The LPL will be the first region to move away from the current relegation system in favor of a franchised, city-based system, according to Wanplus reporter Bryan Yu and LPL journalist Sheng Yi and an official announcement from the lolesports official Weibo account.
All 12 teams that are currently playing in the LPL will be guaranteed a spot in the new franchised system, which will increase to 14 teams in 2018 and up to 20 teams in the future, according to the translations of the announcement. LPL caster Zack "Rusty" Pye believes that the move to a franchise system could work in China, in part due to the large followings many of the teams and players have in the country.
"There is a large enough following for the players, team and league that I can see franchising be successful," Rusty said. "I personally believe that if executed well then it will be business as usual just more epic, but I'm hoping that's the outcome not expecting."
LPL caster Dom Roemer is excited for the new system, which he thinks will centralize the narratives for each team and provide less incentive for players to switch teams due to poor performance.
"I'm super excited for the changes to the system — I love the idea and I'm really looking forward to seeing how this changes the day to day narrative for the teams over time," Roemer said. "For example, WE today is nothing like the WE from three, or even two years ago, but with a franchising system, it's entirely possible that the team storylines become much more centralized and consistent as there is less incentive for players to hop teams when they don't perform well."
In addition, the LoL Secondary Pro League and TGA will merge into one league, which will become a development league, according to Yi.
The new system will also be city based, with home and away games set to begin in 2018, according to Yi. Rusty said while a city-based system is great in theory, he has concerns for the stability of the English broadcast when the system is implemented.
"I think city based is awesome conceptually," Rusty said. "I worry for my personal broadcast stability and generally stability of the En stream but it's just such a cool experience to see LoL take a step towards actually being a traditional style sport. Exciting, scary, worrying but definitely not bad."
While the new system will bring about new challenges and obstacles that will have to be overcome, Roemer thinks that the end result will be a more stable structure for teams, players and fans to enjoy LoL.
"Of course this huge change will come with some significant hurdles, but that's what makes LoL esports so great — that we're growing and sharing our love for this medium so passionately despite all the challenges in our way," Roemer said.
"We're all fans at heart. A franchising system provides more stability to the teams and players, provides a stable structure for the teams and players to rely on, provides more opportunities for lower tier teams to succeed, while also taking a long term focus towards the growth of everyone involved. Not to mention that means more games for me cast!"
Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.