Stiff competition: League of Legends tournament recognised as pro sport

League of Legends 1

A floating gothic lolita and someone with a neon blue bow. Yeah, I have no idea what’s going on here.

In a bit of rather unusual news, the US State Department now recognises the League of Legends League Championship Series as a proper professional sport.

While this might sound like a bit of a minor change that will result in 90% of you reading this scoffing into your coffee, it’s reasonably big news for two reasons. First, the US is pretty big; their recognising a game played entirely on computers as capable of an actual professional sport is rather impressive. Second, it sets a precedent for other eSports to be recognised in the same way. It says something about how far gaming and eSports have come in the west, really.

Other than credibility, the main upshot is that players from other countries moving to US teams can now apply for the same sports visas as professional athletes for, say, the NBA or the MLB. The first player to make use of this is Danny Le, better known to the League of Legends community as Shiphtur, who made the move from Canada to the US to join Team Coast.

It’s worth noting that – right now – the LCS is the only league recognised as such. As said above, though, there’s now precedent for others to apply and be granted the same rights.

League of Legends 2

In this screenshot, a man does a twirl to show off his lovely armour – but forgets to put down his sword before doing so. Those poor little purple chaps were all eight feet tall a few seconds before this screenshot was taken.

The news first broke via a Gamespot interview with Riot Games’ Whalen Rozelle and Nick Allen, in which Allen stated that LCS players are now eligible for professional athlete sports visas. The news was later confirmed to Polygon, with Riot’s VP of eSports Dustin Beck calling it “a watershed moment” and likening it to “David Beckham coming to LA Galaxy.”

“It was a long process,” Beck explained. “We had to get endorsements from participants and prove that this is a consistent, viable career path and people can make a living playing games.”

Which is a bit of an understatement. Going by Polygon, LCS’s top teams can garner seven-figure sponsorship deals and the best players can earn annual salaries exceeding $100,000 USD, which makes me wonder what the hell I’m doing writing news. eSports viewer numbers are on the rise, too, with Beck reckoning that these figures are stronger than “80 or 90 percent of the sports covered on ESPN”, and a recent event in Shanghai garnered a whopping 18 million unique viewers.


Become a PC Invasion Supporter

Support PC Invasion by becoming a supporter. Ad free, actively shape the site content, and gain priority access to contests and giveaways.

Related to this article


  • Rushster

    I thought this was hilarious when I saw it. How eSports can be even in the same category as a “professional sport” is just unreal and insulting to real athletes. Very sad.

    • fsj

      Agree 100%. I can appreciate the level of dedication that people put into these things but a sport, for me, always has to have a physical element to it. eSports, is even a bit tenuous to me. It’s a profession, nothing to do with sport.

  • Zalis

    For travel, this makes sense. Calling it a sport, however, does not.

    And this is even from a guy who plays Dota 2. It’s organized, international and has a high difficulty curve, but it is not a sport.

  • WGT

    Because golf as a sport makes so much sense.

  • HoseHead

    Its becoming clear that this site has a negative bias towards the league.

    • fsj

      Did you even read the article?

      How is it even negative? xD

      To WGT – you’ve obviously never played golf.

      • Tim McDonald

        I’ve got no negative bias towards either League of Legends or the LCS; I’ve never played the former so I’ve really got no opinion on it at all, and I’ve got nothing against most professional gaming leagues. If you’re referring to the “scoffing into your coffee” comment, that’s really just an indictment of the perception people have of this sort of thing. As I said, it’s big news, and it’s a pretty positive step in terms of professional gaming being accepted more by the mainstream. If a large western government is willing to call it a professional sport, then that’s a hell of a shift in thinking.

        As to the rest of it… yeah, I take some exception to calling this a sport or calling the people who play it athletes, but that’s solely because both of those words have physical connotations. I wouldn’t call a chess grandmaster an “athlete”, and neither would I call chess a sport; it’s a mental discipline rather than a physical one, so neither of those words feel right to me. I don’t particularly like the word “eSport” for that reason, but it’s really just another shift in the English language.

        Considering how much money is in these leagues, though, it certainly makes sense for them to be recognised in some way, and this is presumably easier than creating a new sort of visa that allows eSports players to move country.