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Riot outlines changes for College League of Legends 2020 season

Maryville University players and staff celebrate their title at the College League of Legends championship on May 26 at the League of Legends Championship Series Arena in Los Angeles. Riot Games announced some changes to the 2020 season on Thursday. Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Provided by Riot Games

Riot Games on Thursday announced the company's plans for the 2020 College League of Legends season, the sixth season of the series and third under the current format.

The regular season for College League of Legends will begin Jan. 20, Riot announced, with the same conference and regional formats as last season.

"As the longest standing college championship in esports, we aspire to make League of Legends an inclusive, generational, college sport," said Michael Sherman, Head of College at the Riot Scholastic Association of America, in a statement. "This year's season has the benefit of building on six years of expertise and learnings in the space and is the result of continued effort and enthusiasm from college students and administrators across North America."

A trio of primary changes highlight the differences for 2020.

Roster expansion

The maximum size of active rosters are increasing from six to 10 players, with the goal to give schools "more options on match day."

Tournament expansion

The College Championship is increasing from eight teams to 32, while play-in games are being eliminated. Instead, teams only will advance to the College Championship based on their showing in conference tournaments. As for the 32-team bracket, the first two rounds will be played online, with the final eight survivors competing in a live event.

Scholarship realignment

Riot-awarded scholarships will now be awarded based on College Championship performance rather than conference play. In addition, more players and staff per team will be awarded.

Riot will provide $10,000 per player and $5,000 per sub/staff member for the champion. Second place will pay $6,000/$3,000, third and fourth will pay $3,000/$1,500, fifth through eighth get $2,000/1,000, and ninth through 16th will get $1,000/$500 in scholarship money.

The change increases the payout for the top-performing teams but also decreases the overall scholarship pool that Riot is providing. Part of the reason, according to a statement, is the impact Riot's scholarship dollars are having on the space and the rapid growth of collegiate esports.

"Since we first introduced the College Championship in 2014, Riot has distributed more than $3,900,000 in scholarships to hundreds of students across North America. As we head into 2020, schools are collectively investing more than $4,500,000 in student scholarships each year for League of Legends," the statement said. "With school-funded scholarships now dwarfing Riot's scholarships, our investment has become relatively less impactful each year.

"Additionally, Riot-funded scholarships were previously tied to the regional conferences, which excluded our expanding pool of athletic conference partners from scholarship opportunities. In the case of our first conference partner, the Big Ten Network, Riot was directly funding scholarships for all participating players, but this model was not scalable as the number of partner conferences grew. We recognize this is a significant change, one that we've been evaluating for over a year, and we're confident that this is the right step forward for the continued growth of College LoL."

Registration opens Nov. 1 and runs through the end of that month. Some elements of competition dates, conferences and tournament seeding/allotment will be determined once the number of participating schools is known. The regular season begins Jan. 20, with conference tournaments taking place in March and College Championship play set for April through June.

Last season, 354 schools participated in College League of Legends, up from 311 in 2018 and 246 in 2017.

Maryville University in St. Louis won the championship in 2019.

-- Reuters and Field Level Media contributed to this report