The Mid-Season Invitational kicks off Tuesday (May 2) with 13 of the best League of Legends teams in the world meeting in the first international event of the LoL esports calendar this year. MSI 2023 will look a little different than previous years as some regions will send multiple teams for the first time. The spring champions from each region have qualified plus a second team from each of the major regions -- Korea (LCK), China (LPL), Europe (LEC) and North America (LCS). The other regions sending spring champs are Southeast Asia (PCS), Vietnam (VCS), Japan (LJL), Brazil (CBLoL) and Latin America (LLA). These are the teams that have qualified.
- Gen.G (LCK)
- T1 (LCK)
- JD Gaming (LPL)
- Bilibili Gaming (LPL)
- Cloud9 (LCS)
- Golden Guardians (LCS)
- MAD Lions (LEC)
- G2 Esports (LEC)
- PSG Talon (PCS)
- GAM Esports (VCS)
- Detonation FocusMe (LJL)
- LOUD (CBLoL)
- R7 Movistar (LLA)
This year’s MSI will also feature a double-elimination format and teams playing series rather than just single games against each other for both the play-in and main event stages. To get you ready for MSI 2023, here’s more info on the schedule and format and a breakdown of the field of 13 teams.
Schedule and format
MSI kicks off with the play-in stage on Tuesday (May 2) and continues through Sunday (May 7). The eight teams have been broken into two groups of four. Each group will play out in a double elimination-style format, and matches are best-of-three. The top team in each group will advance to the main event. The second-best teams in each group will ultimately face off in a last chance qualifier match, which will be best-of-five, to determine a third team to advance to the main event.
These are the initial matchups:
- Bilibili Gaming vs. R7 Movistar
- Golden Guardians vs. GAM Esports
- G2 Esports vs. LOUD
- PSG Talon vs. DetonatioN FocusMe
The main event starts May 9 and will be an eight-team double elimination bracket consisting of five directly qualified teams and three play-in teams. The matchups won’t be determined until after the conclusion of the play-in stage. This stage and tournament will conclude with the grand finals on May 21.
Breaking down the field
Photo credit: Riot Games
There are three overwhelming favorites at this tournament. Let’s start with Gen.G. They are the spring champions of the best league in the world, Korea’s LCK, and have been consistently one of the top teams in the world since last year. They were LCK summer champions in 2023 and semifinalists at Worlds. They have one of the best players in the world in Jeong "Chovy" Ji-hoon, and a veteran who has won and competed in multiple international finals in Han "Peanut" Wang-ho. They maintained their top position in Korea despite changing over their bot lane duo in the offseason.
T1 have lost four consecutive major tournament finals since last year. It’s a testament to how good they’ve been over the past year, but the lack of international titles is a hole on this team’s resume. It’s shocking to take a step back and realize the premier organization in League of Legends hasn’t won a major international tournament since MSI 2017. This team is so good, with a legendary mid laner in Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, and the best support in the world in Ryu "Keria" Min-seok, that it feels like it’s only a matter of time before they lift another international trophy.
Korean teams and the LCK have been on top of League of Legends esports over the past year -- which is why Gen.G and T1 are undoubtedly favorites at MSI -- but Chinese teams and the LPL aren’t that far behind. At this time last year, Royal Never Give Up won MSI, marking the third consecutive international tournament won by an LPL team. RNG are not at MSI to defend their title, but JD Gaming are the heirs to that legacy of Chinese excellence at international events. They have won back-to-back LPL championships and were semifinalists at Worlds last year. They have arguably the best top laner in the world in Bai "369" Jia-Hao, and in the offseason, they made a big splash signing Gen.G and LCK veteran Park "Ruler" Jae-hyuk. JDG and Ruler have the best chance of taking down Gen.G and T1.
Photo credit: Riot Games
There’s a pretty wide gulf between the three favorites mentioned above and the next two contenders just based on historical precedent. Only one team outside Korea and China has ever won MSI, and that was Europe’s G2 Esports in 2019. That also was only the second time a North American team reached the final, so it’s unlikely but not out of the realm of possibility for the top European and North American teams at this year’s MSI to reach and potentially win the final.
MAD Lions were not the favorites to win the LEC spring split, but they got hot in the playoffs and beat the winter champs (G2) and the top European team this spring (BDS). They won the spring final in reverse sweep fashion which is a testament to their resilience. The roster is full of players experienced on the international stage like Javier "Elyoya" Prades Batalla, Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság, Zdravets "Hylissang" Iliev Galabov and Yasin "Nisqy" Dinçer, who won’t be fazed by the competition. Coming from Europe, this team might also benefit from a bit of a crowd buff in front of the London audience.
Like MAD Lions, Cloud9’s roster is full of veterans who won’t be fazed by the bright lights of MSI. C9 emerged as the clear-cut strongest team in North America during the spring. Led by some of the best players at their position in NA like Ibrahim "Fudge" Allami (top lane), Robert "Blaber" Huang (jungle) and the spring LCS MVP Kim "Berserker" Min-cheol (AD carry), this could be the best North American team at MSI since Team Liquid in 2019.
Photo credit: Riot Games
In order to win MSI, the two dark horses will have the extra hurdle of having to make it out of the play-in stage. The talent and experience on both of these teams make them the most likely of the eight play-in teams to not only make it through but make a deep run in the main event.
Bilibili are the second team from China, which already gives them a leg up on the rest of the play-in teams. They should easily make it out of play-ins and immediately be a force in the double-elimination main event. Although Bilibili and most of the team have never competed internationally, top laner Chen "Bin" Ze-Bin and head coach Wong "Tabe" Pak Kan were on the RNG team that won MSI last year. DRX showed at Worlds last year that a low-seeded team from Korea could win it all, so with China also being a strong region, it’s very possible for the second-seeded LPL team to go on a cinderella run.
G2 have been here before. Not only are they the only team outside China or Korea to win MSI, they also reached the final another year. Rasmus "Caps" Borregaard Winther and Mihael "Mikyx" Mehle were both on that 2019 championships G2 team, and most of the rest of the team has international experience. Although G2 took a step back in the spring, they were champions of the inaugural LEC winter split. This team has the talent and experience to step it up again when they take rift in London.
The rest of the field
Photo credit: Riot Games
If any of the other play-in teams win MSI it would be an even bigger cinderella run than DRX at Worlds last year. Golden Guardians are a feel-good story out of North America, and the team proved they can’t be counted out, so they are definitely contenders to be one of the three play-in teams to reach the main event. Trevor "Stixxay" Hayes and Choi "huhi" Jae-hyun reunited this year and were on the CLG team that reached the MSI 2016 final. Outside of the four major regions, Southeast Asian and Vietnamese teams tend to do best, so PSG Talon and GAM Esports have a chance to make it out of play-ins, but that’s about it.
Read more: Why esports fans will miss CLG
As for LOUD, DetonatioN FocusMe and R7 Movistar, teams from Brazil, Japan and Latin America have never done well at international events, but there’s always a first time for everything. LOUD and DFM have a better shot to make it out of play-ins than R7 simply because of the group they’re in. LOUD faces G2 first, and LOUD did win a game against European team Fnatic at Worlds last year. DFM faces PSG first, and the DFM roster is much more experienced internationally than this year’s version of PSG. If DFM and LOUD win their best-of-threes, then one of them would move on. R7 has to face Bilibili first, which is a tall task for the team. Win or lose, their next matchup against Golden Guardians or GAM won’t be easy either.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games