When you compare the rosters of the four North America Challenger Series teams fighting for two spots in the Spring Promotion, one thing sticks out: a pretty severe imbalance of former LCS talent on the rosters.
On one side, there’s Cloud9 Challenger and Team Liquid Academy, teams owned by two of the biggest organizations in North American esports and featuring rosters stocked with former LCS starters. On the other, there’s Dream Team and Nova eSports, a pair of newer organizations looking to make a mark with largely unknown talent.
C9 Challenger earned the No. 1 seed in this bracket by finishing 3-2-0 in the regular season with an 8-2 record in games. Its lineup is particularly star-studded, featuring four former LCS starters and three from C9’s back-to-back NA LCS-winning teams in Summer 2013 and Spring 2014. LCS fans will easily recognize long-time C9 starters An “Balls” Le, Hai “Hai” Lam and Daerek “LemonNation” Hart, as well as former Gravity and NRG starter Johnny “Altec” Ru.
The team was originally announced with four former Cloud9 starters, including former NA LCS MVP Yoon-jae “Rush” Lee, but after he left to return to Korea the team replaced him with rising 16-year-old prospect Juan Arturo “Contractz” Garcia, who would likely be starting for an LCS team if he met the 17-year-old age requirement.
Dream Team earned its playoff bid with a tiebreaker win against Apex Pride last Thursday, and brings a host of experienced Challenger players to go up against the C9’s giants. Going up against Balls in the top lane will be his cousin, Andy “Chorong” Hoang. Also on the squad are former Team Liquid Academy jungler Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham, former Team Coast mid laner Isaac “Pekin Woof” Marconis, former Team Imagine AD Carry Li Yu “Massacre” Sun and former mousesports support Tore Hoel “Norskeren” Eilertsen. Dream Team was the former home to current starting LCS supports Nickolas “Hakuho” Surgent and Vincent “Biofrost” Wang.
Second-seed Team Liquid Academy are the only team here making a repeat appearance in the Challenger playoffs, but are doing so with a radically new lineup. Three of the players from last year’s playoff team are now starting for LCS teams, but TLA has something no other Challenger team does: a former World champion on the roster. With Jovani “fabbbyyy” Guillen now starting for the LCS roster, former SKT AD Carry Gwang-jin “Piglet” Chae has been filling in on the Challenger roster and lending some star power to the team. He’s joined by former Echo Fox substitute top laner Colin “Solo” Earnest, former NRG starting jungler Galen “Moon” Holgate, former Team 8 starting mid laner Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer and former Echo Fox substitute support William “Stunt” Chen.
Nova eSports earned the third seed with a 2-1-2 record in the regular season, and while it may have the least known talent on the roster it is a team that swept Apex Pride and Eanix and took a game off of Dream Team. The team features top laner Olof “Flaxxish” Medin, now eligible after a year-and-a-half long suspension for toxic behavior, jungler Lâm “k0u” Trí Tin, who has led two teams to LCS promotion series in his career, Canadian mid lane prospect Nicholas “Ablazeolive” Antonio Abbot, former Rank 1 Challenger AD Carry Richard “Rikara” Samuel Oh and former Team Impulse substitute support Kenneth “Ken” Tang.
The two teams that win their semifinal rounds will qualify for the promotion tournament, where they’ll square off against the bottom three teams from the NA LCS at the end of this split. Last split’s promotion tournament saw Apex Gaming, now in seventh place, replace Team Dignitas in the NA LCS.
It all starts Tuesday at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, when Cloud9 Challenger takes on Dream Team. Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET, Team Liquid Academy will square off against Nova eSports. The two winners will face in the final next Wednesday, July 20, at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET. All matches will be best-of-five and streamed on Lolesports.