The start of the 2023 League of Legends World Championship is almost upon us. It's the most prominent annual esports event in the world. We know (almost) every one of the 22 teams that will compete, and Riot Games has released the 2023 Worlds anthem, GODS. Korean K-pop group NewJeans sings GODS, which features a music video that focuses on Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu’s rise to becoming a world champion last year. Deft is back this year and so is his nemesis Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok alongside some of the best League of Legends players in the world as they seek to lift the Summoner’s Cup in South Korea this year.
This year’s Worlds will play out with a different format than in previous years, and like usual, Worlds will feature some fascinating storylines. To get you ready for the start of Worlds 2023, here’s a primer on the teams, schedule and format, and storylines to watch.
Qualified for main event
- JD Gaming
- Bilibili Gaming
- LNG Esports
- Weibo Gaming
- KT Rolster
- Dplus KIA
- G2 Esports
- MAD Lions
- Team Liquid
Qualified for play-ins
- PSG Talon
- CTBC Flying Oyster
- GAM Esports
- Team Whales
- Detonation FocusMe
- Movistar R7
- Golden Guardians / Team BDS
Schedule and format
For the first time since the introduction of the play-in stage in 2017, Worlds will feature a revamped format. Single games are out, and best-of series are in. The tournament will kick off with the first-ever Worlds Qualifying Series (WQS). North America’s Golden Guardians will face EMEA’s Team BDS in the first-ever Worlds Qualifying Series, a best-of-five series between the fourth seed from each region that will take place on Oct. 9 in LoL Park in Seoul. It’s essentially a play-in for the play-in stage.
The play-in stage will look a lot like this year’s Mid Season-Invitational play-in stage, with the eight teams divided into two double elimination groups. Seven of the eight teams will be non-major region teams (Vietnam, Southeast Asia, Japan, Brazil and Latin America) and the eighth team will be the winner of the WQS. The upper bracket winner in each group will face the lower bracket winner in the other group to determine the two teams that will advance to the second stage of Worlds. The play-in stage will take place Oct. 10-15.
The second stage of Worlds will be a Swiss stage, rather than the group stage that has typically been the main event at Worlds. There will be 16 teams in this stage -- 14 directly qualified teams from the major regions and another two from the play-in stage. Teams will be matched up against each other according to seeding at first and then based on wins/losses. The first couple rounds of Swiss play will be single games, but advancement and elimination matches will be best-of-three. Teams will need to win three matches to advance, and those who lose three matches will be eliminated. Eight teams will ultimately advance. The Swiss stage will take place Oct. 18-29.
The eight teams that advance from the Swiss stage will be placed in a single elimination bracket. This is the typical playoff stage that we’ve seen at Worlds the past few years. The playoffs will start Nov. 2 and conclude with the final on Nov. 12.
All games can be seen on Riot Games’ Twitch channel. Check lolesports.com or Liquipedia for the starting time in your time zone.
Can JD Gaming walk the Golden Road?
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
Since the first edition of the Mid-Season Invitational in 2015, no team has won both MSI and Worlds as well as both of their domestic splits in the same year. T1 were MSI and Worlds champions in 2016, but didn’t win both LCK splits. G2 entered Worlds 2019 with a chance to go four-for-four, but lost the Worlds final. Now, 2023 JD Gaming has a chance to complete the feat.
Just like G2 in 2019, JDG look like the best team in the world and anything short of reaching the final would be surprising. Their roster is a veritable all-star team, and Seo "Kanavi" Jin-hyeok and Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk will enter the tournament fresh off winning gold for Korea in the League of Legends competition at the Asian Games. With Worlds being held in Korea, they’ll likely have the crowd pulling for them when they’re not facing a Korean team. Of course, upsets happen, and there are a handful of other teams that could knock them off the Golden Road before they reach the finish line.
Will Faker and T1 finally win another championship?
Photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games
One of the teams that could knock out JDG is T1. Faker’s track record of success at Worlds is unmatched, and for the first time ever he’ll get to play for a world championship in his home country. This team is hungry, having lost the Worlds final last year to DRX.
Although Gen.G were the LCK champions in both the spring and summer, T1 beat them on the international stage at MSI. They did lose to JDG at MSI, but the series went to five games, and T1 beat them in the Worlds semifinals last year. Like a couple of their rivals on JDG, Faker, Ryu "Keria" Min-seok and Choi "Zeus" Woo-je will enter the tournament as conquering heroes after winning gold for Korea at the Asian Games. This feels like the perfect time for Faker and T1 to lift the Summoner’s Cup for the fourth time and first time since 2016.
Which teams have the potential to go on a Cinderella run?
Photo credit: Riot Games
Last year, DRX shocked the world by winning Worlds as the fourth seed from Korea. It was one of the most unlikely League of Legends World Championship runs, which makes it unlikely to be repeated this year, but it’s fun to think about which teams might rise to the occasion. Of course, if a team outside China or Korea wins it all, that would be an even bigger Cinderella story than DRX’s, but let’s be realistic! Considering how much stronger Korean and Chinese teams are compared to North American and European teams, let’s just take a closer look at the lower seeded teams from the LCK and LPL. Korea’s Dplus KIA and China’s Weibo Gaming fit the profile of unlikely winners but teams that still have an outside chance to make a run.
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Dplus KIA are the Korean fourth seed this year, and you know who’s on the roster? Kim "Deft" Hyuk-kyu. That’s the very same Deft who was the focal point of DRX’s run last year. Plus, this team has Kim "Canyon" Geon-bu and Heo "ShowMaker" Su, two players who won Worlds in 2020 and were runners-up in 2021. This team knows how to win the big games, and will surely be in top form at Worlds.
As for Weibo Gaming, they have Kang "TheShy" Seung-lok on their roster. TheShy led Chinese team Invictus Gaming to win a world championship in 2018, the last time Worlds was held in Korea. This team also has another former world champion in Liu "Crisp" Qing-Song, and a multitime MSI winner in Li "Xiaohu" Yuan-Hao. Xiaohu never won Worlds despite all the success Chinese juggernauts Royal Never Give Up had domestically and at MSI. What a story it would be if he finally gets to lift the Summoner’s Cup.
How will the new format impact the results?
It remains to be seen how the new format will impact results. With group play, there’s a chance the groups are unbalanced and a really good team gets eliminated early because they’re in a tough group, or an average team sneaks through to the playoffs because they were in a weaker group. That won’t happen in a Swiss format, because winning teams will be matched up against other winners, and losing teams will face other losers right off the bat. A Swiss format arguably does a better job than group play of separating the wheat from the chaff. That could be bad news for Western teams who might just get bullied by the Eastern teams. On the other hand, no Western team will be forced to escape a group that contains a strong Chinese and Korean team.
Which of the Western teams might reach the playoff bracket?
Photo credit: Michal Konkol / Riot Games
It seems as though with every passing year, the Korean and Chinese teams get stronger, while the European and North American teams get comparatively weaker. Last year only one Western team reached the playoff bracket, Rogue, and they were immediately eliminated 3-0. In 2021, two Western teams reached the final eight and both were swiftly dispatched 3-0. The peak of Western competitiveness was 2018 when Cloud9 and Fnatic reached the semifinals and Fnatic reached the final, and 2019 when G2 won MSI and reached the Worlds final. Recent history suggests no Western teams will go as far as the semifinals. However, there should be at least one, and maybe two teams that reach the quarterfinals.
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The most likely Western team to reach the final eight is G2. They mostly dominated the European competition throughout the year, and their roster is talented and experienced on the international stage. It wasn’t that long ago that Rasmus "Caps" Borregaard Winther and Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle were leading G2 to strong international performances in 2019 and 2020. None of the other European teams at this event inspire any confidence that they can make it out of the Swiss stage.
As for the North American teams, the easy pick is Cloud9. They seemingly always make it to Worlds and emerge as NA’s last hope. However, they always seem to hit a ceiling at Worlds. I’m going out of the box and picking NRG as the NA team to watch at Worlds. Not only did they beat Cloud9 in the LCS summer final to win their first domestic title, they played better against better teams throughout the year. Despite only going 9-9 in the summer, they went 2-0 against both C9 and Golden Guardians, NA’s two MSI teams. In the summer playoffs, they bounced back from an upper final loss to C9 to beat them in the final. This team has a good mixture of veterans and youth with an excellent coaching staff. Of course, the competition at Worlds will be much stiffer than the LCS, but they’ve shown enough throughout the year to inspire some confidence that they can pick up an upset or two to perhaps vault them into the playoffs.
Lead photo credit: Colin Young-Wolff / Riot Games