According to Riot Games Korea, 25 organizations have declared their interest to buy into the new LCK franchise league by submitting letters of intent. Among them are not just Korean teams, but some popular western ones too.
FaZe Clan, NRG Esports, and Pittsburgh Knights are among the franchises quoted in the report, all of which stand among the most popular western brands that are yet without a slot in a major League of Legends circuit. FaZe Clan come from FPS background with successful Call of Duty and CS:GO rosters; NRG are backed up by Sacramento Kings co-owner Andy Miller and have a deep portfolio of investors; and Pittsburgh Knights are partnered with the Pittsburgh Steelers NFL team.
These letters of intent do not mean that any of these franchises will make it through the entire review process to end up a permanent LCK partner however — it is simply the first step. Starting end of June and leading all the way to September, Riot Games will review every applicant and screen their financials, player recruitment, training and management plans, fanbase reach and more to decide who makes the cut.
Given the competitive climate in the LCK, it is entirely possible that the league ends up with a couple of non-Korean teams. While brands like T1, KT Rolster, and Gen.G are almost a no-brainer for the league, many of the other teams are relatively new and don’t carry the same brand value. In the west, even established brands like Immortals did not make the initial LCS franchise cut, for example.
Riot Games Korea have not disclosed how many franchise slots there will be for the 2021 season, nor the size of the buy-in.