League of Legends Championship Korea will franchise for the 2021 competitive season, Riot Korea announced Sunday.
The domestic South Korean league is the last of the four major League of Legends regions to move to franchising over a system of promotion and relegation. North America and China both moved to franchise systems in 2018. Last year, Europe adopted the franchise model and rebranded to the League of Legends European Championship.
The LCK will hold their final relegation/promotion series at the end of the current 2020 LCK Spring split.
Citing the LCK's past dominance at international events, the announcement stated that this was part of a greater step toward LCK's future.
"We have concluded that LCK must be a stage where players, teams, and fans can fulfill their dreams not only for a short period, but for generations. We will adopt the Long-term partnership model in LCK in 2021. And we will bring back the glory," the statement read.
The league is currently accepting franchise applicants and detailed the process and criteria on a new website. The league will accept applications until June 19, 2020, and applications must include a business plan, a team operation plan and a fundraising plan. From June 19 through August, Riot Korea will review applications and hold interviews with teams and organizations. Teams will be selected in September and announced later that month.
The LCK began in 2012 as an invitational run by OnGameNet that later became the Champions tournaments. In 2015, the tournament became LoL Champions Korea (LCK), with a league of eight teams that spring. It increased to 10 teams in summer 2015.
Historically, South Korea has produced the best League of Legends teams and players in the world. From 2013 to 2017, a South Korean team won the League of Legends World Championship and the 2016 and 2017 Mid-Season Invitationals. Yet the region has stagnated somewhat the past two years, as both Chinese and European teams have eclipsed those in South Korea.
According to David Higdon, Global Head of Communications, Esports at Riot Games, Turkey's Turkish Champions League and Brazil's Campeonato Brasileiro de League of Legends will also move to franchise models in 2021.