Worlds 2020 won’t look like any event before it.
Riot Games has made some changes to the format of the 2020 League of Legends World Championship due to COVID-19 precautions. The company confirmed today that the two qualified teams from the Vietnam Championship Series won’t be able to compete at the tournament this year “due to national travel restrictions related to COVID-19.”
Riot has decided that Worlds will feature just 22 teams rather than the originally planned 24 teams, meaning no other regions will be afforded additional Worlds slots.
“Over the past several weeks, we explored every possible option to include VCS teams while ensuring the safety of VCS players… but in consideration of current circumstances, we have made the difficult decision to proceed without them this year,” said Tom Martell, director of operations at Riot Esports.
The VCS typically had its first seed go straight through to the group stage of the tournament. To accommodate having fewer teams participating this year, Riot has decided to condense the play-in stage of Worlds to involve 10 teams instead of the usual 12.
The 10 play-in teams will be split into two seeded groups of five squads each. Each of these groups will play just one round-robin style set of matches, with the first-place teams both advancing to the group stage and the last-place squads from each group being eliminated.
The third and fourth-place teams in each group will play to decide which squad will play against the second-place team from the other group. The winners of those matches also will qualify for the group stage.
To maintain an even number of teams in the play-in stage, one team that was initially expected to start in the play-in portion of the event will be automatically moved into the group stage. After “evaluation of past regional performance at international events,” Riot decided it’d be fairest to give the third seed from Korea’s LCK the spot in the group stage.
Riot clarified that although it’d “prefer a double round-robin format,” it was “unable to find a format that would allow [Riot] to run a double round-robin for this many teams and still give teams the chance to compete in a best-of-five series for advancement.”
A single round-robin with a five-team group still ensures the competitive integrity of the tournament and could see the play-in stage actually become a more thrilling and dynamic part of the tournament.
Today’s announcement also mentioned that this iteration of the Worlds format is still subject to change, especially considering the unpredictability of COVID-19.