2020 has an incredible ring to it, and it coincides with League's 10th Season, another great esports milestone. Not only are there a bunch of new games to be released by Riot and Riot Forge this year, Summoner's Rift itself will be bigger than ever. Worlds is headed back to China, the largest esports market and home of the past two Worlds victors, and you can bet the entire year leading up to that event will be incredible.
Esports in general is becoming more accepted around the world, and it continues to show strong growth year after year. Teams are finding better ways to advertise, land sponsors, and interact with and grow their fanbase. 2020 will be bigger than 2019, but there are a certain few teams who can really capitalize on it all.
Worlds returns to China after two LPL teams won in a row. However, winning on home soil seems to be a tough task. Worlds has only been won by the hosting region once, in Season 4, (or twice if you count Season 1), but the LPL teams will surely be looking to break that streak this year.
Out of all the regions, 2020 is most important for the Chinese teams. They're the most able to capitalize on the year's big potential given they have a home court for Worlds. The advertising and branding potential will be huge for the region's representatives. And there are a few teams who especially need to do everything they can to reign in on that potential. Specifically, RNG, EDG, and Vici Gaming, with Top Esports close behind.
RNG is breaking into a larger Western audience more and more across multiple titles, and if they can make it to Worlds yet again, they'd grow even that much more. The added benefit of it taking place in their own back yard means they have more opportunities to brand, host others, and dominate social media and content. They have an incredibly large organization, with a ton of facilities and support staff, and they have the potential to grow more than anyone else this year.
EDG has only missed one Worlds, but with their recent performance landing them second in the Demacia Cup (to RNG), they have valuable momentum they can use to ensure they secure Worlds again. If they do, they're a well known org and can really capitalize on the extra branding opportunity to return to greatness. The best way to turn around their 2019 flop is to show up on the home court next Fall.
Vici Gaming just needs anything. They've been stuck with 2-win seasons for a few years in a row now, and this off-season has been the only good thing they've ever done. If they don't strike now, they may just need to throw in the towel. They signed a bunch of starpower this off-season, and included in that is Kim "kkOma" Jeong-gyun, perhaps the most well respected coach of all time. If they don't make Worlds this year, it's a true failure, and they could go down as the Jin Air of the LPL.
Top Esports is less known in the West, but they were right on the edge of being good for all of 2019. They have the LPL's best mid laner, Zhuo "knight" Ding, and they just signed Hung "Karsa" Hao-Hsuan. Now they need to figure out how to cross over that edge and make it to Worlds. They're backed by a pretty large Chinese sports company, who could use the branding opportunity of Worlds well. Their merch capability would be unmatched, even by Liquid, Cloud9, Fnatic, and G2.
While the LPL will try and break the host losing Worlds streak, the LCK will try and break the LPL victory streak. The LCK is supposed to be the best, and one day, they'll prove that they are again. But for now, they've got work to do. The newly rebranded T1 (formerly SKT) is likely the most hungry, and also probably the most capable of growth this year. Otherwise, DAMWON Gaming, GenG, and DragonX are likely the teams that can have the strongest 2020.
T1 needs to nail the rebrand. They SKT stands for South Korea Telecom, which is South Korea's largest wireless carrier. But in 2019, they partnered with Comcast Spectacor, another large telecom company, in a joint esports venture. For T1 to remain a household name, they need this season to be explosive. They need fans to remember their new name. They need us to connect their current performance with that of the most successful org in LoL history. A flop this year could be devastating. Second only to RNG, Worlds is necessary for T1.
DWG doesn't have nearly the same need as far as a rebrand is concerned, but to keep the exact same roster that performed so incredibly well in their initial year, and then not return again would be a waste. They likely had some good opportunities to make changes, but trusted in their players and did what fans and industry vets have been begging for for a long time: they kept their whole team and will continue building from there. Too often teams explode their rosters (looking at you all of NA) and ruin the work they did previously. DWG didn't and they better make it worth it.
GenG had a rough last couple of years. They started with the 2017 World Champion roster, got 1st that Spring, then immediately fell, with a terrible performance at Worlds 2018, and then even worse 2019 as a whole. GenG is a strong org in other esports, and has a good presence in the West, so with how strong their roster looks, plus the branding opportunity and bounceback potential, 2020 could be huge for them.
DRX is high up on all the LCK tier lists. They signed some incrredible talent, and they have crazy potential, even among a stacked LCK. They also signed Kim "cvMax" Dae-ho and two former Griffin players despite all the controversies. They need to prove that decision was worth it, otherwise their brand will suffer and they'll have no answers for frustrated fans. Additionally, if they can't win with this roster, they'll honestly have a hard time convincing other talented players to join in the future.
Europe is growing and growing every year, so this year should be the same. They've been in the last two Worlds finals, but lost 0-3 each time. They need to make it again, but they need to complete the journey. Maybe 2020 is their year. Every team could use a big run, of course, but FNC and G2 still likely have the best ability to truly capitalize on the year.
FNC has the biggest social media following of any European team, and G2 is in second place behind them. They just had yet another roster change, and another coaching change. They seem to take losing Worlds the hardest, and they have this aura of necessary perfection wherever they go. They need to capitalize on that, they need to finally fulfill that aura, and what better year to do that than 2020?
G2 is shooting forward, and along with FNC, has strong competitors in multiple esports titles, not just League. They lack a bit of history and weight to their name, but the last two years have brought an even more impressive Worlds story than FNC's. They also just won MSI, bringing the first ever big international title to Europe (because Season 1 Worlds wasn't a "big international title" comparatively).
They're the other big team to hunker down on their roster, keeping all five, but they seem to be swapping Rasmus "Caps" Borregaard Winther and Luka "Perkz" Perković around mid and bot. They need to repeat 2019 to make it worth it, otherwise their brand takes a hit. A year and a half of strength isn't enough to build a legacy, they need to push forward.
The LCS is in dire need of success. It seems worse every year. Despite Liquid taking out reigning World Champs, iG, at MSI, the region did absolutely nothing at Worlds, and it hurts every team involved. Someone needs to step it up, and there are a few who could benefit more than the rest. Liquid, TSM, Cloud9, and Evil Geniuses need a strong 2020.
Liquid won back to back to back to back, sure. But other than one MSI finals, they've done nothing truly worth bragging about. They have an incredible program throughout esports as a whole, but they need better Worlds performances to grow more. They've done everything they can do in NA, they need to get bigger, and the only way to do that is to make it to the Knockout Stage next Fall.
TSM really needs a comeback for the sake of NA. They're the longtime fan favorite team, even over Fnatic. TSM chants are heard at every single international competition, despite them missing the last four. They took some risks in their roster moves, but they've got good domestic firepower. If they can't find out a way to get back in the top three at least, they need to make some large organizational shifts. The league needs a new victor to overtake Liquid, and why not make it the most-cheered-for team in the world?
Cloud9 needs to keep doing well. Every year, they lose players and people say they'll start to fail, but every year they continue performing well. This year, however, they lost Zachary "Sneaky" Scuderi. And if they don't make it worth it, they may not ever truly recover. Sneaky was the longest tenured player for the team, and is one of the most well loved players globally. His removal needs to be backed by results or else 2020 is going to be a bad year for the org's overall growth and perception.
EG was in the league a while back, and makes it's return this year with a strong roster and great coaching staff. They've got great backing and a need for results. The best way to grow a brand is to win and get people interested in you. They took the old Echo Fox spot after a whole slew of problems plagued the org, but now they need to do what Echo Fox never could. EG has incredible earnings elsewhere, so if they can mimic that in League, they'll be a huge force for years to come and can look to overtake some of the old guards as the next fan favorite team.
Worlds is a while away, but games, bootcamps, and scrims have already started. It's preparation phase, and it's crucial for a team's overall performance. Only time will tell who gets the most out of the year, but there's a lot on the line for a bunch of these orgs. Let us know who you hope has a standout year on our Twitter below.