North America doesn't possess the best track record at the League of Legends World Championship. Although the region had an optimistic start in 2011's season 1 -- significantly, where no South Korean or Chinese teams competed -- since then it's been a long list of "close" misses, unlucky bracket draws, and teams underperforming at the crucial stages of the campaign.
This year, there will be no excuses if NA can't bring a team to the semifinals for the first time since that first Worlds. Team SoloMid, the reigning champion of the region, enters with the best form ever of any North American club coming into the granddaddy of all League competitions. The NA League of Legends Championship Series is also sending Cloud9 and Counter Logic Gaming, who was the first NA team to make a major Riot Games tournament final earlier this year in Shanghai, China at the Mid-Season Invitational.
Back in 2015, these three teams had a bewildering combined record of 0-10 in the second week of the group stages. North America left Worlds with a chip the size of a boulder on its shoulder while the rest of the world scoffed. In 2016, NA has a chance to set things right.
Here's a chronicle of the near-misses NA has experienced at Worlds.
Season 1 (2011)
Team SoloMid: 3rd
Epik Gamer: 4th
Counter Logic Gaming: 5th
Sure, these results look good on paper. Wow, three NA teams in the top five? What a powerhouse! But the real picture of this initial Worlds is a bare-bones tournament in the game's infancy before the top Asian talent took hold in the game. And North America, with three out of the eight teams in the tournament, didn't even make the final.
The only real takeaway from 2011 is proof of TSM's Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng's longevity throughout the years. Out of the 15 players for the North American teams at the inaugural World Championship, only Doublelift has stood the test of time to make it back this year. The only other player from the inaugural 15 still in the NA LCS is Dignitas' Alex "Xpecial" Chu.
Season 2 (2012)
Team SoloMid: 5th-8th
CLG Prime: 9th-10th
This Worlds was where North America's reputation changed from being a respected contender who could mix it up with the best in the world to an afterthought on the international stage. North America only managed a single victory throughout the entire 12-team tournament.
While NA has had lukewarm and even embarrassing turns at the World Championships -- 0-10 in 2015 wasn't pretty -- this was easily the worst performance for NA at the annual event. This was still a time where TSM was seen as a threat to make deep runs on the international stage, and the lackluster results from all three teams sent the region to the back of the line.
Season 3 (2013)
Team SoloMid: 11th-12th
Team Vulcun: 11th-12th
2013 was a slight upgrade over 2012. The big story from the newly-founded NA LCS was the all-American juggernaut rookie organization of Cloud9. The club ripped through the domestic league in the summer split after qualifying from the minor leagues, and the boys in blue and white seemed primed to bring some respect back to a region that fell on its face the previous Worlds.
C9 was directly seeded into the quarterfinals where it met Europe's Fnatic. Although the third game of the best-of-three series was a blowout for the Europeans, Cloud9 still performed admirably compared to NA performances from the previous year.
For the other two NA teams, there isn't much to say. TSM was in the process of closing the door on an old era, and it would be founder and mid laner Andy "Reginald" Dinh's last games as starter before handing the future of the team to a wunderkind from Denmark by the name of Søren "Bjergsen" Bjerg.
Vulcun, the third wheel, put up a scrappy performance that outshined TSM's. Unfortunately, Vulcun never came close to making Worlds again and eventually disbanded.
Season 4 (2014)
Team SoloMid: 5th-8th
Cloud9: 5th-8th place
LMQ: 12th-13th place
LMQ, a team with five Chinese starters, held its own in the group stages although it did not advance; Team SoloMid and Cloud9 cleared the group stages with flying colors. In the bracket, the two remaining NA teams had the honor of facing the two best teams of the tournament, Samsung White and Samsung Blue, in the first round. While both fell to the South Korean twin teams, TSM exited the tournament as one of only two squads to take a win from the eventual champions Samsung White, and C9's explosive macro play against a team with more firepower is still remembered to this day.
All in all, this was a pretty great tournament for North America.
And that in itself shows how little North Americans have had to celebrate at the World Championship the past four years.
Season 5 (2015)
Counter Logic Gaming: 12th-13th
Team SoloMid: 14th-16th
The first week of last year's World Championship was the best of times for North America. C9 shocked the world by winning all three of its week one matches in a difficult group, CLG were in a good position in its group, and TSM even picked up a victory in the perceived "Group of Death." The quick turret pushing strategies of the NA teams were working, and the other teams were slow to adjust to it.
The second week of last year's World Championship was the worst of times for North America. Opponents adapted to CLG's tactics. TSM was swallowed whole by Origen, KT Rolster, and a half-dead LGD Gaming. C9, who was 3-0 in week one, lost four matches in week two to send North America out of the tournament without reaching the bracket stage.
It was the first time ever that North America wasn't represented in the bracket stage of a World Championship. The darkest moment in the history of NA as a region. Before the World Championship even came to an end in Germany, Bjergsen was the last remaining starter on his team and Doublelift had been ousted from CLG.
As cliche as this is going to sound -- stop reading now if you hate corny overused lines -- there's a proverb that might be true for North America coming into the 2016 World Championship on home soil:
It's always darkest before the dawn.