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Rift Rivals tournament is about more than regional pride
Rift Rivals kicked off this week, as 42 teams in five cities around the globe battle for bragging rights in their region. Started just last year, it’s one of League of Legends’ newest international tournaments.
But there’s more than just regional pride at stake. It’s also about keeping viewers hooked.
The week-long event sits at the perfect time to keep the momentum going during the traditional lull between May’s Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship, held towards the end of the year.
It also shows how MOBAs still dominate international esports even as more and more games like Overwatch and Fortnite grow. During the Mid-Season Invitational, around 60 million unique viewers watched the finals between Royal Never Give Up and KINGZONE DragonX, with the average concurrent viewership staying at around 11 million viewers.
Rift Rivals is being played in Sydney, Ho Chi Minh City, Sao Paulo, Dalian, and Los Angeles. South East Asia (SEA), Oceania (OPL), and Japan (LJL) were the first to start on Monday and OPL is showing up strong across the board, as Dire Wolves went undefeated for the first two days. Unfortunately for Japanese fans hoping for a repeat of last year’s victory, the LJL is lagging behind. We’ll see who can really prove their prowess during the finals’ “blind relay” format, with no chance for counter picks.
Vietnam (VCS), Russia (LCL), and Turkey (TCL) are taking to the Rift today in Ho Chi Minh City, with VCS getting independent representation this year away from SEA.
Later, the Latin American leagues will join in the action. Six teams from Latin America North (LLN), Latin America South (CLS), and Brazil (CBLOL) start off with a Best of One format in the group stage.
But the big focus is going to be on Los Angeles and Dalian starting Thursday.
In LA, we’ve said goodbye to two North American staples. Cloud9 and TSM (last year’s NA vs EU Rift Rival winners) won’t be representing the region at Rift Rivals this year. Instead, Team Liquid, 100 Thieves and Echo Fox will be in charge of the LCS rivalry. Team Liquid had a rough time at MSI, but it’ll have a chance to bring some North American pride again in Los Angeles.
Speaking of staples, Fnatic is representing EU LCS in the Rift Rivals for a second straight year alongside G2 Esports. Fnatic took down Team Liquid at MSI, and the two teams will get to butt heads again this Friday. Let’s see if Fnatic will get their victory tacos.
Meanwhile we’ll get an interesting rematch for MSI finalists Royal Never Give Up and KINGZONE DragonX in Dalian on Friday.
So far several teams are tied for top rankings in China (LPL) and South Korea (LCK), but this isn’t just about defeating their regular opponents. Rift Rivals is about that regional pride, and getting teams ready for the Worlds in South Korea.
LCK has reigned supreme in all but two of the seven previous Worlds, with LPL coming close twice but falling just short in the finals. The meta is (hopefully) going to be vastly different by the time Worlds rolls around, but Rift Rivals is going to be a good chance for teams to get some psychological punches in, and show just how high their region can rise.