Cloud9, North America’s most successful team on the international stage, will take a long road to the League of Legends World Championship 2021 title, needing to first make it out of the Play-In stage.
But can the boys in blue do it, or will they fall flat at the first obstacle leading to the coveted Summoner’s Cup?
LCS Never Delivers
Cloud9 will begin their 2021 LoL Worlds campaign in Group B of the Play-In stage. There they will meet with DetonatioN Focus Me (LJL), Galatasaray Esports (TCL), Unicorns of Love (LCL), and Beyond Gaming (PCS).
Suffice to say, Cloud9 can be relatively happy with their draw, seeing how they have avoided both LNG Esports (LPL) and Hanwha Life Esports (LCK). However, success is anything but guaranteed for the LoL Championship Series (LCS) representatives.
The North American LoL teams have a long history of underperforming on the international stage. Not only have LCS teams never won the title, but they’ve also never come close to achieving that feat.
NA’s best run at LoL Worlds happened in 2018 when Cloud9 defied the odds and made it into the semi-finals. It was a miracle run of sorts, but a short-lived one, as C9 crashed and burned in the penultimate stage, where they lost to Europe’s Fnatic (0-3).
Cloud9’s incredible run helped make the 2018 LoL Worlds one of the most memorable tournaments in history. And while a proud moment for the NA region, Cloud9’s story remains an outlier in LCS’s disappointing history of competing internationally.
The Bookmaker’s Favorite
Given their relatively easy group in the 2021 LoL World Play-In stage, Cloud9 are billed as the betting favorites to win their group. That makes sense since they’re the only team from a “major region”; however, that status hardly means anything.
Luka “Perkz” Perković and his crew’s quest to win the group and secure a direct invite to the main event looks far easier on paper than it really is. Even though they have been paired with teams from smaller regions, dealing with Unicorns of Love, Galatasaray Esports, DetonatioN FocusMe, and Beyond Gaming won’t be easy.
Unicorns of Love, Galatasaray, DetonatioN FocusMe are all expected to struggle, which is fair. However, the history of LoL Worlds has taught us that even minor region teams have fight in them and are more than capable of doing some damage.
Even if Cloud9 live up to the expectations and defeat all three, they still need to outclass PCS’s Beyond Gaming. The latter enter the LoL Worlds Play-In as a darkhorse, albeit as a team that have proven their worth.
Beyond Gaming are one of the only teams in their region to cause problems to PCS’ champions, PSG Talon. Although weak praise, we must remember that PSG Talon made it to the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational semi-finals.
PCS as a region is scary, and if Cloud9 doesn’t recognize Beyond Gaming’s high ceiling, they could struggle to win their Play-In group. Still, the bookmakers have recognized Perkz and his crew as the betting favorites to top Group B, priced at just over even money.
Can Cloud9 Go all the Way?
Cloud9’s chances to win Play-In Group B seem fairly high. But even if they don’t make it out as the top seed, something will have to go terribly wrong for Cloud9 to not qualify for the LoL Worlds main event.
If Cloud9 make it out, they will either get placed into Group A or Group C due to how seeing rules work. However, assuming Hanwha Life Esports and LNG Esports also qualify, Cloud9 will end up in Group A with DWG KIA, FunPlus Phoenix, and Rogue.
Group A is as difficult as it looks, featuring the reigning world champions in DWG KIA, the 2019 world champions, and current betting favorites to win the title in FunPlus Phoenix and Europe’s third seed in Rogue.
Although anything can happen, DWG KIA and FPX would both have to severely underperform for Rogue and Cloud9 to have a chance to make it out. And even if they do, Cloud9 would have to break the stigma of NA being a weaker team than Europe and outclass Rogue.
Cloud9 are priced as high as +10000 to win the 2021 LoL World Championship, which sums up how high their chances are. If they do it, it would be one of the biggest upsets in the history of esports, and while everyone loves an underdog story, it’s unlikely that Cloud9’s tale will meet a happy ending this November.