Up until now, North America has been dominated by Cloud9 and TSM. However, in the League Championship Series Summer Split of 2014, more teams contended for the top. This split, the trend will continue with at least four teams that look to be within reach of the title. With new teams entering the fray, the bottom of the league will be just as exciting, and everyone will fight to ensure they avoid relegation along with the dreaded last place spot that results in removal from the LCS.
With the only roster unchanged in the NA off season, and fresh off their victory at IEM San Jose, Cloud9 once again look ready to be the kings of North America. In spite of falling to Team SoloMid in the finals of last year’s summer split, their team has performed well since. Will “Meteos” Hartman has been the king of the jungle in North America through multiple meta shifts and by adapting to the Season 5 changes, should continue to prove it. The remarkable synergy between AD carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi and support Daerek “LemonNation” Hart has allowed them to consistently be one of the best bottom lanes in the league. With Team SoloMid replacing their jungle with an arguably worse player, Cloud9 looks like the favourite to take home first place.
- Team SoloMid
One of the most storied franchises in North America, Team SoloMid has always been a force to be reckoned with. The strength of their team lies in their solo lanes and that has not changed in this offseason. Over the course of last split the team significantly improved their macro game, in part due to the efforts of their support staff lead by head coach Choi “Locodoco” Yoon-sub and the addition of support player Ham “Lustboy” Jang-sik. Both helped the team make significant progress, including defeating Cloud9 in the finals of the 2014 Summer Split. Their ability to remain number one will primarily rest with how well Lucas “Santorin” Tao Kilmer Larsen can mesh with the team and cope with the pressure that comes from being thrown into the spotlight as a newer player. The raw talent and solid infrastructure the team has should allow them to achieve top two overall.
- Team Liquid
Formerly known as Curse, this team had one of the most talked about pickups of the offseason. They acquired a World Champion AD carry by acquiring Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin formerly of SK Telecom T1 K. Combining him with a support who could be considered the best in the region, Alex “Xpecial” Chu, Team Liquid looks to create one of the strongest bottom lanes in North America. The one unknown lies in their new mid lane player Kim “FeniX” Jae-hun, formerly a player for the Jin Air Falcons of OGN The Champions. If he can perform at a high level, the team looks to be in a very solid position to do well and break their curse of consistent fourth place finishes. There is a great deal of support behind these players with coaches and a sports psychologist. Now it’s up to them to prove they can hang with the best in North America. A spot near the top of the league should be a given for this roster, and if they play their best consistently, they could end up fighting for the crown.
- Team Impulse
This team might struggle for a couple of weeks, but there’s simply too much talent here to believe they can’t put something together. Top lane player Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong and Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian are obvious talents that have both competed at a World Championship. Their new jungle, Lee “Rush” Yoon-jae, is the real deal according to Inven and his strong Korean following. While he doesn’t have the same competitive credentials as his solo laners, his ability to get the number one ranking in Korean Solo queue says a lot about his potential strength as a player. One potential concern is support player Adrian “Adrian” Ma, from Robert Morris University. Time will tell if he can stay strong in the bot lane. His carry is a long time veteran of the scene Apollo “Wizfujiin” Price who has since changed his handle to “Apollo”, he has never been a standout LCS player but has proven in various splits that he can compete within the league. Regardless of the unknowns, the solo lanes are too good to not be a threat come playoff time. – Chase Wassenar
- Counter Logic Gaming
Another fan favourite, Counter Logic Gaming has once again gone through numerous offseason changes. They did well at IEM Cologne advancing to the finals over a ROCCAT team considered the favourites for the entire tournament. By acquiring top lane star Darshan “ZionSpartan” Upadhyaya and coach William “Scarra” Li from Digitas they hope to shore up some of the problems with the team from last split . Their bottom lane will once again be vital for their success, but some questions still surround the team. Mid laner Austin “Link” Shin has been criticized for underperforming when it counts and him stepping up will be necessary if the team wants to succeed.
Their new jungle Jake “Xmithie” Puchero is the x factor here. Although he was considered one of the best jungles in the region a year ago, he never recovered his old abilities after a role swap and was then forced to take a split off. The team is counting on him returning to his peak form for them to have a shot at the top. Regardless, the raw talent in their bot and top lanes should ensure they remain in the upper half of the league for the split.
A team of youngsters, their success this split will heavily rely on how well they turn young talent into tangible skill. Their mid laner Eugene “Pobelter” Park isn’t new to the scene, however since graduating from high school many believe he will become an incredibly strong player as he can now dedicate himself fully to practice. Another up and coming player they have is Johnny “Altec” Ru. After playing alongside veteran support Mitch “Krepo”Voorspoels last split he was quickly improving and starting to garner attention. He will have to continue this improvement to keep the bottom lane strong as his new support Jang “Imagine” Hyeon-su has no competitive experience. Veteran Jungler Shin “Helios” Dong-jin will be instrumental in providing his younger teammates with the guidance they require to take their game to the next level. The top lane player they brought in is another rookie and his little brother Shin “Avalon” Dong-hyeon. With their imports both being Korean Helios will be able to mentor them and help reduce communication issues. The roster failed to do well last season, ending up in relegation matches, but may be able to get into the playoffs this time.
A new lineup in the LCS this split, Coast may surprise people with their level of play. Every single one of their players has previously played in the LCS so the team has experience to work with. By bringing in mid laner Jesse “Jesiz” Le and jungler Matthew “Impaler” Taylor from Europe, the team has two quality pieces. Jesiz is thought of as a poor player, largely based on his performance at Worlds. Impaler proved to be a driving force of the team through their challenger venture performing especially well on Rengar, a champion many western jungles struggle to use effectively. The bottom lane of Brandon “DontMashMe” Phan and Jamie “Sheep” Gallagher are also not strangers to the competitive scene and both are looking to prove they can compete at the highest level. This team could have the ability to compete with high level teams if they perform at their best, however they will likely miss the playoffs.
The team that was most dominant in the final stages of the promotion tournament, they hope to be able to replicate that against the best teams in North America. Lead by veterans in Brandon “SaintVicious” DiMarco and David “Cop” Roberson, the team has leadership with experience that should help them make the transition into the LCS. Mid laner Lae-young “Keane” Jang is known for playing some unorthodox champions, notably his Hecarim mid, which should help keep opponents on their toes and provide them with the element of surprise in a few of their matches. One thing that remains to be seen is how top laneer Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell will perform. He has outperformed many of the challenger top laners however it is unknown how he will fare against opponents of a higher caliber. Support player Michael “BunnyFufu” Kurylo had been praised as a highly capable support by some of his former teammates while in the LCS. Proving that to be true will be of vital importance if the team hopes to compete against some of the teams with higher skill caps in the region. The team will have to heavily rely on a solid understanding of macro strategy and executing well under pressure if they hope to be successful and avoid relegation matches at the end of the split
A team that was once a fan favourite in North America many of their star players have left this offseason, forcing them to rebuild from the ground up. After a disappointing display at IEM Cologne, the team will need to significantly improve if they want to compete with the best. Remaining on the roster are their two best players from last split in jungler Alberto “Crumbz” Rengifo and md lane star Danny “Shiphtur” Le whose talent and experience should help them win some games that they otherwise shouldn’t. Joining them are two new players from Korea in Noh “Gamsu” Yeong-jin and Jo “CoreJJ” Yong-in whom the team will need to perform well if they want to be successful. This is unsettling, based on their performance at IEM and their previous competitive history.
The biggest issue on this team lies in support player Alan “KiwiKid” Nguyen who has been thought of as the team’s weakest link. He has never played with an AD Carry besides Michael “Imaqtpie” Santana, so the spotlight will be on him to see how he adapts to CoreJJ and his style of play. The team is in a bad spot and only through great teamwork may they pull themselves higher in the standings, but the initial outlook is not promising.
- Team 8
Team 8 is the one team that made it into the LCS via the promotion tournament instead of the expansion tournament. The team was originally known for being Ainslie “FromMapleStreet” Wyllie’s team, the little brother of legendary jungler Brian “TheOddOne” Wyllie, formerly of Team SoloMid. A talented AD Carry, he will be a crucial component to the team performing well in the LCS. This squad is also home to an incredibly talented top lane player, Steven “Calitrlolz” Kim, who will be very important in their success. The rest of the team will be tested regularly and have to prove they deserve their spots in the league. With only two players that look like they could pose a threat this split will be a difficult one for the team and a true test of their character.