It will come as no surprise to North American League of Legends fans that North American teams continue to turn to non-North American players rather than looking within. It has been the case since the first generation of international players began storied careers in North America. It is sometimes easy to forget that players like Jensen and Bjergsen and Huhi, who have played most or all of their career in the LCS, are still imports.
North American teams have continued to show that they have very little faith in the players from their own region
Now, with Oceanic players gaining residency for the LCS, the league is likely to become even more diverse in terms of nationalities represented. Already we’ve seen teams like Team Liquid have just one player who is from North America; in the summer, the only person from America was their rookie ADC Tactical.
With the offseason upon us and free agency looming, it’s time to once again face the fact that North American teams have continued to show that they have very little faith in the players from their own region compared to those from others. Even teams like Cloud9, which historically are a team known for producing impressive North American talent, are relying more and more on imported talent to be competitive. Excluding Fudge, who now has residency but is from Australia, Cloud9 has just two North American players left: Blaber and Vulcan.
Now that Oceanic players are able to play in North America without taking one of each team’s two import slots, it seems likely that even more non-American players are playing on American teams. In addition conversations have been circulating virtually since the end of Worlds that Perkz, former mid laner and current bot laner for G2 Esports, might be ending up with Cloud9 and returning to midlane. While this is solely a rumor and no parties involved have confirmed or denied it, they can’t until free agency starts on Nov. 16.
There is no doubt that international players will continue to make up a large percentage of North American teams. Despite the academy system, which is intended to allow up-and-coming players to get experience on a team and bring these players into the spotlight for the pro teams, it often feels as though academy has become more of a retirement center for players who are no longer good enough for the LCS but who don’t want to retire. It doesn’t tend to feel like it is meant to, like a place where young talent can be found and brought up to the LCS.
There are of course, some exceptions to this, though once again most of those exceptions seem to be Cloud9’s. Blaber came out of Academy, as will Fudge when he starts in the spring. Tactical, Team Liquid’s ADC, was an academy player too. But when you ask most fans to name current academy players, they’d struggle to find any who are not older players who are past their prime trying to work their way back.
North American teams are going to have to wrestle with the fact that they’re spending fortunes to import players while putting no focus behind their systems that build players who are worth spending fortunes on. It’s not a system that seems poised for long-term success and, after another failing season from North American teams at Worlds, it’s not even a system that’s working now anymore, if it ever was to begin with.