Ins & Group stage, moving to Spain for the Quarter-finals and Semi-finals, and ending in France with the Finals.
The prize pool has yet to be announced, however, it is likely to exceed $2,250,000 (base). The past two LoL Worlds base prize pool had been set at $2,250,000 USD. However, despite if the base prize pool exceeds its previous amounts or not, the final prize pools in the past two years have been mostly crowd funded. Through the sale of LoL Worlds passes and special League of Legends World Championship skins, the prize pool will rise. Given the rising popularity of the game despite many other major games coming out, it is likely that the prizepool will exceed those of previous years.
No changes to the format have been made, consisting of 24 teams across the world, including; China, Korea, Europe, North America, Taiwan / Hong Kong / Macao, Vietnam, Brazil, CIS, Japan, Latin America, Oceania, Southeast Asia and Turkey. Given Invictus Gaming had taken out the 2018 League of Legends World championship, all of China’s qualifying teams bypassed the play-in stage.
Currently, both the European and Korean regions are looking strong. Especially G2 Esports who took out the 2019 Mid-season Invitationals, and yet again having placed as Europe’s top team in the LEC 2019 Spring regular season, LEC 2019 Spring playoffs and LEC 2019 Summer regular season. SKT and Griffin, two of Korea’s top teams will undoubtably be a strong force in the League of Legends Worlds event, SKT recently regaining back their form, and Griffin always having been one of the LCK’s top forces.