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The Topic Heard Around The World – What is the LCS Import Rule?

LCS Import Rule 1
Courtesy of LoL Esports/Riot Games

If you are a fan of the League of Legends esports scene, you know that the “import rule” has been a buzz over the last weeks. From esports journalists covering the term to spectators on social media, the law has been all over the news. But for non-League of Legends fans, this concept may be entirely new in general. In today’s article, we attempt to dive deeper into the abyss of LCS Rules and answer the question: What is the LCS Import Rule?

What is the Rule?

For those who may not know: the LCS has an entire rulebook dedicated to playing professional League of Legends (It’s a fun read if you have the time). In the rules, there is a section known as Section 4.4. Interregional Movement Policy Roster Restrictions. This rule reads as following:

Teams may not have more than two (2) non-resident Players playing in the Starting Roster at any time. In the event that a Team has one (1) Emerging Region Player in the Starting Roster, the Team is limited to one (1) non-resident Player in the Starting Roster.

In order to properly understand the rule, a couple terms must be defined. First: In typical League of Legends rules, a resident player includes the following (according to LCS Rule 2.2.1):

Resident Defined. A Player is considered a “Resident” if the Player is either (i) a citizen, lawful permanent resident, or the holder of other special status (e.g., refugee or asylum status) in the United States of America, Canada, or Oceania (Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia (France), Samoa, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Cook Islands (NZ), Wallis and Futuna (France), Tuvalu, Nauru, Niue (NZ), Tokelau (NZ), the Pitcairn Islands (UK), Heard Island, Version 21.0; January 11, 2021 3 and the McDonald Islands), collectively the “Region,” based upon the legal status in the Region; or (ii) part of a limited group of grandfathered non-Resident Players who were granted status as a Resident in 2014 (“IMP Residents”). 

Already, it’s a doozy. But wait, there’s more. According to the rules, IMP Residents are defined as such:

Recognition as an IMP Resident. A Player may apply to League Officials to be recognized as an IMP Resident if that player: (i) between May 11, 2015, and August 1, 2016, was on the roster of a Team in the LCS or North America Challenger Series or relocated to North America for the goal of training in those leagues, and (ii) has started in at least 50% of regular season Matches within the Region for 8 of the last 12 splits.

Anyone not considered to be a resident is considered an import. Imports can be from any other region in the League of Legends realm – whether from Europe, Korea, China, PCS, Vietnam or any Emerging Region such as the CBLOL, the CIS, TCL and LLA. 

In summary: a team can only have two imports from any of the regions listed above. Whether they be from Europe, Korea, China or any other region in the world, every team is limited to two. This rule also applies to every global league possible, making this a global issue and one not limited just to NA.

As an example, if we were to take a team such as TSM, which has a roster as follows:

LCS Import Rule 2
The Topic Heard Around The World - What is the LCS Import Rule? 3

Because of the IMP Resident rule, Huni (who has played in North America for the entirety of 2016, and has been in NA from 2018-2021) can apply for NA citizenship and is officially associated as a citizen. Spica and Lost are considered NA residents due to the individual definition of Resident. PowerOfEvil and SwordArt would be considered imports in the particular deal.

So, What is the Controversy?

If your mind hasn’t been overwhelmed by legal jargon, then you may be confused as to why this rule has polarized the League community. In simple terms, there is concern about the lack of talent in North America and how it has become a weak point for the region. 

Some would argue that teams with the most money are able to afford massive paychecks for players in stronger regions while others argue that by doing this, the talent will decrease from NA.

Rumors continue to spiral about whether or not teams will favor its removal. Some teams like TSM and Cloud9 have even sparked outrage over Twitter while memeing about its future. But whether or not the rules change, the league will be forever impacted by this dialogue. 

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