League of Legends Recap
The LCS hasn't started yet so I'll just briefly mention results from the LCK, which as of this post is 4 days in. The big surprise so far in that league is the dominance of Samsung Galaxy (obviously only one week in so don't make any judgement calls yet). They went 2-0 in their set versus the ROX Tigers, one of the strongest teams from the spring split, and also went 2-0 against the Afreeca Freecs. Look for them to continue performing well as the team meshes with Ambition at jungle and Ruler at AD Carry.
In the EU challenger series summer qualifiers, Team Forge and Misfits (formerly Renegades) beat Euronics Gaming and SK Gaming respectively to earn their spots in the EU challenger series summer split.
In NA, the C9 'challenger' team (composed of former LCS players including Balls, Rush, Hai, Altec and Lemonnation) dominated Destined For Glory 3-0, while Dream Team beat Arsenal 3-0.
Drama (Dardoch + Franchising)
Two pieces of drama this past week that I want to address. First, Team Liquid placed their star jungler Dardoch on indefinite suspension for 'insubordination', leaving the possibility for him to be traded to another team. This was a bold decision not only because Dardoch was a strong performer for Team Liquid, but also because he was a homegrown talent and as such did not take up a precious foreign import slot. While I don't necessarily know the exact circumstances of his suspension, we've heard rumors (whether or not they are true) that Dardoch had run into behavioral problems in the past, stemming from his childhood. Unfortunately one of the realities of any professional sport, and specifically for E-sports where ages skews young, is that players don't necessarily have the maturity to deal with in-real-life issues, especially when there's no mentor around (Thorin touches on this in his video here). Even in basketball and football, where organizations have much larger resource pools and access to psychologists, etc., we see players run into trouble. My opinion is that its up to the management to stem these issues before they reach the point of no return, and in this case it seems to have gone too far.
On the bright side, it appears that Reginald from TSM has approached Dardoch to play on a potential TSM challenger team to groom him for the main squad (according to a set of leaked skype/league chats between Dardoch and Bjergsen)
Going to recruit players for a challenger team in October. The goal is to develop talent for our main team. #TSM— Andy Dinh (@TSMReginald) May 30, 2016
Another point of discussion this week has been the idea of franchising. On the one hand, franchising would guarantee positions for established organizations to participate in the challenger series, essentially turning it into a feeder league for the LCS similar to A, AA, and AAA baseball teams. Doing so would promote player health and safety as the security of a franchised team would also trickle down to the player level. This concept could also be stretched to the LCS, where the longevity of a franchised organization competing in the LCS would also reduce the volatility of the league as a whole (guaranteed income coming from Riot, sponsorships, etc.)
The obvious downside is that franchising dramatically raises the bar of entrance for new organizations (they would have to buy out an existing franchised team or buy an expansion slot at Riot's digression), and also shifts power more heavily to existing teams. In other words, whereas in the current LCS it's still possible (albeit unlikely) for a rag-tag bunch of players to make their way through the challenger scene and eventually join the league, the new format would be similar to other professional sports, where a pre-determined number of teams (different depending on the sport) occupy all of the available slots and control the flow of professional players through drafts.
Ultimately, your opinion of franchising probably depends on what side of the coin you come from. If you're an existing LCS player or manager, you want the security of a franchised team and all the benefits that comes with it. If you're a challenger player not on one of said teams, you most likely want the option of winning your way through the various leagues (qualifiers, etc.) before finally making your way into the LCS. That being said, the league has generally trended toward the former scenario even without franchising - established organizations have the resources to remain in the LCS, and can pick-up promising challenger players similar to a feeder system. The only counter example I can think of is Dignitas, which had been in the league for 2 1/2 seasons before being relegated.
In the end I think this saying will always hold true "if you're good enough to be in the LCS, you'll make it eventually".