Breaking down TSM’s LCS departure and what it means for NA LoL

After 10 years in the LCS, TSM is making a one-of-a-kind move to compete in a different major region.

On May 20, longtime North American League of Legends franchise TSM announced that it would be leaving the league that its called home for over 10 years, departing from the LCS in the near future. While TSM will stay in the League space, team owner Andy Reginald Dinh revealed plans for the franchise to take its efforts elsewhere and join another major region. 

Although the move is striking, Dinh confirmed that it had been in the process for the last three years. TSMs plans leaked last July when a report surfaced that the organization was planning a potential move to Europe. Currently, no landing spot for TSM is official, although Europes LEC, Koreas LCK, and Chinas LPL all remain in play, considering Dinh revealed that the team is looking to move to another tier-one region. 

Ahead of the Summer Split, Counter Logic Gaming was purchased by NRG Esports, signaling the end of another of NAs most historic organizations. Dating back to the dawn of the League scene in North America, TSM and CLG had the most historic rivalry in the scene, as they were the only two North American League teams to compete in every split of the LCS since its inception in 2013. Now, with one of those teams dismantled and another set to head overseas, any remnant of the old LCS that still existed within the league is officially gone. 

How TSMs LCS departure relates to league-wide cost-cutting measures

League in North America is currently in a transitional period, with each team in the LCS focused on cutting costs and making their economic profiles more sustainable. Last week, Riot Games made the LCS minor-league program, the NACL, completely optional for franchised members, allowing teams to save money on player salaries and developmental costs. 

Related: Only 3 LCS organizations will participate in NACL this summer

That is definitely an owner-friendly decision, and it could signal an economic shift in professional North American League of Legends. Still, any move Riot makes towards making the LCS more welcoming for owners (and their wallets) comes too late for TSM. The team had been making strides towards leaving the LCS since 2020, according to Dinh. 

When the LCS switched its model to introduce franchising in 2018, reports of a $10 million buy-in price were widely circulated. Its unclear how much a new team would have to pay to buy any potential expansion slots Riot may introduce. Alternatively, its possible that Riot would mediate any sale of TSMs slot since their region-to-region move would be a one-of-a-kind circumstance. TSMs spot in the league is being offered up at an initial price of $20 million, according to a report from Kellen Browning of the New York Times

Seeing the bright spots in TSMs move out of NA

Photo by Marv Watson via Riot Games

With esports in a state of turmoil and financial dial-back, TSMs move out of North America could be advantageous for the team from both competitive and financial standpoints. If winning a World Championship is still the centermost goal for the organizationas Dinh clearly states it is in the franchises update videothen moving out of a region thats never won Worlds is a considerably strong first step. 

Furthermore, TSM has been a practical laughing stock in North American League over the last two-plus years. From their lackluster on-stage resultssuch as the 2022 Spring Split that saw their 17-split playoff streak come crashing downto the off-stage controversies, including the financial fiascoes of disgraced former coach Peter Zhang, as well as the organizations involvement with dissolved crypto giant FTX, TSM have been the subject of many finger-points from LCS fans. Moving out of the region could wipe the slate clean, developing a whole new host of fans in the process. 

Its still a gamble to predict that North American fans who have followed their team for well over a decade would follow the franchise overseas and cheer for them now that their regional roots have been yanked out of the ground. While many pro players in League history have kept their fans after moving cross-regionally, no team has ever done so, giving TSMs League division a massive question mark as the organization conducts its great experiment. 

TSM will still compete in the LCS this summerlikely for the last time before moving to another region. No date is set for TSMs move, although its likely to come prior to 2024. 

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