The first-ever Play-In rounds at the League of Legends World Championship have been completed. The expected teams made it through into the Group Stage, and upsets were scarce.
Prior to the tournament, critics argued this expansion round was basically pointless — that while allowing teams from the lesser qualification zones to compete was a nice gesture, the gulf in class between these teams and the No. 3 seeds from Europe, North America, and China would render it moot.
Apart from one group game, that proved accurate. The three “giants” from Europe, North America, and China — Fnatic, Cloud9, and Team WE — all progressed as top seeds and then swept their Round Two games. Indeed, the only upset of the Play-In came when an already qualified Fnatic lost their final group game to Young Generation.
All this said, there’s still plenty to celebrate about the Play-In. I would argue it should definitely remain for the 2018 event. Here’s why.
1907 Fenerbahce makes it into the Group Stage
Even if it’s otherwise all chalk, the Play-In allows one underdog team to play in the lucrative next stage.
In 2017, that teams is Turkish-based 1907 Fenerbahce. Drawn into Group D with Rampage and HK Attitude, 1907 Fenerbahce won their group in a tiebreaker after they and HK Attitude both finished with 3-1 records. Earning that top seed from Group D was crucial. It meant they avoided the big three teams from North America, China, and Europe and instead faced a runner-up in Team oNe eSports.
This match was arguably the most evenly contested of the Round Two phase. 1907 Fenerbahce took a 1-0 lead before Team oNe tied it up. Then, the Turkish team went on to win the next two games and earn a spot in the Group Stage for the first time in their history.
This is a massive moment for the Turkish qualification section, which now has a team in the Worlds Group Stage for the first time. It’s a great story.
Playing against giants will only help emerging teams
Even if mismatches abound, the only way for teams from CIS, Turkey, Brazil, Latin America, and parts of Asia to improve is playing against stiffer competition.
The emerging teams will be able to understand how far they have to come to stand a chance against the better sides. That will elevate the standards in these individual qualifying leagues over time.
Look at it the other way: if teams from emerging qualifiers don’t learn the skills, tactics, and strategy required by playing better teams, how else will they?
Financial rewards and exposure
The financial benefits for some of these emerging teams are huge if they can reach the Play-In and then the Group Stage. Proceeds can secure the future of the team for a considerable period. Spreading the ample cash at Worlds around increases the number of markets likely to be interested in events of this size.
And then there’s the exposure element. By simply being seen at Worlds, these lesser-known teams are more likely to be invited in some of the richer League of Legends tournaments around the world.
Where does this leave the 2017 Group Stage?
Now that we know Fnatic, Team WE, Cloud9, and 1907 Fenerbahce have qualified, here are the draws for the next stage.
- Group A – EDward Gaming, SK Telecom T1, ahq e-Sports Club, Cloud9
- Group B – Longzhu Gaming, Immortals, GIGABYTE Marines, Fnatic
- Group C – G2 Esports, Samsung Galaxy, Royal Never Give Up, 1907 Fenerbahce
- Group D – Flash Wolves, Misfits, Team SoloMid, Team WE
The next round of games will take place from Oct. 5-8. The second set will be a week later from Oct. 12-15.
Bet365 opens new LoL Worlds markets
In addition to the standard Outright Winner market from Bet365, the company is also running some special markets for the very first time. (SK Telecom T1 remain the 7/4 favourites to win, just ahead of Longzhu Gaming.)
These special bets are based on the different Champions players can select and ban for each game, the players themselves, and the teams competing. They are all available at Bet365 now and will be throughout the tournament.
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