For the first time in the history of North American League of Legends, the reigning champion of the LCS failed to qualify for the following split’s playoffs. After capturing glory throughout all of 2019, the first split of 2020 failed to see Team Liquid reach the playoffs of the Spring Split. The team finished in a distant 9th place with a dismal record of 7-11, and now, is forced to pick up the pieces of a split that couldn’t have resulted in an outcome further from success.
For Team Liquid, this split is one that’s easily going to be forgotten. The organization’s sole offseason swap to the starting lineup was ultimately bogged down by visa issues to kick things off while just a few weeks into the split, that same lineup’s star player was benched for motivational purposes. Regardless of the circumstances, Liquid failed to ever work on the same page with a defined sense of urgency at any point during this split. Additionally, with measures of quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak taking the LCS by storm in its final weeks, the team had to deal with even more screwballs thrown their way.
Of course, this doesn’t exempt TL from its record-breaking collapse. By no means is Liquid an extreme victim of circumstance here. If anything, every other team in the league had to deal with the same issues at one point or another this split. The fact that TL didn’t rise to the occasion should be evidence enough of why the team ultimately failed to reach the postseason. A roster that’s filled to the brim with high-caliber talent should be able to make its way to the top of the standings with ease. The fact that it couldn’t even break the top 8 speaks volumes.
And now, as we move forward into one of, if not, the most bizarre playoff in the history of modern esports – one where all participants will be playing online from the comfort of their own homes – it’s odd to see the team that was touted as the strongest on-paper contender just a few months ago absent from the competition. Sure, an incredible amount of factors have led up to this moment of disappointment for the former “kings of NA”, but as the season progresses on, it’ll have to move forward without Team Liquid one way or another.
And now, in this tumultuous time for the franchise, one can’t help but wonder if a potential slide is in the forecast. You wouldn’t have to think that far back – about 3 years to be precise – to remember when Liquid was a perennial bottomfeeder in the LCS. To see them back at the bottom definitely inspires a feeling of nostalgia for all the wrong reasons. When you’re losing with players like Matthew “Matt” Elento and the walking ghost of Chae “Piglet” Gwang-jin, a 9th place finish is expected. When top-tier talents like Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng and Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen headline your roster, it’s frankly sad.
Looking ahead to the playoffs, it’s hard to not view Cloud9 as a world-class contender. The organization steamrolled its way through the league with an incredibly impressive record of 17-1 – a feat that many deemed only achievable by TL, of all teams, just a few months back. And while it’s certainly too early to deem this split as a “passing of the torch”, it wouldn’t be surprising in the slightest to see Cloud9 and Team Liquid represent two opposite ends of a similar tale in the LCS – what could have been and what is.
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