NA talent check-in: What's going on with the imports?

It doesn't need to be said, everyone already knows that NA has a serious crush on imports. The franchising was supposed to help with that, allowing NA teams to take more risks on domestic talent, but that hasn't seemed to pan out so far. Scouting Grounds was supposed to help, and it has some, but there are no confirmed signings of any 2019 NASG players yet either. 

What there have been, though, is a lot more imports. 


2020 will see only one domestic mid laner, Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer for GGS. Long time veteran, Eugene "Pobelter" Park is without a spot, and new rising talent, Tanner "Damonte" Damonte, is as well. Taking their place in the leauge are Tommy "ry0ma" Le and Jérémy "Eika" Valdenaire, from OCE and a French challenger league, respectively. 



Most teams are utilizing both available import slots in their rosters, and many also have former imports who have redeclared their residency as well. Players like Nicolaj "Jensen" Jensen, Dennis "Svenskeren" Johnsen, Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg, and Lucas "Santorin" Tao Kilmer Larsen are all former imports who now count as NA residents. (Notice the name ending?) Then there's Team Liquid, made up of four imports and Yiliang "Peter" "Doublelift" Peng.

▲ Image Source: Riot Games


We have yet to see a single NASG 2019 talent confirmed for an Academy spot, despite the draft giving teams exclusivity for 10 days, giving incredible power to sign their pick if they truly want them. Instead, we've heard of other imports being signed, and can assume most other spots will carry over from last year and players like Damonte and Pobelter who no longer have an LCS starting position. 


Then there are situations like Yuri "Keith" Jew role-swapping to support, and other similarly interesting roster moves. And joining Keith is yet another minor region import, Can "Closer" Çelik. Half the league seems to be an import (or former import). 

▲ Image Source: Riot Games


Riot Games and the orgs all know it's a problem, and Riot has done things to remedy it (like NASG), but it still persists. However, they've also added rules like allowing teams to field an extra import to their Academy roster from emerging regions. While that isn't being heavily utlized, it does mean there are fewer potential spots for young NA talent.

The orgs aren't necessarily to blame for signing international talent if that's who they believe will provide the strongest roster. However, something needs to be done to ensure the longevity of the region. Otherwise, NA is well on it's way to just removing the import rule entirely.

▲ Image Source: Riot Games

Likely, the changes will all have to come from Riot themselves, as it's not a responsibilty the teams can be expected to have. Whether it means a better solo queue, infrastructure, more tournaments, more emphasis on collegiate, or the abolishment of Academy and the reinstatment of the challenger scene is beyond my knowledge. The server is smaller than other regions, but it is still sizeable, we just need to figure out how to better utilize the players there.



Hopefully these structures and systems can be put in to place sooner rather than later, to ensure the survival of the league and increase its ability to perform at an international level.  



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