With the conclusion of the 2020 World Championship group draw, League of Legends fans can finally prepare for the most anticipated tournament of the year. Now, with all the groups locked in, we wait 10 days till the action begins, with the play-in stage kicking off the whole event.
Due to an unfortunate circumstance regarding travel between China and Vietnam, the two VCS representatives were unable to attend Worlds this year, changing the structure of play-ins to two groups of five teams each. This year, there will be a round-robin within each group and then a few best-of-5's to determine the four qualifiers for the main stage. Each first-place finisher will auto-qualify to the group stage, while the third and fourth seed will play each other in a best-of-5 series sending the winner to play the opposite group's second seed. The winner of that series will join the first-place teams in the group stage
The play-ins were broken into two pools of teams based on historical international performance. Each group had a random draw with two pool 1 teams and three pool 2 teams. Pool 1 consisted of LPL's LGD, LEC's MAD Lions, LCS's Team Liquid, and PCS's PSG Talon. Pool 2 consisted of CBLOL's INTZ, LCL's Unicorns of Love, LJL's V3 Esports, LLA's Rainbow7, OPL's Legacy Esports, and TCL's Papara SuperMassive.
The final groups are:
- Team Liquid
- MAD Lions
- Legacy Esports
- Papara SuperMassive
- PSG Talon
- V3 Esports
- Unicorns of Love
Group A features a fan favorite, NA versus EU, right off the bat. Team Liquid and MAD Lions will face off in a single game during their round-robin, giving fans a taste of the old rivalry at the start of Worlds, as well as providing a preliminary measuring stick between the two regions. Group B has the strongest perceived play-in team in LGD, along with a hamstrung Talon, with their mid-jungle duo unable to compete until the group stage due to visa complications of their own.
The pool 2 teams were fairly evenly split up, with perhaps the two strongest rosters in UOL and SUP drawn into separate groups. The other four teams have real potential to upset some games — especially in a single round-robin format — but should be hard-pressed to find a seat in the group stage. This makes the two groups relatively even in strength and should provide a somewhat balanced play-in stage.
If each of the teams play close to their expected strength, then LGD and either Team Liquid or MAD Lions will auto qualify without needing to play the additional best-of-5. In Group A, the second-place team should be the leftover EU/NA representative, and in Group B, it will likely be either Talon or Unicorns Of Love. And again, based on expected strength, the Group A second-place team should win their series against any team that found themselves in third or fourth place of Group B, meaning it is highly likely that TL and MAD make it into Groups.
However, the remaining representative after LGD, TL, and MAD is a bit up for grabs and depends heavily on placement in the initial round-robin. SuperMassive should be the team to make it to the series against Group B, which should be the closest matchup of the play-ins, and each of those three teams has a good chance at securing Worlds if they can play each segment of the stage properly. Getting second seed in Group B is very necessary because it makes the difference between matching up with either (likely) SuperMassive or Team Liquid/MAD Lions.
However, as it is a bunch of best-of-1's, in addition to a fresh meta, various scrim practices, and a whole new clash of playstyles with limited information, the early games can be chaotic, and all the expectations can get thrown out the window with a couple of surprising upsets. Each of the emerging region teams is the best in their respective league, and they made it to Worlds for a reason. Each can look to upset some of the stronger teams and find themselves in a favorable position come knockout stage. Though there have been historically few upsets that send a team all the way to the main event, with a more chaotic play-in stage due to the quarantine, stage setup, and format, this is the perfect year for a team like Legacy, INTZ, V3, or Rainbow7 to sneak in, and even more so for SuperMassive and Unicorns Of Love.
If you're filling out your Pick'Ems, there is a clear solid group of teams to bet on. But don't forget that the lack of a double round-robin and unrevised meta can amount to some crazy upsets and really shake up the final standings. Regardless, with some level of confidence, you can expect LGD, Liquid, and MAD to qualify, with Talon, SuperMassive, or Unicorns Of Love to join them.
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