The League of Legends North American spring season is underway, and ten teams are battling it out in hopes of winning the “spring split.”
This is the first season to feature franchised teams. The new partnership structure was made, primarily, to encourage long-term investment from the new owners and revenue sharing. It has also provided players with a larger voice and more protection.
It will be interesting to see how this season plays out with new teams and a new overall direction. Since the league began back in 2013, Team SoloMid have been in both the spring and summer finals every year and have won six out of the ten championships. Will this be the first year they find themselves on the outside looking in?
This year’s spring finals will be played in Miami on April 7th and 8th. Below are the odds of each team winning the spring split.
North American League of Legends season. (Photo by Gabriel.gagne (Wikipedia) CC License)
Cloud9’s roster doesn’t look quite as strong as last season but they still have some key members onboard that make them a legitimate threat to win the spring split. New additions like Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, TSM’s old jungler, could really improve the team. They also still have solid a backbone in mid-lane star Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen and bot lane Jedi Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi.
Like Team SoloMid, Cloud9 is one of the most successful NA organizations in League of Legends to date. Who knows if their roster changes will hurt or help them, but their consistency in their bot-lane may be enough to push this team to a playoff run. Will it lead to a championship? It’s hard to doubt this franchise anymore.
Team Liquid comes into this season with a few questions, one being their lack of overall team-play experience. They have extremely individual players, like “Pobelter” and “Xmithie,” and let’s not forget their recent addition of the polarizing but hugely talented AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, but this latest roster iteration doesn’t have the experience of working together, which brings a certain level of uncertainty heading into this spring split.
That said, most teams have made big roster changes, and one thing Team Liquid has that many others don’t is carry potential throughout the map. Even if the team’s synergy is a bit off to start the season, their overall lane dominance and personal prowess should shine through. They have so much talent that they could easily float through the spring season based purely on individual performances. They are easily one of the favorites to take the spring split.
It would be really easy to make Team SoloMid the odds-on favorite to win the spring split. TSM is the three-time reigning NA LCS champion and has appeared in every NA LCS final. Their success speaks for itself. They’ve consistently been champions under a variety of different rosters, yet this season may see TSM take a step backward.
As soon as last season ended, TSM owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh took a wrecking ball to his team. He was clearly unhappy with finishing 11th at the Worlds and not even progressing past the group stage. With only two players from its North American Championship roster remaining (Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg and Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell), they added G2 bot lane duo Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez and signed an unproven but somewhat talented jungler in Mike Yeung, hoping to form the next great TSM roster.
Even former TSM squads occassionally took a while to get into the swing of things, so early struggles would be par for the course.
100 Thieves is not a new team in the world of eSports, but they are the new kids on the block in the NA LCS realm. Even though the team had some success within the Call of Duty World League, they eventually fell into obscurity and became known as a clothing brand.
Somehow founder Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag was able to parlay past success into a $13 million League of Legends franchise fee courtesy the Cleveland Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert. Nadeshot has an all-star roster on paper, with the likes of Meteos, Ryu, Ssumday, Cody Sun, and Aphromoo. The question may be more motivation than skill. Both Meteos and Ryu have appeared to lose that killer instinct over the last couple of years, citing mental health issues and just overall burnout. Plus, it may take time to find chemistry.
Of course, when you have a proven veteran like Aphromoo leading your team, plus Ssumday in the top lane, you can’t be overlooked.
One team looking to rebound from last season is Team Echo Fox (currently owned by former LA Laker Rick Fox). They have what some believe to be a risky roster, which fits with their free-wheeling, no risk/no reward style of play. It’s fun to watch, but also leads to mistakes, and fans and pundits have been somewhat sour on their chances of longterm success since the roster was announced. They will need to play cleaner than they have to get far in the postseason, though they should have enough talent to make it to the playoffs.
At one time CLG was considered the best League of Legends team in the world. Then they sank into mediocrity thanks in large part to head-scratching roster changes. CLG have always had the philosophy that team chemistry and culture is far more important than putting together a team of all-stars.
Last season, they thought they had signed the perfect superstar for their “team-first” mantra in Korean import “Reignover.” Unfortunately, his star fizzled in 2017, and now the team is hoping that more roster moves can help Reignover rebound to his MVP-caliber play. His teammates now include Stixxay, Darshan, and Biofrost, who were ranked 1st, 1st, and 2nd at their roles in the 2017 Summer Split.
While all the focus has been on Team Liquid and Team SoloMid and their roster shuffles, CLG has quietly flown under the radar and could win it all.
Another NBA team-owned LCS franchise has adopted the same philosophy as its owners. The Houston Rockets have developed a reputation for being innovators in their use of data analysis, and a similar strategy is being implemented by Clutch Gaming in their debut season. Unfortunately for Clutch, it can use all the numbers and analysis it wants, but the roster is still going to be made up of average players.
This team was built with consistency in mind and wants to be strong in all areas of the game. A lot of the burden will be placed on Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten who made a name for himself in the international League of Legends competition. He was part of that perfect 18-0 Fnatic team back in the summer of 2015 which not only got him an EU LCS title but a World Title too. He’ll be playing alongside the hyper-aggressive LirA (who was ranked #1 in first-blood percentage during the 2017 spring split), which should definitely give Team Clutch a vicious attack.
The rest of the team, especially in the top lane, is made up of young talent. They’ll be strong in years to come, but just making the playoffs will be a big ask in their inaugural season.
FlyQuest will compete with a lineup that consists of top laner Lee “Flame” Ho-jong, jungler Andy “AnDa” Hoang, AD carry Jason “WildTurtle” Tran, and support William “Stunt” Chen. This is a team that some thought wouldn’t even make the cut as an official franchise but here they are. Last year, they made it to the playoffs in their very first spring split by securing a fourth-place finish, but only made it to a seventh-place summer split finish and missed out on qualifying for the 2017 World Championship.
FlyQuest is an average-at-best team that will need a quick start just to make the playoffs.
Much like 100 Thieves, OpTic Gaming’s roots are found in Call of Duty, and they have been rapidly expanding into other eSports leagues like Overwatch and Dota 2, thanks to majority owner (and Texas Rangers co-owner) Neil Leibman.
Like many of the rookie teams dipping their feet into the NA LCS waters for the first time, OpTic will have a hard time finding their footing, even with a roster full of veterans (Arrow, LemonNation, PowerOfEvil, Zig, and Akaadian). Don’t expect this team to come out hot as they try to find chemistry.
Yet another new League of Legends franchise owned by an NBA team (Golden State Warriors), Golden Guardians lack what the Warriors have in spades: all-star players. They do somewhat resemble the Warriors circa 2012, though, boasting young talent with tremendous upside.
The kid to watch is Juan “Contractz” Garcia (Rookie of the Split, spring 2017). The 18-year-old, formerly of Cloud9, has already been a part of two LCS playoff runs, a grueling five-game LCS Final against Team SoloMid, and a grand total of 18 games during C9’s quarterfinal run at the 2017 World Championship. In terms of pro-play experience, the teenager is already a veteran. He could become the Steph Curry of this team, in time, and lead GG to great heights, but it won’t be this year.
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