A team that competed in the 2017 North American League of Legends Championship Series summer final will reportedly not be playing in the league next year. As cited by Jacob Wolf, sources have confirmed that Immortals has been declined a franchise entry into the league. The news comes nearly a week following the team's rough 0-4 Week 2 exit from the 2017 World Championship after a 2-1 start during Week 1.
A few years from now, maybe it will make sense.
For Riot Games, it appears to be a long-term decision. Immortals, the owner of one of the two Los Angeles Overwatch League spots, has become one of the bigger names in the budding esport. With the NA LCS also located in LA, a conflict of interest could occur down the line: Immortals' success in League of Legends could indirectly grow and support its LA-based Overwatch League team.
Overwatch League, which kicks off the regular season at the start of 2018, is a direct competitor to Riot's NA LCS. Both league-based competitions will go head-to-head in Los Angeles for at least the first year of OWL's existence. While OWL has plans to have games played in each city's respective home turf come the second season of the league, in a world where Immortals is both the center of the OWL in Los Angeles and a part of the NA LCS as a full-fledged (and competitive) franchise, it could cause issues.
Fellow NA LCS peer Cloud9 was admitted into the NA LCS and has a spot in the OWL, but they have the London spot. From what Wolf's sources are saying, Immortals owning LA's spot and wanting to create a live viewing experience in the city for Overwatch could have been the tipping point to keeping them from the league.
Short-term, however, it's a black eye for the league. In the four splits IMT competed in the NA LCS, it finished in the top two of the regular standings in three of those split. As a rookie team in 2016, the team only dropped a single-game before the playoffs, almost completing the entire split without a single loss. The team has made stars and when faced with tough decisions, selected the right roads to go down to keep the team moving in the best direction possible. After failing to make the playoffs for the first (and now only) time in the organization's existence, the team didn't dismantle the team. It made reasonable adjustments to go from a seventh place disaster to the final of the league in a single season.
If this decision was based on results, Immortals would (and should) be in the ten teams selected to become franchises of the NA LCS.
I've gone to the NA LCS almost every week games have been played the last two years. I've seen teams come and go through that time, and I've seen teams stay and gain little to no traction with the fans. You'll always see the "Big 3" of Team SoloMid, C9 and Counter Logic Gaming represented, but for the other teams, outside of possibly Team Liquid, garnering fans is a difficult job. Immortals was one of the few teams in the NA LCS outside of the established teams who started to grow a fanbase the last two years.
Yes, winning was a part of it, but the org's commitment to being transparent with decisions and playing an offensive-style of League made it easy for someone to become an Immortals fan. While it would be a lie to say IMT ever grew to the heights of the "Big 3" in the LCS Arena, it had certainly pierced the market; more and more teal and black uniforms entered the venue each week. When IMT played TSM for the title at the TD Garden in Boston, the first time a non-TSM/C9/CLG team had made the league final since Good Game University in the opening LCS season, it felt like it belonged there.
That's the point -- Immortals belonged in the NA LCS. It proved that. From the players to the staff to the management, they did everything possible to attract new fans, from striving for transparency with fans to marching towards victory. Where other teams tried to cash in big with huge free agent signings and knee-jerk transactions, IMT always looked toward the future. It didn't want to be an organization that won a championship on a fluke and crashed back down to earth the next season. From the first time I talked to Noah Whinston, CEO of Immortals, he told me that while winning a title was important, creating a winning mentality and foundation was even more so.
The "Big 3" of the NA LCS, the pillars of the NA LCS, should have become a quartet. Instead, when the new franchising era of the NA LCS begins in 2018, we'll have to wait and hope that another of the reportedly new franchises like OpTic or the Golden State Warrior's co-owners can fill the void that should have never been needed to be filled.
I waited two years to see a team challenge TSM, C9, and CLG.
I guess I might have to wait some more.