Every season, new League of Legends players explode into the pro scene. Sometimes they come into the tier two systems, like academy in North America. And sometimes, they make that leap from academy or the regional leagues to the main stage.
There is always a debate about who counts as a rookie player. When Broken Blade came from Turkey to play for TSM in 2019, he had professional experience but it was in a very minor region. Does that make him a rookie? Some people say yes, but some people say if he has pro experience he can’t be considered a rookie.
Personally, I consider a player who has some, but not a ton, of experience in a minor region as a rookie, so Broken Blade to me was a rookie in 2019. Whatever your definition, though, being a rookie on the Worlds stage is a pretty set in stone thing: you have to have not played at Worlds before. That is the case for many players coming into this Worlds even from the major regions.
Solo, from FlyQuest, is probably going to be the oldest rookie on the Worlds stage. He’s 27, and this is his first time making it to Worlds. It’s somewhat easier to think about that when you consider he wasn’t a starter for the first time in LCS until he was 23, but it still makes him much older than most of the other rookies.
One of the youngest players at Worlds is Carzzy from MAD Lions. He’s 18 years old—nearly a decade younger than Solo—and in his first year of professional play at the LEC level. His situation couldn’t be more different than Solo, and yet, they’re starting in the same place at Worlds.
Mark, LGD’s botlaner, is also playing in his first Worlds championship. This is his second year in the LPL; he played a struggling lineup last year with SinoDragon Gaming which was rebranded into Dominus Gaming before the 2019 Summer Split. His team squeaked by into the play-ins with a win over 2018 World Champions Invictus Gaming.
Playing on the Worlds stage is a goal of every professional player. That’s when you know you’ve made it; it’s like when you step onto the plate at game one of a World Series match and know you’ve risen to the highest levels of your sport.
But this year, Worlds looks different. While Riot is reportedly considering having fans in the audience for Finals, depending on how the rest of the tournament goes, there will be no crowd for most of the tournament. This Worlds has a very different feeling, like we’ve all been holding our breath just hoping it happens.
The idea of rookies at Worlds is a fascinating one because sometimes rookies can bring a different perspective. A player like Doublelift, who has so infamously struggled at the World Championship, brings in baggage that younger players simply don’t have. But at the same time, the fear of not meeting expectations is real; TSM’s jungler Spica is trying to overthrow years of struggles by TSM junglers, who have been so often blamed for the team’s failures.
Crazy and his incredibly young lineup—their oldest player is Orome at 22—are trying to show that this time, Europe is better than China. On the other side of the field, Matt and the rest of the LPL representatives want to claim the third title in a row for the LPL. Everyone is fighting for something, even if what would be considered success for every team is different.
In a Worlds like none before it, in a bubble tournament, in the midst of a pandemic, it feels as though this could be the breakout moment for some rookies. Playing without a crowd can remove some of the stress from those without Worlds experience, and hurt players who would’ve been bolstered by fan support.
Even though Worlds this year is different, it is still Worlds. It will still be the biggest League of Legends event this year and, for some of these players, it might be the first step toward glory.