The League of Legends European Championship (LEC), previously known as the European League of Legends Championship Series (EU LCS), is the name of the professional League of Legendsesportsleague run by Riot Games, in which ten teams compete. Each annual season of play is divided into two splits, spring and summer, both consisting of nine weeks of round-robin tournament play, which then conclude with play-off tournaments between the top six teams. At the end of the season, the winner of the summer split, the team with the most championship points, and the winner of the gauntlet tournament qualify for the annual League of Legends World Championship. The LEC represents the highest level of League of Legends play in Europe.
With the exception of some touring events, all games of the LEC are played live at Riot Games' studio in Adlershof, Berlin, Germany. In addition to a small studio audience, all games are streamed live in several languages on Twitch, YouTube and Azubu, with broadcasts regularly attracting over 300,000 viewers.
The popularity and success of the LEC has attracted significant media attention. On 30 September 2016, the French Senate unanimously adopted the last version of the Numeric Law, significantly improving the visa process for LEC players and esports athletes in general, giving a legal frame to esports contracts, introducing mechanisms to ensure payment of cash prizes, specifying rights for minor esport athletes, and more. A few months before, France also introduced a new esports federation, "France Esports", which has the duty to be a representative body of esports towards the government and serve as a "partner of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee for all matters relating to the recognition of electronic sports as sport in itself".Spain did the same in November 2016, creating the Spanish Federation of Video Games and Esports Spanish Federation of Video Games and Esports. The LEC has attracted sponsorships from AcerCoca-Cola and American Express.
Riot Games launched League of Legends in October 2009 and rapidly attracted attention from the competitive gaming community. The first two seasons of competitive play consisted of a series of tournaments mostly organised by third parties, such as Intel Extreme Masters in Europe, capped by a world championship tournament hosted by Riot Games.
Riot Games announced the formation of the LCS on 6 August 2012, creating a fully professional league run by the company with a regular schedule and guaranteed salaries for players, featuring eight teams. Since the LCS was only launched in the third year of professional play, it was immediately dubbed "Season 3". The top three finishers in the Riot Games European regional championships held in August 2012 automatically qualified, with the remaining five teams being decided in qualifier tournaments held in January 2013. Each LCS season is divided into two splits for spring and summer; the first games of the first spring split took place on 7 February 2013 in North America and on 9 February 2013 in Europe.
Riot Games changed naming conventions in 2014, calling the season the "2014 Season" instead of "Season 4". The League of Legends Challenger Series was created as a second tier of competition for promotion and relegation.
At the end of the 2014 season, an expansion tournament was held in Europe that added two teams in region, giving the LCS a total of 10 teams for the start of the 2015 Season. Additionally, Riot introduced the concept of "Championship points", which teams would earn based on performance across both splits and playoffs in order to qualify for the League of Legends World Championship.
A new sale of sponsorship rule was instated for the 2015 season. As a result, several teams were forced to rebrand and leave their respective parent organisations.
The 2015 Summer European LCS Finals were played at Hovet Arena, Stockholm. The series ended with Fnatic winning 3-2 over Origen and peaked at close to 1 million concurrent viewers on Twitch, YouTube, and Azubu - the highest number of viewers for any LCS match to date.
The 2016 Spring European LCS finals were held at Rotterdam Ahoy in Rotterdam, with G2 winning 3–1 against Origen, making it their first LCS title. The 2016 Spring European LCS split was the first time G2 played in the professional LCS after having been promoted due to winning the European Challenger Series and European Promotion Tournament in Summer 2016.
The 2016 Summer European LCS finals were played at the Tauron Arena in Kraków, Poland. G2 won 3–1 against Splyce and secured their second LCS title. Splyce would later win the 2016 Summer European Gauntlet and qualify for Worlds as the third-seeded European team.
The 2017 Spring European LCS finals were held at the Barclaycard Arena in Hamburg, Germany, where G2 won 3–1 against Unicorns of Love, securing their third LCS title and qualifying for the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), an annually-held international League of Legends competition. G2 placed second at the MSI 2017, losing 1-3 to SKT T1, the Korean representatives, in the finals. The Summer Split LCS finals took place in Paris at the AccorHotel Arena, where G2 Esports won 3-0 against Misfits Gaming. In the League of Legends World Championship
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In 2019, the name changed from "Europe League Championship Series" (EU LCS) to "League of Legends European Championship" (LEC).
The LCS primarily reaches its viewers through online streaming using its own channels on Twitch and YouTube. On Twitch alone, viewership numbers regularly exceed 200,000 for regular season play, and the games have drawn over 1.7 million unique visitors. However, Riot Games CEO Brandon Beck stated in 2012 that there were no immediate plans to try to bring the LCS to traditional TV, and news coverage of the regular season is generally limited to dedicated electronic sports news sites, such as CBS Interactive's onGamers.
The scale and popularity of the LCS itself, however, has attracted considerable media attention, particularly around some events that legitimised the LCS as a serious competition.
As of 2019, 10 teams in Europe, selected through franchising, compete in the LEC. Each season is divided into two splits. The regular season of each split consists of 9 weeks of play, in which each team plays each other twice, for a total of 18 games each. At the conclusion of each split, a playoff consisting of the top 6 teams from the regular season is played to determine the final standings.
The current playoff format introduced in 2019 consists of 4 rounds. In round 1, the third seed chooses to face either the fifth or sixth seed and the fourth seed faces the remaining team. The winners of these matches then play each other in round 2, and the winner of this match advances to the round 3. In round 3, the first and second seeds play against each other in a "juggernaut" match. The winner of this match advances directly to the final round; the loser faces the winner of round 2 in a "decider" match, and the winner of this decider match advances to the final.
Each split's playoffs award cash prizes and Championship Points, which are used to determine qualification into the annual League of Legends World Championship. The winner of the summer split automatically qualifies as Europe's first seed, while the next four teams ranked by Championship Point total play the Regional Qualifier Tournament to determine the two additional seeds for the World Championship.
[*] After the previous lineup of Lemondogs left the organisation after Worlds and were not replaced in time, the LCS spot was played for between the three teams that had previously lost their relegation games: (MeetYourMakers, Ninjas in Pyjamas and Supa Hot Crew). Supa Hot Crew won the spot in the end.