On Jan. 5th, Riot Korea announced various important changes to the league, which will be implemented from the 2021 LCK Spring split.
The biggest change is the LCK playoffs format. The preexisting format of the LCK playoffs allowed the 1st place team of the regular split to be directly seeded in the finals, while the 5th to 2nd place teams played in a ‘king of the hill’ tournament format to determine which team would be heading into the finals. However, starting from this year’s Spring split, 1st to 6th place teams will all need to play in a 6-team tournament.
According to the new rules, the 1st place team will not be seeding into the finals; they must play at least two matches to win the split. On the new format, Riot Korea commented that this new format will allow teams to have higher chances in reaching the finals, and hopes this will give more Best-of-5 experience to teams and enable them to perform better on the international stage. All playoffs matches will be in a Bo5 format, and will look to bring an elevated viewing experience.
Just like the LEC or the LCS, the double-elimination format was also being contemplated. However, because of how various international tournaments are scheduled throughout the year, this format was not possible unless the regular split matches were changed to best-of-1s. After receiving various opinions from all the 10 LCK teams, it was decided that regular split matches will remain Bo3, while slightly expanding the playoffs format.
Two regular split matches will continue to take place each day, with matches taking place five days a week (Wed-Sun, KST) in round 1, and four matches a week (Thurs-Sun,KST) in round 2.
There has also been an increase in the prize pool as well. The total prize pool increased from 300,000,000 KRW (~276343.62 USD) to 400,000,000 KRW (~368458.16USD). The prize money for the split champions has doubled, where they will be receiving 200,000,000 KRW (~184229.08 USD), and the runner ups will be receiving 100,000,000 KRW (~92114.54 USD).
The minimum annual salary for players and coaches has been increased as well. Players and head coaches that are listed on the starting LCK roster will be receiving no less than 60,000,000 KRW (~55268.72 USD), which is triple from the minimum before. Coaches will be guaranteed 40,000,000 KRW (~36845.82 USD), adding more job security as a player/coach.
Starting this season, the secondary LCK league, the LCK Challengers League (LCK CL) will be taking place. The regular split will be taking place on Mondays and Tuesdays (KST), with five best-of-1 matches taking place each day. LCK CL playoffs will be in the same format as the LCK, with a total prize pool of 80,000,000 KRW (~73691.63 USD) on the line.
Teams will be able to switch up players in their LCK and LCK CL rosters. Such roster changes will be able to take place at three periods during the split; start the split, before round 2, and at the start of playoffs.
For all trainees and amateur players that aren’t listed on an LCK or LCK CL rosters, the ‘LCK Academy Series’ will continue to periodically take place.
Lee Jung-hoon of Riot Korea commented, “In order for LCK teams to compete on a higher level in international tournaments, the league, the teams, and the fans are in unison for changes to the playoffs format. After collecting opinions from all the 10 LCK teams, most teams were in agreement in hoping that the regular split matches’ format stayed the same, while hoping for an expanded playoffs format. We’ll make sure to work closely with teams so that the league will not only thrive, but also bring competition of the highest quality.”
Lastly, the LCK have new global sponsorship agreements with Secretlab and HP® OMEN, while their pre-existing partners such as Woori Bank, McDonalds, and Logitech will continue to sponsor the league.
The 2021 LCK Spring split will be kicking off on January 13th, with Gen.G and kt Rolster facing off in the very first match.
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