North America and Europe have been cast as close rivals since the earliest days of competitive League of Legends, but the truth is, the results never quite fit the narrative.
Since the first World Championship back in 2011, North America has only had a team finish ahead of a European squad once — back in 2014 at the Season 4 Championship — and has never made a semifinal. Europe on the other hand, has one world championship win and seven semifinal appearances across six World Championship tournaments. The truth is the best of NA has rarely ever been able to compete with the best of EU.
Heading into Rift Rivals 2017 this seems like it may be more true than ever. Thanks to the qualifying teams being the top three from the Spring Split, NA will send three teams that have largely under-performed so far during the Summer Split.
Cloud9 and Team SoloMid’s early Summer Split troubles seem to have started to turn around but it’s hard to imagine they could enter the tournament with anything other than a 4-2 Group Stage and a win in the finals on their minds. But that isn’t exactly fair. Europe’s three representatives — G2 Esports, Fnatic and Unicorns of Love — enter the tournament after a strong first half finish and have looked even better so far in the Summer Split.
Perhaps the North American team in the best place coming into the tournament, is the region’s worst team so far in the Summer Split, Phoenix1. P1 will come to Berlin with a jungler who has been with the team for three total weeks. With International experience at a premium in competitive League of Legends, this kind of time against Europe’s best teams should be invaluable for Mike Yeung.
And that’s exactly how most of the North American teams should look to Rift Rivals; a learning experience. With six years of international competitions as proof, NA has a thing or two they could learn from their European counterparts about how to win internationally.
The single game group stages will provide the opportunity for almost anything to happen, but the truth is winning just two games against the EU’s best team would really be a win for North America. After disappointing performances in every World Championship since Season Four, North America just want to be somewhat competitive at Rift Rivals. A solid performance at Riot’s newest tournament could give NA the confidence, and lessons, they need to compete at the 2017 World Championships.