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Riot Games to replace Challenger Series with “Academy League” featuring NA LCS-operated teams

eUnited plays during the North American Challenger Series spring finals. Riot Games will do away with the Challenger Series in exchange for an Academy league in 2018.
eUnited plays during the North American Challenger Series spring finals. Riot Games will do away with the Challenger Series in exchange for an Academy league in 2018. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

With the abolishment of relegation from North America’s League of Legends Championship Series, Riot Games will also replace the Challenger Series with an Academy League.

Riot announced Thursday its plans to restructure the North American LCS next year, which includes the new way of operating the league under the LCS. NA LCS teams will be able to field a development team of sorts in order to foster new talent in the region. Riot’s new goal seems to be a larger focus on creating and building native North American talent, as opposed to the culling of weaker teams by stronger ones.

During a Yahoo Esports roundtable, Team SoloMid owner Andy “Reginald” Dinh voiced his support for the new league, saying that as every LCS team now has an option to field a sister team — which TSM plans to do — and this development could potentially “close the gap” between Korea and NA as regions.

The Challenger Series was supposed to foster talent and act as a way to maintain competitiveness in the NA LCS through relegation. It also came with the theoretical possibility that any team could make the LCS. But the league had less clear of a use in recent years, as LCS teams fielded Challenger clubs with the intention of reaching the LCS and selling the spot — because Riot does not allow teams to own two teams in the same league — in exchange for a lucrative fee that pushed seven figures.

This decision to abolish Challenger Series entirely seems to severely impact existing Challenger teams, as they will play the summer split with no guarantee — if even a chance — of making the LCS next year. But according to a Reddit comment from Riot Games Chris “Chopper” Hopper, Riot already talked with those owners, who didn’t seem to have great objections.

“We actually spoke with NACS owners earlier this year about some of the changes that would be coming to the region,” Hopper wrote. “All of the owners that we spoke to made it clear that they wanted to apply for partnership, and would likely be pointing to a track record developed in NA CS as evidence of their qualifications.”

Cover photo courtesy of Riot Games

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