A few days ago, Riot announced that the VCS Spring champion, GAM Esports, cannot participate in this year’s Mid Season Invitational. Vietnam’s travel restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic will not allow it. GAM will still receive their share of the participation prize pool, but the show will go on without them.
Third International Event Missed
MSI 2021 will be the VCS’ third missed international event since the COVID-19 outbreak began in 2020. Last year’s Mid Season Invitational was postponed, then completely cancelled for everyone when the pandemic did not allow for safe international travel. Team Flash would have been the VCS’ representative. The 2020 World Championship took place in Shanghai, China, but Vietnam’s teams were restricted from participating. First seed GAM Esports and second seed Team Flash did not get to play.
Now GAM Esports is denied another shot at international practice, competition and exposure. Imagine how Cloud9 or G2 felt missing MSI last year, now multiply that by three. On the other hand, MSI 2021 is missing one of the 12 teams expected at the tournament. How will this affect the competition?
How the Event Changes
In Riot’s initial announcement, they confirmed MSI will not change with the VCs representative missing. They were supposed to start in Group A, so the LPL, LCL and LCO will continue as a three-team group. Two of these three will qualify into the main event. Groups B and C remain unchanged as 4-team groups.
While the format does not change, the outcome of Group Stage will. As the groups were initially planned, the LPL, VCS, LEC, PCS, LCK and LCS would be favorites to move into best-of series. However, VCS leaves a vacuum in Group A for the LCL or LCO to fill.
Royal Never Give Up will 100 percent qualify. Unicorns of Love and Pentanet.GG will fight for that second slot. At last year’s Worlds, UOL and Legacy Esports (Oceania’s team) finished second in their Play-In groups. UOL went on to beat Supermassive (who had previously won over MAD Lions) to move from Play-Ins into the Main Event. Legacy lost decidedly 3-0 to LGD, ending their Worlds run.
However, the OPL disbanded last year, with many of Oceania’s top talent migrating to North America’s LCS. Who knows how competitive the newly created LCO’s representative might be. Overall, Unicorns should have a significant edge. Assuming the favorites from other groups move into Group Stage, UOL probably does not make much of a wave against them. Nonetheless, this is a huge opportunity for UOL that the TCL, CBLoL or other minor regions will have.
While the tournament should not change too much in the grand scheme of things, the audience will miss GAM Esports. Levi, their jungler, has made a name for himself on the international stage, previously playing for GIGABYTE MARINES and later joining the LCS’ 100 Thieves Academy. He then moved to JD Gaming for a split, before returning to GAM and getting to where they are today. Kiaya (as a top laner), Kati, Sty1e and Bie are missing their chance to make the same name for themselves by missing MSI 2021. Hopefully, the VCS can come back to the international stage by September to play at Worlds 2021.
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