Who: SK Telecom T1 (South Korea, 8-2) vs. ROX Tigers (South Korea, 8-3)
When: Friday, Oct. 21 at 6:00 p.m. ET/3:00 p.m. PT
Where: Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York
What's at stake
Would it be too hyperbolic to say this means everything (and maybe even more)? These two teams have been the center of the professional scene for two years now, and Friday's semifinal will be the most anticipated match in Worlds history. While 2014's semifinal match between sister teams Samsung Blue and Samsung White was an equally intriguing story (they were the two favorites to win the Summoner's Cup), SKT and the Tigers have had an ongoing feud for more than 600 days at this point.
Last year, SKT T1 defeated ROX -- then known as the KOO Tigers -- in the Summoner's Cup Final to win its second title and define itself as the first international dynasty in League of Legends. Since then, KOO has upgraded its roster, won the most recent domestic league in South Korea and rolled through the quarterfinal stage, brushing aside the Chinese champion EDward Gaming. The only accomplishments left to cross off are to raise the Summoner's Cup -- and maybe even more importantly -- defeat and eliminate the team that has haunted them for the past two years.
SKT has a 3-0 record against ROX Tigers in best-of-five matchups, and this Sunday's semifinal will be the first time the two aren't meeting in a bracket final. The ROX Tigers might've won South Korea's Champions league in the summer split of this year, but that was only after KT Rolster eliminated SKT T1 in the semifinals.
Inside the hallowed halls of New York's Madison Square Garden, this could be the final chance for the Tigers to rewrite the wrongs of the past. Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho has made it clear that he wants the title of "best in the world" and the only way the ace top laner will ever fully receive that honor is if he defeats the game's greatest player, SKT T1's two-time world champion, Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok.
A loss for SKT, while prolific, would not break the organization. It has two world titles, five domestic crowns and countless other accolades. A semifinal loss would just push Faker and the rest of the roster to grow stronger in the offseason.
A loss for ROX, its fourth straight to SKT in a major best-of-five series and second-straight elimination from Worlds, could be the final blow that breaks apart the second-best team in the world. It has been given chance after chance to prove itself versus SKT; even when it's been in better form, the Tigers haven't been able to bring SKT to a fifth game. On Sunday, forcing them to a fifth game won't be enough -- there are no moral victories here for the Tigers.
They have to win.
Matchup to Watch: Kang "Blank" Sun-gu (SKT) vs. Han "Peanut" Wang-ho (ROX)
A matchup between the newest members on each roster could be the deciding factor in this two-year feud. The two players, while similar in terms of mechanics, have almost inverse narratives going into the semifinal. Blank is a player that has lower lows than Peanut and has been a lot more inconsistent throughout the domestic campaign, and yet, he's constantly come up big when SKT has needed him the most. Peanut, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: He's been the best jungler in matches where ROX is favored, but he's also had blunders in big matches.
Blank and Peanut both had strong quarterfinal performances, but the loser of Friday's semifinal will have their run cut short. Blank has said throughout the tournament that the tough criticism thrown at him by the media throughout the year hasn't hurt him but actually made him stronger, and Peanut is as confident as they come.
Faker and Smeb will be the two names you hear the most in this titanic clash of the world's best; however, it's the men in the jungle protecting them who might tip the scale.