The 10 teams that will form the franchised 2018 NA LCS will be announced in November, according to an update from Riot Games. Though earlier reports stated that the league might be expanded to 12 teams or reduced to eight, Riot said that after much deliberation they will keep the number of teams the same.
"While we considered contracting to 8 teams or expanding to 12, neither felt like the right decision. We believe the esports ecosystem in North America has ample pro talent to support 10 teams and that contracting further would unnecessarily limit opportunities for talented pros," Riot said in the post. "However, to expand further we will first need to concentrate on building a more extensive pipeline of local talent and established organizations. When we talked with the Players’ Association for pro feedback, they were also strongly in favor of keeping 10 slots for competing teams."
Riot also said the first two phases of the franchise selection process—written applications and in-person interviews—are complete and final decisions are being made.
They also further outlined the process, saying they retained the services of consulting firm Barrett Sports Group to help evaluate applications based on criteria ranging from their competitive strategy, brand strategy, business plan and the owners' familiarity with esports.
"There were more than 10 applications who could potentially be great partners for the NA LCS. When reviewing the applications and speaking to the teams, we looked for experience and expertise across multiple areas, including content creation, sponsor acquisition and retention, storytelling, merch, fan engagement and more," Riot said. "No team had a perfect application, but the strongest index high on several of these categories. As we continue to fill out the league, we are looking to pair those organizations with groups that provide strengths in other areas."
According to Riot, teams will pay their $10 or $13 million buy-in fees in two installments. All teams will pay $5 million up front, with new organizations that did not participate in the NA LCS or NA CS in 2017 paying an additional $3 million that will be divided between all 2017 teams that "either did not apply or were not selected for the LCS in 2018."
The division of funds will be based on a number of factors including how many splits a team was in the NA LCS or NA CS up to a cap of 10 shares.
"This transition fee is our way of acknowledging and thanking those teams for the part they played in building the NA LCS to where it is today and to help that team transition out of League of Legends."
The statement indicates the teams that do not continue into 2018 will either be able to sell their players' contracts directly to the teams entering or continuing into the next split or allow them to go into free agency. No transfers or signings will be allowed until the window opens on Nov. 21, 2017. It is unknown how long that signing window will remain open.
The organization also provided an update on the new NA LCS Players' Association, officially announcing that players had selected former NBA Players Association counsel Hal Biagas as Executive Director at a summit in July and that two meetings have already been held.
Sasha Erfanian is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.