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Team Liquid qualifies for Summer Split, but big questions loom

After a rough split led to a ninth-place finish, TL becomes the first qualifier out of the promotion tournament.

Riot Games

Team Liquid has secured its spot in the 2017 NA LCS Summer Split after defeating Gold Coin United 3-2 in Saturday’s Promotion Tournament Winners’ Match. TL advanced to the winners’ match by defeating eUnited 3-1 Friday night.

TL won the first two games in relatively dominating fashion, with mid laner Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin dominating on Karthus against a Gold Coin United team that refused to pick champions with any shielding. Piglet was a combined 10/4/12 in his two Karthus games.

The third game saw a resergence from GCU, thanks to an 8/2/4 performance by former TL mid laner Kim "FeniX" Jae-hun’s Vladimir. TL nearly pulled off the massive comeback, but the series went to a fourth game. In game four, Team Liquid once again fell behind, as GCU tied up the series with a dominating 18-5 win.

In game five, TL returned to the success it found in the first two games this time led by mid laner Piglet’s phenomenal Ahri play ending the game 7/0/2, winning the game and preventing the reverse sweep.

The qualification is welcome news for TL, one of the most storied esports organizations in North America. Team Liquid’s been in the NA LCS since the 2015 Spring Split (Curse was around even longer), with a first place finish in that summer’s regular season and a long history of finishing in fourth place in various North American competitions.

Even with the good news of qualification, the ninth place finishers have major questions heading into its next split.

Riot Games
  • TSM loanee Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng played a big part in saving the team from relegation, and he almost certainly won’t be back next split. How will TL replace his early game dominance and experience shot-calling in big game situations?
  • Piglet struggled with the mid lane move at first, but had a strong Promotion Tournament moments, especially on Ahri and Karthus. If he remains with the team (remember, he left after last split), will he stay mid or return to AD Carry?
  • Which of those two positions (mid or ADC) is TL more likely to find a quality non-import player to fill out the lineup? None of the in-house options of Greyson “Goldenglue” Gilmer, Austin “Link” Shin or Jung "Youngbin" Young-bin worked out this year.
  • Coach Jang "Cain" Nu-ri did all TL could ask of him since arriving in Week 9: beat TSM and qualify for Summer Split. Will the team be able to keep him, or will there be a fifth coaching change since Peter left before the 2016 season?
  • Will TL settle on a full-time starting support between Matt Elento and Adrian Ma, or keep both options on the roster? North American teams haven’t consistently been able to make the most of roster rotations in the past, but they’re certainly two players worthy of starting positions.

There’s plenty of time between now and the Summer Split for TL to answer those questions, but the lesson should be clear that it can’t start another split with such a glaring weakness in the lineup and expect to contend for a playoff spot.

Gold Coin United will go on to face the winner of Team Envy vs. eUnited in the final series of the Promotion Tournament Sunday. The winner will be the 10th and final team to qualify for the Summer Split.