Spring is a lovely season. The frost of winter subsides, flowers bloom and we take in the new year in all of its beauty and wonder.
The League of Legends spring split (or summer, for all you Oceanic readers), though? Don't need it and let's get rid of it as soon as possible.
While the two-split format of Riot's major leagues has become a staple the past few years -- most notably in the League Championship Series in North America and Europe since the beginning of 2013 -- it's time for a much-needed change, especially with franchising already announced in China and expected to come to North America in 2018.
We've reached a point where the annual IEM World Championship held in Katowice, Poland, and the third-largest League of Legends international tournament of the year, has become all but irrelevant. A tournament that was once a must-watch for fans was a blip on the radar this year for most viewers. The defending IEM world champion and best team in the world, SK Telecom T1, declined to participate, and South Korea as a whole balked, only willing to send a pair of its weakest clubs. North American and Chinese leagues declined to participate as well. The resulting field comprised teams mainly from Europe, the two minnows from South Korea and the eventual winner Flash Wolves from Taiwan.
This is a problem, and one that you can't blame on teams that decline. If you're Team SoloMid, why would you participate? If TSM did go to Katowice, it would have started the year in Los Angeles, traveled to Poland for a week, returned to L.A. for the rest of the spring split, traveled up to Vancouver for the NA LCS spring final, and then back to L.A. for a few days before jettisoning off to Brazil for the Mid-Season Invitational. After TSM does return to America after MSI, it'll only have a week or two to relax before the summer split begins, which leads straight into another possible trip at the end of the season for the summer championships before transitioning into the World Championships in China, which could last over a month.
Scheduling in League of Legends has become ridiculous, and for what? The spring split.
No matter how Riot Games wants to spin it, the spring season is the inferior season. It is the appetizer for the entire year. It's the season for expiration and building chemistry for the summer sprint and a chance at Worlds. With the looming possibility of franchising across the major regions, the spring split would lose even more luster, as the relegation races between teams attempting to survive had been one of main narratives of any spring split. Now that teams will be locked into the league regardless of its spring split finish, what's the point of watching a No. 8 team versus the last-place team with summer on the horizon?
Cut the spring split, and even if you want to lengthen the overall now singular season, there is now time for variety and breathing room for teams. For starters, the first few months of the year, if Riot wanted, could be used for a series of tournaments around the world.
The IEM World Championships would no longer be a death sentence for a team if it wanted to participate; it would be a highly valuable tournament to attend before the domestic league kicks off. If OGN wanted to hold a Champions tournament like the old days, a 16-club tournament over the span of a month with invitations to a team like TSM or G2 Esports, it could happen.
You could see European teams play North American teams before domestic games began. Amateur teams and players, who would be locked out of the domestic leagues if franchising took over, could prove themselves to scouts and analysts of big clubs before the season started in online and offline international tournaments.
Teams could pick and choose where and if they wanted to play before the LCK/LMS/LPL/LCS seasons kicked off. For example, if SKT in 2017 pretty much traveled the world, won everything it could possibly ever win, and walked into 2018 wanting a break, it would have that right. It could spend those extra weeks and months practicing in-house and resting up. On the other hand, if SKT wanted to play on a weekend hosted in Las Vegas in mid-February and either qualified or was invited, it could play in that tournament and experiment with new members if it wanted before LCK began.
The months opened up by deleting the spring split would also give Riot time to try out new international concepts. Why not attempt a World Cup? The best national teams coming together to play in a huge competition. A return of a lengthier Battle of the Atlantic between European and North American clubs? Sure, give it a try. Rent out a cruise ship and host a weekend tournament in the Bahamas. Variety is important, and the extra wiggle room of a more open year of play would not only benefit viewers but teams as well when it comes to getting valuable downtime.
We aren't going to go back to the days of a lack of domestic leagues and a tournament circuit making up the professional scene. But even though the LCS is the main focus, why can't there be a bit of variety, for the good of everyone involved? The slog of the spring split that will occur with the lack of relegation battles can be sidestepped with having only one regular season and playoffs per year, which will make every title and big rivalry match that much bigger.
Also, it would change the discussion around IEM and other external tournaments to go from, "Hey, who declined this time?" to "Wow, which of these teams is going to win this time?"
Sorry spring (and effectively all seasonal splits), it's time for a permanent change.