The weather is cooling down, leaves are starting to change color, and PSLs are everywhere, which can only mean one thing: it’s time for the League of Legends World Championship. The annual esports tournament, better known simply as Worlds, kicks off on September 29th. Following a few years of competitions hampered by COVID-related restrictions, the 2022 edition looks to be more in keeping with the spectacle fans are used to.
This year, the event is taking place across several cities in North America, starting off in Mexico City and culminating with the finals in San Francisco, where none other than Lil Nas X will be performing at the opening ceremony. As always, there are plenty of intriguing storylines, but keeping up with everything can be a challenge with the event spread across multiple cities over the course of a month. Here’s everything you need to know to follow along.
What is Worlds?
Put simply: it’s the biggest annual competitive gaming event in the world. It pulls together the best League of Legends teams from across the globe, who spend all year competing in their domestic leagues with the hope of qualifying for the big event. The previous champions, Edward Gaming from China’s League of Legends Pro League, are returning to defend their title, but there’s some stiff competition.
In total, there will be 24 teams competing: four from China; four from Korea; four from Europe; three from North America; and a collection of teams from other regions including Brazil, Japan, and Oceania. Choosing a favorite is never an easy task. The Edward Gaming team has the difficult challenge of trying to become the first repeat winner since 2016, but it’ll be up against some resurgent teams from Korea’s LCK, including league champions Gen.G and perennial contenders T1, led by the legendary Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. And hey, maybe this is the year the underachieving teams from North America finally break through. It could happen.
It should also be noted that teams are still having to navigate the challenges of COVID. Most notably, Fnatic, one of Europe’s top sides, will have to rely on at least one substitute after a string of positive tests.
Last year, Worlds took place in Reykjavík, Iceland, without fans in attendance due to the pandemic. This year, things are a little more like a traveling road show. The event itself is divided into a series of rounds, each of which will take place in a different city. The play-in round goes from September 29th to October 4th in Mexico City, featuring the lower-seeded teams. Then things really kick off in the group stage, which takes place from October 7th through the 16th in New York City and will see heavy hitters like Edward, T1, Gen.G, and more enter the tournament.
From there, the top eight teams move on to the knockout stages: the quarterfinals will continue in NYC from October 20th to the 23rd, the semifinals will be in Atlanta on October 29th and 30th, and the final match will take place on November 5th in San Francisco’s Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors. This video provides a good rundown of the format:
Oh, and the teams will be competing for a brand-new trophy. Riot partnered with Tiffany & Co. to redesign the iconic Summoner’s Cup into something a little sleeker and less intimidating.
Meet president Lil Nas X
While the main draw of Worlds is the competition, in recent years that has often been overshadowed by the opening ceremony, which takes place before the final match. It’s kind of like a really nerdy version of the Super Bowl halftime show. Past opening ceremonies have utilized augmented reality, holograms, and high-tech soundstages to create stunning musical performances. In absence of a live event last year, Riot created an impressive music video for Imagine Dragons, tied to the Netflix series Arcane.
For 2022, we’re going back to a live performance by Lil Nas X. Riot introduced Lil Nas as League of Legends’ new president as part of the lead-up to the event. And while we don’t know what his actual Worlds performance will look like, the singer said in a press release that he would “put on the biggest, coolest, sexiest Worlds in the history of all Worlds,” which sounds pretty good. Earlier this month, he released the song “Star Walkin’,” which will serve as the anthem for Worlds 2022.