Valve has announced that beginning this fall, it will hold two separate roster registration deadlines for each Major, one for teams to drop players and a second two weeks later for players to be added. It has also updated its registration page to officially confirm that a Fall Major will take place later this year.
During the first stage of the new roster lock system, players will remain registered with the teams they signed on to for The Manila Major and TI6, but teams will be free to drop any or all of their players from their rosters. This stage is open until Sept. 4, at which point any player left on the roster is locked in until the next free agency period opens up.
In the second stage, from Sept. 4-18, teams can issue invites to free agents they want on their starting roster, but can no longer drop players. These invites can also be sent to players that were dropped from the team during the drop period, should contracts be re-negotiated. When the Sept. 18 deadline hits, all players will be locked in to the roster, and any team that drops or adds a new player after that point will not be ineligible for a direct invite to the Major or Regional Qualifiers.
In an update to its registration FAQ, Valve said that rosters locked in on Sept. 18 will remain locked in until after the Fall Major. This is the first official confirmation of a Fall Major, and partially confirms a report by ESPN that there will be two Majors next season — one in the Fall and one in the Spring.
The new registration process comes with an important exception for substitutes. Teams will be allowed to invite free agents to play with them as substitutes after the Major qualifiers have ended, meaning that any player without a team for the Major will still have a last chance to attend. Valve has not updated the process for swapping a substitute in for a primary player, so teams are still free to move a sub to their starting roster without penalty.
Notably, all invites will be private, and only visible to the team administrator who made the invite and the player invited. Once the player has accepted the invite and is locked in to a roster, that information will show up on Valve's registration page. Any player removed from a team during the drop period will also be posted to the registration page, creating a publicly available list of free agents.
Over the last season, the roster lock system introduced after The International 5 led to plenty of controversy. The system included a six-month roster lock period between The Manila Major and The International 6, preventing teams from changing out players between the two multi-million dollar events. Naturally, several top teams ignored the rule — Evil Geniuses and Team Secret both broke the roster lock to shuffle their players after Manila, voiding their TI6 invites and forcing them to play through the open qualifiers.
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Smaller teams were also hurt by the decision. Kaipi was forced to break the roster lock after Ludwig “Zai” Wahlberg left that team to join EG, leaving them to play through the open qualifiers without their star player. TNC Gaming and ShaZaM also shuffled their rosters after they underperformed at the Manila Regional Qualifiers, and likewise went to the opens. Of these three teams, only TNC made it back to Regionals.
Valve is likely also modifying its roster lock system in response to vocal criticism from the community. Shortly after the post-Shanghai Major roster shuffle, David “LD” Gorman argued in a series of tweets that the roster lock system has destabilized the professional scene rather than promoted stability. Speaking to theScore esports, he said that “things [had] gotten worse under the new system,” and that “you’d have to change the structure of the scene more fundamentally to solve it.”
He recommended breaking up the roster lock deadlines into separate add and drop dates and fewer roster lock periods each year, which Valve appears to be heading towards.
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.