North American LCS Import Restriction

What are import restrictions?

Currently, the North American LCS, like many other major leagues around the world, have import restrictions. These restrictions are designed to forced teams to have a majority starting lineup coming from the region they are competing in. To keep it simple, import restrictions in the NA LCS intends for North American teams to sign North American players.

Previously in the early League of Legends days, import restrictions were based off the nationality of the player. However, Riot had later made a change to allow imports who had played in the NA LCS for a significant period to change their player residency status, thus not being counted towards a teams’ import quota.

Are there any exceptions?

There are a few exceptions to the import restrictions due to the “emerging region status”. Players from “emerging regions” are not counted towards a team’s import quota to encourage NA teams to develop talent from weaker regions. Most significantly, 2020 saw the dissolution of the Oceanic Pro League as Riot pulled away from the region. However, to prevent completely wiping all OPL talent, Riot made an exception for OPL players by removing import restrictions on them. This led to a healthy handful of OPL players now being signed to the various NA LCS teams.

Should they be lifted?

Reports have revealed a number of NA LCS teams have requested Riot to relax import restrictions given the declining state of the NA LCS. However, while this would likely increase the region’s strength in the short term, this would further negatively impact the growth of the already weakened North American talent in the long run. Redditors have also contributed to the discussion, arguing a lack of import restrictions would lead to reduced relatability between NA fans and the teams. After all, would TSM or C9 truly be an NA legend if they simply signed 5 Korean, Chinese or European imports that do not speak English?

Team SoloMid’s point of view

In a TSM QnA, reporter Travis Gradford questioned TSM Parth on his view on import restrictions. Parth stated other regions have advantages over North America, especially highlighting the size of the player base and quality of solo queue. This has generally led to talent outside North America being more developed. Given TSM are aiming to become the best team possible, wish for import restrictions to be relaxed. Ultimately, TSM are primarily looking after their own interests, and that means signing the best possible talent. Changes to the import rules are necessary to give North America a better stand on the world stage.

Possible change to come

It is unlikely Riot will completely remove import restrictions as it would likely lead to a flooding of imports and drown out any development of North American talent. Instead, it is highly likely Riot may choose one of two options.

  1. Increasing the import limit from two to three.
  2. Reducing a time before an import no longer consumes a team’s import slot.
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