Riot Games has finalized the 10 teams that will join a newly franchised North American League of Legends Championship Series with the Houston Rockets, league sources told ESPN.
The Rockets join two other NBA team affiliates to buy into the league. The Cleveland Cavaliers and affiliated venture partners and Golden State Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob both reportedly bought into the league. The other new team to the league is OpTic Gaming, a longtime esports brand that recently received investment from Texas Rangers co-owner Neil Leibman.
"Out of respect for teams still in the application process and mutual NDAs [nondisclosure agreements], we're not able to comment on any individual applications for the NA LCS," a league spokesperson told ESPN in a statement. "We'll be announcing the full lineup in mid-November once the process has concluded and look forward to sharing more details then."
All of the new franchises will pay $13 million in fees with $8 million due upfront. Five million dollars will go toward league operations and $3 million to a compensation pool to pay North American League Championship Series and Challenger Series teams that did not make it back in. That pool will total $12 million as a result of four new teams.
Six existing teams had their applications to remain in the league approved and will pay $10 million to re-enter the restructured league. Those include Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming, Echo Fox, Team SoloMid, Team Liquid and FlyQuest. Exiting teams reportedly consisted of Immortals, Team Envy, Phoenix1 and Team Dignitas.
The Rockets hired former Archon CEO Sebastian Park in December as its director of esports. It has since explored opportunities for esports investment, was approached by and declined participation in the Overwatch League and applied for the North American League Championship Series in July.
Tilman J. Fertitta, a restaurant business mogul and Houston native, acquired the Houston Rockets in September for a record $2.2 billion from longtime owner Leslie Alexander. The franchise has had success under Alexander, who bought the team in 1993 for $85 million, and won two NBA championships in 1994 and 1995.
The Rockets' inclusion in the league comes after the North American League Championship Series began undergoing restructuring in June. Riot Games ran an application process that saw more than 100 applicants apply, which was later narrowed down to a shorter list that each traveled to Los Angeles to meet with the developer in September. Riot notified team applicants whether they had been accepted and declined last week, sources said.
The Houston Rockets declined to comment.