The League of Legends Challengers Korea (LCK) is criticized to have the worst playoffs formats in the entire world despite being one of the most competitive regions to compete. In contrast, China’s LPL is considered to have the pinnacle of esports formats and is what most fans attribute to having such a high success rate in international tournaments. What makes a playoffs format good or bad? Let’s take a deeper look at their structures.
The LCK’s Playoffs Format
The LCK has a very conservative format with the traditional best-of-five matches single-elimination format. Six teams out of ten qualify via standings during the regular season with the top two teams receiving a bye that seeds them directly to round two with the rank 1 team choosing which opponent he wants to face among the two winners of Playoffs Round 1. This is very rewarding as the first place team, but extremely punishing for the 3rd-6th teams.
The LCK’s single-elimination playoffs format is the only one among all major regions since all the others have a lower-bracket route at some point in the tournament. North America’s LCS and Europe’s LEC have double-eliminations from the start while the LPL begins their double eliminations once four teams remain. This comparison is often brought up when talking about the LCK having the worst playoffs format in esports.
Why Doesn’t the LCK Have Double Eliminations?
The LCK has never had a double eliminations format throughout its history with the region starting out using the traditional top 8 tournament bracket format and evolving into some form of ladder system, which was arguably the worst playoffs format in HISTORY. Despite the formats being changed throughout the different seasons, they still didn’t include a lower bracket system while the rest of the world evolved.
It’s hard to say why the LCK doesn’t have double eliminations because there are no public statements that explain their reasoning. The only reasons we can come up with is so that production and the tournament schedule can be compact into a single week. Additionally, the Worlds format also doesn’t have double eliminations format, so it makes sense that a world championship region would like to practice with a similar format.
Should the LCK Add a Lower Bracket Next Season?
There is no reason for any region NOT to add a lower bracket in their tournament playoffs. Having a lower bracket doesn’t only help the LCK teams thrive in a more competitive setting, it also helps the organization earn more money from tickets and sponsorships because they’ll have more games to cover. Even if Worlds is single-elimination, it doesn’t necessarily mean that teams will get better from playing in the same format since there is no correlation to either points at all.
Playing in more games is always good because teams will be able to play around the specific meta more and understand it better as they progress. There are many instances when a team lost at the early rounds of the tournament only to make a comeback and win the whole thing. This adds a layer of spice for the viewers and it makes the entire tournament more exciting since you have a chance to watch a team take revenge on the ones that pushed them to the lower bracket.
Is The LCK Getting Worse Because of their Format?
The LCK is having a hard time winning a major tournament with their last big result being Worlds 2020 where Damwon Gaming won the trophy once again for the region. That achievement may be enough to justify the fact that the Korean League of Legends tournament scene is good enough that it doesn’t need to make massive changes to its format for it to win in the international scene.
Of course, we go back again to the point where there is no reason for players not to use a blatantly superior format regardless of their results. Even if the LCK was still dominant and had won all of the tournaments in the past 11 seasons, there is still no excuse that justifies not having a double elimination format because it simply helps promote competition and makes a region better overall.
The LCK currently has the worst playoffs format in the world and it’d simply be lying if someone said that this wasn’t a factor that played a part in the fact that they are struggling to win internationally. Even if it’s simply a small factor, it’s still a reason that should be eliminated if a region is planning in the international scene. Once they use a double eliminations format, the teams will be more competitive once they reach the international scene.
Having the worst playoffs format isn’t the sole reason why there has been a decline in the performance of the LCK. There are a number of different reasons that play bigger parts in that aspect. However, the LCK has impressively stayed as the top two competitor in the region with the LCS and LEC being stagnant in their growth. Many people wish for the return of the LCK dynasty and the fall of the LPL, but can they even do so without adapting a more competitive format? We’ll find out at Worlds.