As franchising becomes a more prominent model in modern esports, critics may wonder how this system will adequately promote minor talent growth. This model usually does away with the promotion/relegation system, allowing franchisees to retain their slots even despite abysmal performances. As a result, the subsequent minor ‘academy’ league does not have actual implications aside from maintaining a farmhouse system for organizations. Occasionally, these Academy teams see players become mainstays in the LCS; for example, former academy jungler Robert “Blaber” Huang eventually earned a starting spot on Cloud9 and became the 2020 Spring Split MVP this year. These types of breakout stories, despite their successes, are typically uncommon with franchising.
Consequently, the League of Legends Championship Series is looking to supplement itself by partnering with a third-party tournament organizer to support its minor-league scene. Once more, the LCS and FACEIT will bring back the LCS Scouting Grounds Circuit later this year. Outsourcing third-party tournament organizers is not a new approach by Riot Games— the developer partnered with DreamHack earlier this month to announce a new tournament series, the Northern League of Legends Championship (NLC), in Europe.
With FACEIT, the LCS successfully launched the Scouting Grounds Circuit as an open qualifier for hopeful players in 2019. The tournament featured a $60,000 prize pool and operated from July to September. The two parties are working hand in hand once more in 2020 to hopefully produce the next generation of North American League of Legends stars. Like last year’s ruleset, teams will play in four FACEIT open qualifiers. The top 8 teams will enter the Scouting Grounds Circuit Playoffs, set to be broadcasted live at FACEIT’s Los Angeles studios. From there, the top two rosters will make it to the final stage— the 2020 Honda Scouting Grounds at the LCS Studios.
By outsourcing tournament organizers, the LCS and Riot Games looks to focus on its franchising market; simultaneously, they can allow for a more feasible path for aspiring pro players to earn a chance to be recognized by current franchisees. Hopefully, these third-parties can serve to be a more accessible approach to the competitive League of Legends scene.
You can read more about the 2020 FACEIT Scouting Grounds Circuit and its complete ruleset here.