How EU franchising could cripple the NA LCS mid lane

(Image Credit: Riot Games)

It’s no secret that NA mid laners are a dying breed. The position has been underdeveloped for so long that there are only a couple of LCS-ready native mid laners left in the region. In the past, this issue was solved with Korean and European imports. However, the solution became a problem in and of itself. Nowadays, the vast majority of NA LCS mid laners hail from other regions, and the level of competition is so high that native mids have to either spend several splits in Academy before learning to hold their own or role swap for a chance to compete for an LCS spot in another position. 

Of course, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. 

There’s nothing wrong in recruiting imports if local talent can’t perform at a high level. Unfortunately, the NA LCS mid lane may be in dire straits with the introduction of the EU LCS (or LEC) franchising. If you look back at the 2018 Summer Split, four out of ten NA LCS mid laners came from Europe. In 2019, this number is already rumored to increase to five, which—at first glance—makes it seem like the LEC didn’t have too big of an effect on the LCS.

But is that really the case? 

Four out of these five are Jensen, Bjergsen, Froggen, and PowerOfEvil—players who have already been in NA before the announcement of EU LCS franchising. With that, there’s a good chance each of them has a strong attachment to North America due to things outside of the game, so, for them, leaving the region was not a viable option. The fifth mid laner—Nisqy—signed with Cloud9, the only North American org with a long-standing history of international success.

How many other up-and-coming EU mids will follow his example?

With the emergence of EU franchising, monetary incentives to leave the region are no more. LEC teams received massive outside investment, so they should be able to match their NA LCS counterparts in a bidding war. Combine that with the fact that Europe has historically performed better than North America in international tournaments, and EU mid laners may simply elect to stay in a more competitive region. 

Something as trivial as comfort may become a factor as well. Most promising EU mids are young, so the idea of moving halfway across the world to play in a foreign country might not seem appealing to them. They may think twice before signing a contract with an NA LCS org. 

In the end, LEC’s influence won’t be immediately apparent. North America still has several veteran mids that will keep their region competitive for a few years. But as the Bjergsens and Jensens of the world start retiring, the NA LCS will be hard-pressed to sign players capable of filling their shoes. And the entire region of North America might find itself starved for mid lane talent.

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