The debate on whether esports are real sports will continue until the end of time, but there’s no denying that the popularity and reality of esports is on the rise. This was once again shown with a packed Madison Square Garden watching two of the best North American teams battle it out in League of Legends.
11,000 fans packed packed the historic arena on August 23rd to watch the best-of-five final between Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Team SoloMid (TSM). It is the largest audience for a North American LoL final. The winner of the championship receives a first seed to Worlds; the international championship to determine the best team in the world.
On top of the 11,000 strong audience packed inside the venue, over a million watched from home or at viewing parties located all across the United States.
Twitch.TV noted 550,000 peak viewers on the Riot Games English channel, with an additional 200,000 other languages streams. Azubu.TV and YouTube brought in 150,000 viewers combined. Figures for Chinese, South Korean and other Asian streams haven’t been counted.
CLG swept TSM in three straight games. It is the first time CLG has won the North American League Championship Series (LCS), after two years of failures in playoffs. The standout players were Top laner Zionspartan and AD Carry DoubleLift.
ESPN were reporting on the esport event all day, publishing interviews with Riot casters and players alongside updates on the site and Twitter feed. Other newspapers and sports hubs added segments for the European and North American finals.
Over in Europe, regional favourite Fnatic beat Origen 3-2 to take the EU LCS championship. After an incredible 18-0 record in the regular season, Fnatic lost two games to Origen; a team compromised of old Fnatic players xPeke and SoAZ.
The European finals were held in the Hovet stadium in Stockholm, Sweden.
Riot is planning to host the Worlds championship in Europe as well, which will span out over the month of October. The group stage will be held in Dock Pullman, Paris; quarterfinals in the SSE Wembley Arena, London; semifinals in the Brussels Expo, Belgium and the finals in the Mercedes-Benz arena, Berlin.
Three teams from North America and Europe will attend Worlds, alongside three teams from China, three teams from South Korea, two teams from Taiwan and two “wild card” teams from smaller regions. Season three Worlds' champions SKT are the favourites to win and Chinese team LGD are the dark horse with the potential to take home the trophy.