Everything You Need To Know About The LoL Esports Structure

League of Legends fans who haven’t been following the esports scene may get confused about how the professional scene works. Let’s take a look at everything that new and even old fans need to know about the LoL Esports Structure to help them better understand how all of these things work. Here are some in-depth details about everything involving the League of Legends tournament whether it’s domestic or international.

PSG Talon focusing on the game Worlds Groups
Explaining the LoL Esports Structure

The Riot Games Esports Policy

Riot Games has made a standardized policy regarding all of the League of Legends Tournaments around the world. The LoL Esports Structure in terms of competition setting and format varies per region but when it comes to micro settings like team composition, gameplay, and behavior are universal for all the regions. This also applies to International Tournaments and even non-Riot Games sponsored local tournaments.

League of Legends Tournaments

There are three types of League of Legends tournaments – Local, Domestic, & International. These tournaments may be Riot Games sponsored or non-sponsored tournaments. The only important thing about creating a tournament for it to be recognized by Riot Games is for it to follow the Riot Games Competitive Policy & basic LoL Esports Structure. There is no need to ask permission to create your own tournament as long as it adheres to the rules.

1. Local Tournaments

Local Tournaments refer to the smallest scales of tournaments in the League. These may be community-funded or organizationally funded. A common example of Local Tournaments is Shop Tournaments, Conventions, or Interschool Tournaments. Prizes depend on how much the sponsor is willing to distribute or how much the community has gathered in terms of sales. These tournaments do not qualify you for bigger tournaments.

2. Domestic Tournaments

Domestic Tournaments are the biggest tournaments in a respective region. Most of these tournaments are organized by Riot Games with the only exception being the LCO. The Domestic Tournament is considered the main tournament since it is where the Major League of Legends Teams compete against each other. Each region competes per split to bring qualified teams to the International Tournament where they’ll represent their region.

The screen shows the Rogue won the game
The Domestic LoL Esports Structure

LoL Regions: LCS (NA), LEC (Europe), LPL (China), LCK (South Korea), PCS (SEA, Taiwan, Macao, and Hong Kong), VCS (Vietnam), LCL (CIS), TCL (Turkey), CBLoL (Brazil), LLA (Latin America), LCO (Oceania), and LJL (Japan)

There are 4 Major Regions in the League and those are the LPL, LCK, LEC, and LPL. There are two Intermediate Regions which are PCS & VCS. The other regions are called Minor Regions or Wildcard Regions. The status of a competitive region is based on their standings at international tournaments. Wild Card regions that are able to compete at the International Playoffs are promoted to intermediate regions.

3. International Tournaments

The International Tournaments are the most prestigious competitions in League of Legends and have been recently exclusive to Riot Games. Regions that follow the LoL Esports Structure are qualified to compete in the International Tournaments depending on the status of their region. There are two International Tournaments that fans look forward to and those are the Mid-Season Invitationals and the prestigious League of Legends World Finals.

Damwon Gaming hoist the Worlds 2020 Trophy
The best of the best

There were other International Tournaments in previous years such as the IEM Tournaments and Asian Games. However, the privately sponsored tournaments are no longer being supported while the Asian Games don’t come back again for a few years. Winning International Tournaments are the ultimate goal for Esports Teams which will reward them and their region with Prestige and better standings in future tournaments.

Domestic LoL Esports Structure

The Domestic LoL Esports Structure which involves the League of Legends Championships & Circuits are the prestigious tournaments in a region. These Championship Series follow a specific structure and involve three phases to qualify for international tournaments. Let’s take a look at the three phases of the Domestic Championship Series and how each of them are important towards qualifying for the big tournaments.

Regular Season Splits

Aside from the LCS, every region divides the competitive year into two splits – Spring & Summer. During those two seasons, teams will be competing in Round Robins to increase their standings which will qualify them for playoffs. The Top 6-8 teams that rank in the standings will qualify in Playoffs and will be placed on Upper or Lower Brackets depending on their rank. The top 2-4 teams are usually awarded with a Playoffs Bye, meaning they will be skipping a few games.

Blaber making a speech while holding the 2021 Spring Split LCS MVP award
The climb to the top

The Spring Season is the first split in a competitive year and starts sometime in January or February. Winning the Spring Season qualifies the team to compete in the Mid-Season Invitationals. The Summer Season is the bigger tournament since winning here will automatically give you a spot to compete in the World Finals. At the beginning of these splits, teams may choose to shuffle their rosters by adding, changing, or removing players from their active teams.

Playoffs

The Playoffs are the most anticipated part of the Season. In this tournament, the Top 6-10 teams (depending on the region) will be competing in a tournament bracket where they’ll be fighting for the Domestic Trophy. Games are played in a minimum of Best-of-3, maximum Best-of-5. The format can either be Single Elimination or Double Elimination where the last team standing will be crowned the Spring/Summer Split Champion for that year.

Bjergsen coaching TSM - LoL Esports Structure
Where all the hard work pays off

The Playoffs format doesn’t usually change in Spring vs Summer. However, the Tournament Playoffs in different regions are completely different. For example, the LCK is the only region that doesn’t make use of Double Eliminations. The LPL has a massive Tournament Bracket that makes use of both Single & Double Eliminations, fitting 10 teams. This is completely understandable considering it is a region that houses 17 League of Legends Esports Team.

Regional Finals & Championship Points

The Regional Finals is a secondary tournament bracket after Summer Playoffs which is exclusive only to Major Regions. The purpose of these tournaments is to decide the 3rd & 4th teams to be sent to the World Finals. The teams that have accumulated the most Championship Points during both of the Splits’ Playoffs will qualify for the Regional Finals (Regional Gauntlet) as a form of second chance for all of the teams eliminated in the Summer Playoffs.

Championship Points are a way for Major Regions to determine which teams still deserve to compete in the World Finals despite losing in the Summer Playoffs. These points are earned by qualifying for the Playoffs in both Spring & Summer. The higher you finish in the Playoffs, the more points will be awarded to you. The team with the highest amount of Championship Points (aside from the Summer Split Champion), will automatically qualify for the Worlds Finals as the 2nd Seed while the next 4 teams will be competing in the Regional Finals for the 3rd and 4th seed.

International LoL Esports Structure

The International LoL Esports Structure is a little bigger since it has to fit 24 teams. In order to fairly qualify teams to the World Grand Finals without compromising the integrity of competitiveness, Riot Games has created a merit-based system that will eliminate the most underperforming teams step-by-step. These steps will draw out the 8 best performing teams so that they can fairly compete in a Top 8 Single Eliminations Bracket to win it all and take home the League of Legends World Finals Trophy.

Play-Ins

The Play-Ins stage is the first Elimination Series in the World Finals. The final seeds in the Major and Intermediate regions qualify for the Play-Ins while the sole participants from Minor Regions will be competing here as well for a total of 12 teams. The 8 teams that rank the highest in their Play-Ins Group will compete against one another on a best-of-three to earn 1 of 4 spots left to compete in the Group Stage.

V3 Esports playing in Day 2 of Play-ins
A chance to be one of the best

Unfortunately, there is still a huge gap in competitiveness amongst the Major Regions vs Intermediate vs the Minor Regions. As such, Major Regions and Intermediate Regions are the only ones that usually proceed to the Group Stage with 1 Wildcard team managing to slip by once in a few years.

Groups

The Group Stage is the 2nd most important part of the International Tournaments and is the true proving grounds for the teams. Teams are separated into 4 Groups which are distributed by standing and region. This means that 1st Place teams can’t fight against other 1st place teams and teams from the same region can’t be grouped together. This allows maximum diversity and competitiveness as it doesn’t clump too many strong teams in one group.

TES Knight happily meeting DRX Pyosik
The International Proving Grounds

The Group Stage only features a Double Round Robin. The top two teams from each Group will qualify into the Knockout Stage depending on the standings. Teams that place 1st in their groups will not be paired up on the first round of the Knockout Stage. The community often ridicules regions that don’t manage to send one or more participants into the Knockout Stage since it denotes weakness.

Knockout Stage

The Knockout Stage is the ultimate phase of the tournament. In the Knockout Stage, teams will be fighting in a Single Elimination tournament bracket where they’ll play a Best-of-5 against their opponents. These teams will be climbing the ladder until they are the last team standing and win the ultimate prize – The Worlds/MSI Trophy. The winning team’s region will be awarded an extra invitation for the next World Championships which will increase their for the tournament.

Organization & Team Structure

After the 2014 League of Legends Season, the entire structure of the LoL Esports Structure Team Compositions has been strictly changed. There are minimum requirements before a team is qualified to join in official Riot Games tournaments.

Nationality, Citizenship, and Residency

Since the whole LMQ debacle of LCS 2014, Teams may only have 2 or less players that who are non-citizens/residents of a competitive region. For example, the LCS may only have 2 players that are not American, Canadian, or from Oceania (Latin America is excluded from this) but players who have acquired Citizenship or Residency in any of those three countries even if they were born citizens of another country will be counted as Regular Players. The community often calls players who are from another country as “Imports”.

Player Contracts & Requirements

The minimum age to play in a Domestic or International Tournament is 16. However, minors may not sign contracts to join or compete in tournaments without supervision from a parent or guardian. Once the contract has been signed, the consignee will adhere to the training regiments, requirements, and other details mentioned in the contract and will be paid depending on the agreement between the two parties but not falling below the Esports Minimum in their respective regions.

League of Legends Esports Production & Staff

Aside from the teams, players will also be assisted by the Esports Staff in-charge for the tournament. Each team will always be accompanied by a Neutral Observer/Referee to oversee fairness and fix any issue that might arrive. Players may bring their own equipment (mouse, keyboard, headset) to the competition but the gaming unit, internet connection, and monitor will be provided by the Riot Games team.

The LEC Caster Table having fun
The LEC Caster’s Table

Riot Games Casters & Analysts will also be present in a tournament to bring entertainment value to the games. Depending on the region, the tournament organizers may also include desk commentators, show hosts, and interviewers. Esports journalists also have the freedom to ask for an interview as long as it’s taken before or after the team or player’s match.

The Game Proper

  • Before the game, the team and coach are given time to assemble their equipment on stage, procure refreshments and other necessities.
  • The game begins with the Draft Phase, where the coach and teams will be picking & banning champions that they will use for the game. Once the Draft Phase ends, the coach must leave the stage and go to their respective teams’ viewing lounge.
  • Once the game officially starts, players may not remove their Noise-Cancelling Headset for any reason at all to ensure that they will not receive help from any outside person or accidentally overhear any game-breaking information.
  • Players may choose to pause the game only if an issue is encountered. The tournament organizers may choose to cancel/reschedule/forfeit the game depending on said issue.
  • Once the series ends, the winning team must walk towards the opposing team’s side to express sportsmanship via a handshake or fist bump.

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