How Team Liquid Put Together the Most Profitable Day in Esports Franchise HistoryAugust 17, 2017 Via ESPN
Team Liquid had the greatest single day — at least financially — for an esports organization in the history of competitive gaming on Saturday.
At Key Arena in Seattle, Liquid’s Dota 2 squad walked away with $10.8 million in prize money after it came back from the losers’ bracket and defeated two Chinese teams in succession to win The International 7 in front of a sold-out crowd and a reported 4.7 million online viewers.
Earlier in the day, down south near the beaches of Santa Monica, California, Liquid’s League of Legends club was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Already out of contention for the world championship, Liquid was down two games to Phoenix1 in a best-of-five to retain its spot in the North American League Championship Series. Amazingly, Liquid came back in a reverse-sweep, preventing it from having to spend an extra $3 million in the application for a spot in the league, as relegation would have cost Team Liquid $13 million instead of $10 million, per Riot’s new franchising rules.
Once a fan site that covered StarCraft: Brood War and acted as a community for the game in the 2000’s, Team Liquid is now one of the biggest esports club organizations in the world and will always remember Aug. 12, 2017, the craziest (and most successful) in its almost-two-decade history.
Here’s how it all came to be in roughly 12 hours:
11 a.m.: The Team Liquid Dota 2 team is about to play in the losers’ bracket final for a spot in The International 7 grand final. Lose, and go home. Winners’ bracket champion Newbee awaits the winner between TL and Liquid’s opponent, LGD Forever Young. LFY had the best group stage of any team in the tournament, going 14-2 in its run to the top seed in Group B.
11:46 a.m.: After a marathon of a Game 1 in which the opponent had a sizeable advantage throughout, Liquid’s defense ultimately relents and the Chinese side LFY goes up 1-0. One more loss and TL is out of the competition. Liquid heads backstage after the game without much talk, while the LFY players jump up to high-five Chinese supporters hanging over the tunnel congratulating them on a strong opening game.
Noon: While the Dota team is preparing to get back into its booth on the main stage in Seattle, the LCS broadcast begins for Saturday’s relegation matches in Santa Monica. Following a 3-0 sweep of eUnited a day earlier, TL’s League team needs only a win over Phoenix1 to keep its spot in the NA LCS and ultimately save $3 million if its application is accepted for franchising.
12:43 p.m.: Back in Seattle, Liquid fights back from the tough loss in Game 1 to rout LFY in the second game of the series, forcing a third and final map to decide which team will face Newbee in the grand final. Liquid this time walks back to the locker room pumping up the western-favored crowd, Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen raises his fist into the air under a flurry of cheers in the stands.
12:59 p.m.: The Team Liquid League of Legends team also falls down 1-0 in its series in Santa Monica. In comparison to the crowd in Seattle, the almost empty LCS Battle Arena is like an eerie ghost town. Phoenix1 picks up the first game with a successful backdoor by mid laner Yoo “Ryu” Sang-wook and his LeBlanc.
1:55 p.m.: Liquid makes in the grand final of the International. Chants of “Let’s go, Liquid!” ring throughout Key Arena, and the team huddles up in its booth knowing there is only one match between it and the championship. LFY finishes the tournament in third place, and it sets up a grand final between Team Liquid and Newbee, which won the Aegis back in 2014 and has the only remaining player, Zeng “Faith” Hongda, with the chance to become the first two-time TI champion.
1:55 p.m.: Meanwhile, back in Santa Monica, Liquid is one game away from having to play on Sunday in a do-or-die match to see if it gets relegated out of the NA LCS. P1 continues its momentum from Game 1 and takes the second map in another one-sided affair. Rookie-of-the-split front-runner Mike “MikeYeung” Yeung stars for the orange-and-black side by going 9/2/4 on Elise. “Can TL hold up against a surging Phoenix1?” asks commentator David “Phreak” Turley.
2:45 p.m.: While The International is readying for the grand final, Liquid’s League of Legends squad pulls back from the brink to put on by far its best performance of the day. TI controls the game from the opening jump to take a comfortable first win of the series over P1. Unlike in Seattle, though, there are no cheers or fans to urge them on. Top laner Samson “Lourlo” Jackson jumps out of his seat as P1’s Nexus explodes, heading to the backstage with his team following. They still need two more wins to end the 2017 year on a high note.
3:41 p.m.: Liquid was left for dead less than two hours ago, and now the League team is one win away from the reverse-sweep. Where the third game was full of kills that snowballed into a convincing TL victory, this game was more of a macro affair, with super minions and pressure around objectives leading to the even score line.
3:45 p.m.: Momentum apparently traveled north to Seattle. After what will likely go down as one of the better best-of-three matches in Dota history, TL comes back in the first game of the grand final with a one-hit knockout against Newbee. Liquid downs the top Chinese club in less than 30 minutes and the horses are off to the races. Liquid was all smiles and full of confidence heading back to the locker room.
4:42 p.m.: Liquid saves $3 million dollars and the reverse sweep dream is true in California. TL holds off P1 to win its third straight game in the series to advance out of the promotion tournament as the first team to secure its spot in the NA LCS — at least until franchising is figured out. Team Liquid’s LCS application will be either accepted or denied by Riot in the next few months, and if it’s in, Liquid will have to pay only a $10 million fee instead of the $13 million it would have had to pony up if relegated. As the team celebrates a hard-earned win in Los Angeles, all eyes turn to its Dota 2 team in Seattle, which is in the lead in Game 2 of the grand final.
4:47 p.m.: Maybe magic is real. Liquid pulls one game away from the Dota 2 world championship in a second straight relatively decisive win over Newbee. The camera pans to MATUMBAMAN walking back to TL’s locker room in the back, and the Finnish star plays to the crowd once more by delivering a pantomime of a slice to the throat, signifying the end is near for the Chinese challenger.
6 p.m.: It’s all over in Seattle, and Liquid is the champion of the world. Team captain Kuro “Kuroky” Salehi Takhasomi fulfills his dream of hoisting the Aegis trophy and states that his next goal is to defend the title next year at The International 8. Pyrotechnics, streamers and everything else you can think of fly into the sky, and TL officially wins over $10.8 million to become the richest team ever from a single event in esports. Hugs and tears abound, Kuroky walking to the back while rubbing his eyes with one hand and clutching the Aegis in the other.
Tonight, nothing can go wrong for Liquid.
6:11 p.m.: Team Liquid fails at popping The International champion champagne bottles.
Editor’s note: ESPN’s parent company Disney, through its Accelerator program, has made an equity investment in 11 companies, including aXiomatic, the ownership group that holds a majority stake in Team Liquid.