Three more NBA teams jump into esports with League of Legends franchises

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Ten teams are joining League of Legends‘ North American esports division as permanent franchises for the 2018 season. They’ll be backed by a mix of longtime esports staples and traditional sports teams like the Golden State Warriors and New York Yankees.

The North American League of Legends Championship Series (NALCS) will have 10 permanent teams starting in 2018, taking a page out of traditional pro sports leagues’ notebooks, like the NBA and MLB. The ten teams revealed today include a mix of esports teams that have competed in the NALCS for years and some newcomers with backgrounds in other esports or traditional sports.

Here are the 10 teams that will be competing in the NALCS for the foreseeable future, alongside the respective organizations backing them:

  • 100 Thieves: This newcomer to professional League of Legends is formed in partnership between Call of Duty pro-turned-celebrity Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag and the NBA’s own Cleveland Cavaliers.

  • Cloud9: Cloud9 is a legacy esports team organization with successful teams in multiple major esports, and its League of Legends team has competed in the NALCS since 2013, qualifying for Worlds the past four years.

  • Clutch City Gaming: Created by NBA team the Houston Rockets as part of its esports venture, Clutch City Gaming makes its debut in the NALCS.

  • Counter Logic Gaming: Another long-running esports team organization from North America, CLG has competed in pro League of Legends since 2010 and recently partnered with Madison Square Garden.

  • Echo Fox: Echo Fox is relatively new to the esports team, forming in 2015 under three-time NBA champion Rick Fox and fielding a League team in the 2016 and 2017 NALCS seasons. The New York Yankees recently made a major investment in the organization.

  • FlyQuest: FlyQuest joined the League of Legends scene in 2017 and is headed by co-owner of NBA team the Milwaukee Bucks, Wes Edens.

  • Golden Guardians: Similar to Clutch City Gaming, the Golden Guardians are the product of an NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, and is making its debut in the NALCS.

  • OpTic Gaming: Although the esports team organization OpTic Gaming has been a staple of North American esports for years, it has never had a League of Legends team until now. 

  • Team Liquid: Team Liquid is one of the oldest, still-running esports team organizations in the world, formed in 2000, and has competed in League of Legends since 2010.

  • Team SoloMid: TSM has been a pillar of pro League of Legends since its debut in 2011 and has regularly won NALCS seasons and qualified for Worlds the past four years.

Previously, teams in the NALCS were always in danger of losing their spot if they did not perform well in any given season. The lowest-placing teams each season would have to compete with the highest-performing teams in the Challenger Series league to keep their spots.

Now, these NALCS teams won’t have to worry about being relegated to lower leagues. Other League of Legends leagues around the world will not have the same franchise structure for the 2018 season, but may follow in the NALCS’s footsteps later.

The announcement of these franchised NALCS teams comes ahead of the start of Blizzard’s Overwatch League, which has city-based team franchises and will be starting up in December.

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