With just hours to go until the 2nd half of the North American LCS kicks off, each player from each team is hungry for a fresh shot at a ticket to the World Championship. With 18 games and 9 weeks standing between these 10 teams and destiny, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The 20 players listed below are the strongest the region has to offer and could serve as North America’s greatest shot at making a run this fall. These titans of professional League of Legends will surely make an impact this summer, as the fate of the game lies directly in their hands.
20. Noh “Arrow” Dong-hyeon- Bottom Lane, OpTic Gaming
Despite OpTic’s struggles during the Spring Split, Arrow remained the shining bright spot for a team with little to cheer for. The former MVP will serve as the anchor for a team that is in desperate need of a rebuild. While the chances of OpTic contending this summer remain low, Arrow’s chances of shining are still high.
19. Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung- Support, Team Liquid
After a tumultuous end to Team Liquid’s run at this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, Olleh was at the brunt end of much criticism. His decision to sit out a crucial game against Flash Wolves was questioned heavily as a win there could have propelled TL into the bracket stage of the tournament. This Summer, look for Olleh to continue his trend of regional dominance, as he’ll look to become the best Support in North America.
18. Lee “Flame” Ho-Jong- Top Lane, FlyQuest
If the 2018 Spring Split proved anything, it’s that Flame has become the new face of FlyQuest. With roster changes from top to bottom throughout the course of the split, Flame was the only player on FlyQuest alongside Jason “WildTurtle” Tran to play all 18 games for the organization. It’s clear that he’s become a pillar of this franchise, and with a hopefully stable roster this summer, Flame can lead FlyQuest to a playoff berth.
17. Joshua “Dardoch” Hartnett- Jungler, Echo Fox
After years of lulling in the cellars of mediocrity, Dardoch finally proved why he is one of the top rising talents in North America. He led Echo Fox to the organization’s first ever playoff berth and definitively became a major power player in the Echo Fox organization. Don’t be surprised to see Dardoch step up to the plate yet again, bringing Echo Fox one step closer to a shot at Worlds.
16. Fabian “Febiven” Diepstraten- Middle, Clutch Gaming
In a split that saw Clutch Gaming fly under the radar for nearly its full entirety, Febiven remained to be the single greatest portion of a team that was in desperate need of a star. While the entire roster stepped up and carried Clutch to a playoff berth, Febiven served as the glue that held the team together, resulting in a top 4 finish. This summer, look for Febiven and Co. to yield similar results as the former European superstar has already established himself as one of the strongest mids in NA.
15. Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook- Mid Lane, 100 Thieves
After reuniting with Head Coach Neil “Pr0lly” Hammad from the old days of H2K, Ryu led 100 Thieves to a first place finish in the regular season, while reaching the NA LCS finals just a few weeks later. He’s proven that he can be the cornerstone of NA’s newest success story, 100 Thieves, and that the team can most definitely rely on him to produce when necessary.
14. Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho- Top Lane, 100 Thieves
Alongside Ryu, Ssumday and him made up the greatest tag team of imports in North America, bringing 100 Thieves just one series away from the Mid-Season Invitational. This summer, look for Ssumday and the Thieves to bring the organization to Worlds, as a berth to the year’s final international tournament surely has to be the goal for a team that has already proved so much on the regional level.
13. Kim “Fenix” Jae-hun- Mid Lane, Echo Fox
After spending some time in the Challenger scene last season to regather his strength, Fenix came back to the professional level with a vengeance. He quickly rekindled the energy that made him so great in the first place, and as a result, he looked like one of the strongest mid laners in the entire region. Look for Fenix to keep the good times rolling, as he’s playing the best League of his career, and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
12. William “Meteos” Hartman- Jungler, 100 Thieves
For years, Meteos had been considered the strongest jungler in North American history. With dominance on the regional level back in 2013 and beyond, and even signs of strength in international play with the original Cloud9 roster, Meteos was surely a name to remember. However, after being replaced by up and coming jungler Mike Yeung on Phoenix1, many wondered if Meteos could bounce back on a new team. Needless to say, he did, putting up his best numbers in years with 100 Thieves, and proving that he can still run with the big dogs.
11. Jake “Xmithie” Puchero- Jungler, Team Liquid
There’s a reason Team Liquid went out and signed Xmithie this offseason: he’s by miles the best jungler in North America. As he plays for a team that will no longer settle for anything less than first, Xmithie is proving that he is the cornerstone of Team Liquid. His presence alone is enough to drive Liquid to the finish line, as his skill in the jungle position is unmatched.
10. Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell- Top Lane, TSM
Hauntzer took the Spring Split as an opportunity to continue his dominance over the top lane. While few players outclass Hauntzer at the position, it’s still obvious why his proficiency in the top lane is regarded as one of the best in the region. This summer, he will serve as a major part of TSM’s redemption tour, as the organization didn’t receive the outcome they expected. And now, part of the team’s destiny falls on Hauntzer’s shoulders, as he is expected to step up and help bring TSM one step closer to its 8th straight World Championship.
9. Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong- Top Lane, Team Liquid
When shoved in the face of some of the best top lane talent in the world at MSI, Impact didn’t flinch. His resilience and tenacity were key factors in Team Liquid’s turnaround during the 2nd round robin of the tournament, as his performance was widely regarded as one of the reasons why the team stayed afloat for so long. However, on the regional stage, Impact is a god among men. He stands atop one of the highest pedestals in North American top lane history, and this summer, look for Impact to establish his dominance yet again.
8. Cody Sun- Bottom Lane, 100 Thieves
After receiving endless criticism for his performance at the 2017 World Championship with Immortals, Cody Sun took no time to respond. He instantly established himself as one of the strongest AD Carries in North America in 2018, bringing himself to a 2nd consecutive NA LCS Final. This split, look for Cody to continue his streak of greatness, as he’s quickly turning into one of the strongest young talents in the entire region.
7. Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez- Support, TSM
After another failure of an appearance at Worlds for TSM in 2017, Andy “Reginald” Dinh did everything in his power to bolster TSM’s roster to make sure the team performs on the international stage this season. And while TSM failed to qualify for MSI, Mithy will surely be a key piece in TSM’s run to Worlds. As one of the winningest support players in Western history, Mithy will serve as the rock on which TSM can build yet another playoff run this Summer. And although TSM’s spring campaign was cut short of expectations, it would be foolish to count the team out as long as the support position is held down by Mithy.
6. Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon- Top Lane, Echo Fox
After spending a year in Korea with the fabled SK Telecom T1 organization, Huni returned to North America with a mission: to prove he is the best top laner in the region. And after acting as one of the main catalysts for Echo Fox’s turnaround, it’s safe to say he accomplished his mission. Now, the focus turns to Worlds, as the proven king of top lane will settle for nothing less than a chance to redeem himself on the international stage. What was started with SKT will be finished with Echo Fox, and Huni will make sure of it.
5. Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen- Bottom Lane, TSM
On the surface, Zven is one of the best AD Carries in the West. His prowess in and out of lane is nearly unmatched, and on the professional level, he’s most definitely in a class of elites. His ability to command the game while still playing to the highest level is absolutely stunning. And after a sketchy performance in the Quarterfinals against Clutch Gaming, Zven will need to channel every ounce of his talent in order to bring TSM back into the forefront of the competitive ladder.
4. Eugene “Pobelter” Park- Mid Lane, Team Liquid
Just because Pobelter had a rough showing on the international stage last month doesn’t mean he’s still not one of the best mid laners in North America. His talent is nearly unmatched and his ability to take control of any game is still present, as the once-rising star of the region has fully blossomed into a full-blown machine. This summer, look for Pobelter to serve as one of the cornerstones of Liquid’s success, as the team will surely be in the hunt for a 2nd straight LCS title, while P.O.B. pulls the strings.
3. Zaqueri “Aphromoo” Black- Support, 100 Thieves
If there is any one particular player you can look back at and pinpoint exactly why 100 Thieves were as successful as they were in the Spring Split, it’s Aphromoo. The longtime LCS veteran is coming off a split where he carried a brand new organization to a 1st place regular season finish, and a 2nd place playoff finish, coming just 3 games away from the title. Additionally, Aphromoo capped off a historic split with an NA LCS MVP recognition, becoming the first ever support player to take home the title. This split, Aphromoo will most definitely serve as the main catalyst for 100 Thieves’ success, as the team relies on him to maintain a foundation of success, one that can’t be found anywhere else.
2. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg- Mid Lane, TSM
At one point, Bjergsen was unanimously looked upon as the greatest Western player of all time. But after a disappointing end to the Spring Split, Bjergsen’s status as the strongest player in the region began to falter. While he is still certainly a once-in-a-generation talent, everyone’s still waiting for the day when Bjergsen steps up and starts taking names. This could be his chance to prove that he truly is the greatest player in the history of the region, and that the TSM dynasty is here to stay.
1. Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng- Bottom Lane, Team Liquid
Unquestioned. Unflinching. Undoubted. Doublelift is truly the greatest player in North America heading into the Summer Split. Even while his team faltered on the international stage last month, Doublelift remained stalwart, proving that he is seriously the best player from NA. Whether it be mechanical skill, or large-scale macro play, Doublelift is the full package and this split, he will be the number one reason why Liquid contends. His presence alone is enough to put any team over the edge, and now that he’s playing the best League we’ve ever seen him play, the sky is the absolute limit.
Photo Credit: Riot Games, League of Legends, Lolesports