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SK Telecom T1 qualifies for Worlds, becomes first defending champion to ever do so

Yes, really.

Riot Games

Korean juggernauts and defending champions SK Telecom T1 have qualified for 2016 Worlds, and it happened on a day the team didn’t even play.

With ROX Tigers’ 3-2 win over KT Rolster in Saturday’s LCK final, SKT earned a spot through Championship points. The Tigers will be Korea’s No. 1 seed at the tournament, while SKT will be No. 2. The region’s third seed will be decided in the regional finals in a week and a half.

SKT is somehow the first defending Worlds champion to qualify for the tournament the next year. Here’s a history of previous winners and what happened the next season:

  • Fnatic, Season 1 winner: Lost to in Season 2 European Qualifier, placing fourth and missing Season 2 Worlds
  • Taipei Assassins, Season 2 winner: Lost to AHQ e-Sports in 2013 GPL Championship, missing Season 3 Worlds
  • SK Telecom T1 K, Season 3 winner: Lost to Najin White Shield in 2014 Regional Finals, missing Season 4 Worlds
  • Samsung White, Season 4 winner (as Samsung Galaxy): Last place finish in Spring, seventh-place finish in Summer, did not qualify for Regional Finals, missing Season 5 Worlds
  • SK Telecom T1, Season 5 winner: Congrats! Ya did it!

After a disappointing start to the Spring Split saw them in the bottom half of the table, SKT surged up the table in the second half of the regular season. The team upset ROX Tigers in the LCK Finals, qualifying for MSI and winning that tournament too.

But ROX outclassed SKT in the regular season once again, earning the No. 1 seed and a trip straight to the finals. SKT was upset by KT Rolster in the semifinals in a dramatic reverse sweep, but the combined championship points from the two splits were enough to secure a spot at Worlds and a chance for a record third title.

For more on Worlds qualifying, including how it works and the current standings, click here.