Today, Schalke 04 Esports will play against Rogue in the LEC Semifinals. And I know, the vast majority of LEC fans are looking forward to G2 vs Fnatic instead, the big match of the week, the battle of two titans. Right now, Schalke vs Rogue seems like an appetizer for the main dish being served on Saturday.
But I what think a lot of fans don’t realise, is the fact that this game on Friday, will be a game that decides over careers. That will impact some of these players and how they’re viewed for a very long time.
The winner isn’t just locked for 3rd place, a respectable result in the currently best region in the world. But it’s also the only team out of the two that can still qualify for Worlds. And all of us need to realise, how important that can be.
Now admittedly, I have a bit of a bias towards Schalke here. For starters, here in Germany esports being sports and whether we should dedicate political and financial resources to it, is still a huge point of debate – so whenever Schalke does well, and grows its influence, that has a positive impact on German esports in general. Oh, and I should also mention that I’ll be a special guest interviewer at the LEC Finals Schalke booth in Athens, just to get that out of the way – if you’re around, please come by and say hello!
But I also want to wish the best of luck to Rogue. They’re utilising their talent and how they brought them in very well! They’ve shown that you can go from an aggravating 2-16 Spring Split Finish, to making Playoffs. Sure, the 7-11 Scoreline isn’t the most convincing one of getting in, in NA they would’ve missed Playoffs with a Win/Ratio like that… Although admittedly, if they would play in NA, they would beat the majority of the teams.
It’ll be a series that will path the future of some of these players. How long does Upset have to wait to play on an international stage, if he misses this year’s Worlds as well, an AD Carry considered by many as minimum Top 3 in the league for a long long time now? What if Larssen is able to qualify, and have a decent first showing at Worlds? Will he follow Bjergsen’s footsteps, and become one of the most dominant, iconic players within his region – but this time, stay in Europe because it’s the best region to play in?
Every single year, Europe has sent a new team to Worlds – usually consisting out of a lot of Rookies as well. Think of Misfits 2017 and the impact that one Worlds tournament had on the careers of Alphari, Maxlore, PowerOfEvil, Hans Sama and Ignar. Alphari had a fantastic Spring Split with Origen, PowerOfEvil finished 3rd in NA with CLG, Maxlore and Hans Sama had their ups-and-downs with Misfits, and Ignar is doing amazing things at Schalke.
But so far, we mainly remember them for that Misfits roster, that took down TSM, and gave SKT one hell of a run for their money.
Worlds, for many players, can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to manifest yourself as an elite player. And Worlds 2019 has the potential to become the most-viewed League of Legends tournament in Western history.
Interest in European teams will be at a massive high, given that all eyes will be on the current MSI-champions, and the teams that had to fight them throughout the split. And if a European team manages to bring it home, this tournament will be remembered for years to come in this region. And even if neither Schalke nor Rogue take home the trophy, they’ll still be remembered by partaking in this tournament.
Some day, people might go “Remember that year that G2 won Worlds, and Europe won their first proper Worlds title in League of Legends history?” and then, maybe they’ll add, “and remember, how Larssen really popped off in that game against SKT in Group Stage? No wonder he’s so incredible nowadays.”
Caps used to be exactly in that position. And look where he is now.
Maybe neither team will make it, even if they win this game, unless they win the split they would have to go through the gauntlet – and Schalke knows how difficult that can be.
But one thing is for certain: One of these teams will not qualify for Worlds. For one of these rosters, the year will be over. Whereas the other can still hope to participate in what could become the greatest spectacle in the history of Western, no all of League of Legends esports history.
So, if you have some cheers to spare for either Schalke or Rogue, make sure that they’re heard and that you tune in to their match tomorrow.
For some players, it’ll be a life-changing event.