For the first time since 2016, the League of Legends World Championship will be making its way back to North America this fall. One of the most exciting parts of this announcement was the inclusion of non-U.S. cities on the list of venues the month-long event will be held at. Alongside New York and San Francisco, certain stages of the tournament will take place in Mexico City and Toronto. Now it’s definitely a good thing that Riot is giving fans across North America a chance to see Worlds in person, but it brings up a really troubling issue: Why do American and Canadian players automatically count as from North America, while Mexican players don’t?
Put simply, there are two major types of players in professional League of Legends: Domestic players and Non-resident players. In order to encourage teams to build rosters made up primarily of domestic talent, there is a two non-resident maximum for each starting roster. While this may seem like a simple rule, it becomes more complicated when it’s time to decide which category each player falls under. For example, LCS stars Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg, Jeong “Impact” Eon-yeong, Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen are all examples of, among others, players that were born outside of North America but are counted as domestic because they have American citizenship or have spent a set amount of time in the region.
While domestic and non-resident are the two dominant categories a player can be, there is a third: “emerging region” players. According to Riot’s 2020 LCS ruleset 2.2.9, these are defined as “a player who is a lawful permanent resident of (i) Australia or New Zealand (OPL); (ii) Mexico or any country in Central or South America, other than Brazil (LLA); (iii) Brazil (CBLOL); (iv) Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine or Uzbekistan (CIS); or (v) Turkey (TCL).”
While this classification does grant eligibility to some players, it only works in respect to the Academy series, the tier below the LCS. As for the LCS, rule 4.4 states that “teams may not have more than two (2) non-resident players playing in the starting roster at any time. In the event that a team has one (1) emerging region player in the starting roster, the team is limited to one (1) non-resident player in the starting roster.”
Based on this rule, emerging region players basically count as non-resident players when it comes to the starting roster cap, but one thing has changed since these rules were written. The Oceanic Pro League collapsed and was ended, so in an effort to keep competitive League alive in Oceania, Riot now allows players from that region to count as domestic in North America. Teams have already taken advantage of this ruling to great amounts of success, as Ibrahim “Fudge” Allami had a breakout year for Cloud9 in 2021.
Here’s where Mexico comes back into the equation. How is it fair that Oceanic players get to compete in LCS without counting towards the non-resident cap, while Mexican players who literally live in North America don’t get to?
For international competition, North America automatically gets three slots at Worlds, while the Latin American league gets one. This means that if someone from Mexico wants to make it to the tournament that will be held in Mexico City, they either have to win the entirety of the Latin American league or somehow get an import spot on one of the top three North American teams.
If these players were allowed to compete as domestic players in the LCS, there would be myriad more opportunities to get noticed and to play for organizations with immense resources. A precedent has been created by Riot’s decision to include Oceanic players, and this year would definitely be the year to do it.