After Riot Games posted their new LCS schedule for 2020, there were a lot of questions floating around reddit and Twitter about Spring Split's importance and why they'd even care. Riot not only overhauled the weekly schedule and playoff system, but they also took away the Championship Points previously earned by doing well in Spring playoffs.
The only qualifier for Worlds will be Summer playoffs. No more Points, no more Gauntlet. Only Spring determines the NA MSI representative now, and fans have asked why teams in the bottom half of the standings should even care about their games. It's a fair concern, however, there are a lot of things teams have always needed to accomplish in Spring besides earning Championship Points, and this restructuring gives them more tools to accomplish them.
Since there are usually large roster changes and coaching/management changes in the Fall and Winter, teams have to pull themselves together in the Spring, and often have unforseen issues they need to solve to create a working unit. Whether it be communication, synergy, or adjusting to a new work-life balance or anything, a lot of pieces have to come together before a team can fully perform.
Removing the Championship Points can actually provide for a more impactful Spring, because teams have more added security in experimenting with their roster. Those pieces don't necessarily need to fit immediately, and teams can take a more calculated approach to problem solving.
Franchising was also supposed to help bring stability to the League, and while that hasn't necessarily played out perfectly considering there were 3.3 average roster swaps per team this off-season, there is still more security for orgs after franchising than before. These two factors together should gives teams more confidence in working through their problems to find long-term solutions.
Before this change, the 4th - 8th place teams were mostly fighting to: 1. make playoffs, and then 2. advance to semis if possible to earn more Championship Points and secure a better chance at making Worlds. There wasn't quite as much security in experimentation since other orgs could gain a tangible reward over them.
That meant teams did their problem solving in the mid-season break, which was often underwhelming. FlyQuest's 2019 is a good example of this. They made Semis in Spring and then tried to fix a problem over the break, but failed to finalize their solution in time, resulting in a rocky Summer and failed Gauntlet run.
With the new system, however, a 4th - 8th place team can ackowledge they won't make MSI and use their time solving specific problems via roster changes, staffing changes, playstyle/shotcalling innovations, etc. instead of gunning for Points. Teams have a more interesting ability to experiment with their playstyle and roster, allowing for a higher ceiling in the league long-term.
Because teams can more confidently swap in their Academy players for a game or two to test a player or matchup (or motivate their LCS starters like Cloud9 in Summer 2018), this also gives NA Academy a lot more relevance. Along with the new schedule that will feature Academy games on stage alongside the LCS, they'll now have a higher likelihood of subbing on the starting roster.
If teams utilize this and experiment a lot, the overall level of play in Spring could drop, but the knowledge gained should boost the Summer Split substantially, if done well. Teams like OpTic (now Immortals) successfully subbed in Academy players throughout 2019, and Cloud9 often changed out their junglers as well. While OpTic didn't make Worlds, they performed better than fan expectation, and the Academy memebers had a positive winrate on the LCS stage.
Furthermore, the removal of Championship Points also means the top three performing Summer teams will advance to worlds, period. Whereas random teams saved by Spring performance used to sneak onto the Worlds stage in the past, the current system should always send the true top three teams at the relevant time. Viewers often complain about the NA 2nd seed being weak due to Spring points carrying them to Worlds, but that will never be a problem with this system.
While the concerns about player motivation and purpose make sense, there is definitely more potential for a stronger NA Worlds showing based on the changes made to the league structure this year. The talent floor is lower, so there is potential that teams take too many risks or that players don't work hard enough, but the ceiling is higher. So if teams are diligent, these changes will only help NA succeed internationally.
Instead of a ~5th place team trying to bandage holes with duct tape just to advance to the Spring Semifinals for Points, they can now take a longer look at their problems and figure out more holistic long-term solutions. Having that ability to problem solve in Spring is a great way to level up the competition for the end of the year when it truly matters.
Overall, the changes are positive. Players crave competition, especially Worlds, and won't just take time off due to lack of importance. Teams and players are going to use Spring to experiment, learn, and build. Points or no Points, Spring is important. And with this change, teams were just given more ways to make the most of it.
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