Former ROX Tigers and Afreeca Freecs mid laner Son "Mickey" Young-min has signed a contract with Team Liquid to compete on its League of Legends team that will last until the conclusion of the 2018 season, the organization confirmed to ESPN on Monday. As a result, jungler Kim "Reignover" Yeu-jin will rotate off the bench, per Riot rules.
Mickey, who is in his home of South Korea, has been approved to obtain a P-1A internationally recognized athlete visa from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office and is waiting for his follow-up appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. He will then move to the team's house in Los Angeles and will replace current mid laner Greyson "Goldenglue" Gilmer in the starting lineup.
"He's young, he's ambitious, a hard worker, which has been confirmed by previous teammates," Team Liquid co-CEO Steve Arhancet told ESPN. "We think he brings a desire to win, an aggressive play style and an enthusiasm to play in North America, and we're excited about that. We, Team Liquid's League of Legends division of our organization, have some of the best resources in terms of accommodating a Korean who has not yet been to North America and all of the accommodations to be made to make a healthy transition. ... We feel like we're well-positioned and we have amazing resources for Mickey."
The signing comes after the team assessed multiple other mid lane options, including the pursuit of Giants mid laner Na "NighT" Gun-woo, who is currently inactive, sources told ESPN, as well as using AD carry Chae "Piglet" Gwang-jin in the mid lane again. Neither came to fruition, resulting in the signing of Mickey. Arhancet confirmed the team had explored multiple options but declined to go into specifics.
With the move, Liquid will be unable to use either Reignover or AD carry Piglet while Mickey is competing in the mid lane due to Riot Games' interregional movement policy, which restricts more than two non-North American players on a starting lineup at the same time. In the case of Reignover sitting on the bench, the team will start jungler Rami "Inori" Charagh, while its AD carry option is Jung "Youngbin" Young-bin.
Sources told ESPN that the team is inclined to use Inori and Mickey, benching Reignover in the process, but Arhancet declined to comment on the team's starting lineup, saying the team will evaluate the roster situation when Mickey moves to the U.S.
Team Liquid currently sits near the bottom of the League Championship Series for the second consecutive split in the 2017 season. The team has made several roster changes over the last seven months to remain in the league, including temporarily signing North American star AD carry Yiliang "Doublelift" Peng, who competed with the team in the final weeks of the spring split and in the summer promotion tournament, where Liquid fought to avoid relegation.
Ultimately in the beginning of the summer split, the team reverted to its original 2017 roster, bringing back Goldenglue and keeping the rest of the pieces the same. The team, with that lineup and Inori's addition, currently holds a 4-10 record and is close to a return to the promotion/relegation tournament in mid-August.
"We've had consistency for five years, since 2011. We've averaged fourth place in North American placements in that entire time," Arhancet explained. "We do suck right now, but that hasn't always been the case and it won't be the case moving forward as we look into 2018 and beyond and what we can do for the remainder of this year. Mickey is a mechanically great player with a lot of firepower and we're excited for what he brings to the roster."
Mickey has not competed with a team since he parted ways with the ROX Tigers in June. He first made his name with Rebels Anarchy, later named Afreeca Freecs, who competed in the League Champions Korea in Seoul.