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Among the 13 global circuits, the Turkish Championship League (TCL) boasts a higher number of teams tied to professional sports organizations. Beşiktaş, 1907 Fenerbahçe, Bursaspor, and Galatasaray showcase a soccer territory turning to esports for its new audience. The same can be said for Bahçeşehir University (BAU), which title sponsors last year’s Worlds qualifier, SuperMassive. Despite an abundance of “big name” teams, this year’s representative is Royal Youth, a relatively unknown name on the global stage.
“To finally break through to Worlds and beat SuperMassive is a massive accomplishment in of itself, no pun intended,” said Kevin Soltani, the global general manager for Royal Youth, who noted that despite reaching its regional playoffs in Winter, the team was not expected to be the one traveling to Berlin. “It’s a massive accomplishment for the country of Turkey, which is a representation of an underdog in [and] of itself.”
The team joined the TCL in 2019, as the competition transitioned to a franchise-style model similar to that of North America or Europe. The team is backed by business development consulting company GIMA Group, for which Soltani is also CEO. “We want to grow globally, we want to take this brand into a few different countries in the next one or two years,” he said. “I wouldn’t call Worlds being a jump-off point, but it’s definitely been an eye-opener for brands that are looking at us.”
Royal Youth’s League of Legends Team Manager, Mert Tanriverdi, spoke about the opportunity this tournament has opened up the players. Turkey has the luxury of being close enough geographically to practice against teams in the League of Legends European Championship (LEC), but nothing quite compares to sparring with the world’s best. “We see our weaknesses, what we are doing wrong or what are our strong points,” he explained. “It gives us good information, and lessons on how to play the games better. This is important for us.”
Tanriverdi added that the five players representing the TCL have never had any international experience, aside from the continental challenge Rift Rivals. Yet, at the time of writing, the team is currently fighting for a group stage spot against North American third-seed Clutch Gaming.
“This is what you wake up in the morning to do. This is what your sponsors ask of you; to put on the shirt, wake up, go to work, play the game, and finish it,” said Soltani. “As far as the expenditure goes, every penny is worth it until we get on that plane back home, and even then it’s worth it. We’re the underdog, we weren’t supposed to be here.”
Regardless of how the tournament plays out, Royal Youth has its sights set on international growth, particularly in the U.S. and Southeast Asia. While game titles are still under examination, the latter’s Mobile Legends is of particular interest, especially with its inclusion as a medal event in the SEA Games.
“Obviously Turkey and Royal Youth can’t compete, but we’re going to do scrimmages with top Filipino and Singaporean teams,” said Soltani. “We’re going to already try to connect the dots there, and hopefully create a team after that.”
The League of Legends World Championship is an annual competition in which the top teams from all 13 global regions for the game compete for the Summoner’s Cup. This year’s event begins in Berlin for the play-in and group stages, moves to Madrid for the semi-finals, and will conclude with the finals in Paris.
The play-in stage features the third seed qualifying teams from Europe, North America, South Korea and the LMS (Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan), the second seed team from Vietnam, as well as regional qualifiers from CIS, Latin America, Turkey, Brazil, Japan, Oceania, and Southeast Asia. Only four of these teams will be able to advance to the group stage.
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