The League of Legends Champions Korea finally returns with a lot of new changes to its usual season set-up.

With the league now sporting a franchise system, the LCK will start its competitive season on January 13 with returning orgs in Afreeca Freecs, DAMWON Gaming, DRX, Gen.G, Hanwha Life Esports, KT Rolster, and T1. SANDBOX Gaming and Team Dynamics also return and have rebranded as Liiv SANDBOX and Nongshim RedForce respectively while Fredit BRION enters the league as its newest team.

The new franchise system will provide players and staff with an increase in their minimum salary. For the LCK roster registration criteria, first-team athletes and managers are now guaranteed a minimum annual salary of KR₩60M (US$55,000) compared to the previous KR₩20M (US$18,000). Coaches will also be guaranteed a minimum annual salary of KR₩40M (US$37,000).

The LCK will also introduce a brand new secondary league, the LCK Challengers League. LCK CL’s matches will now take place on the LCK’s off-days (every Monday and Tuesday) and will have teams play a double round-robin with best-of-one matches.

If teams plan on switching around their players between the two leagues, they’ll have three chances to do so: At the start of the split, at the end of round one, and at the start of playoffs.

Though the secondary league might act like the spiritual successor to Korea’s amateur scene, the LCK has confirmed that the LCK Academy Series will still continue to take place for trainees and amateur players who are not part of the LCK or LCK CL.

Credit: LCK

Aside from its recent transition into the franchise system, the LCK will be entering 2021 with a new look. Revamping its eagle-star logo to a more minimalist design, the LCK is looking to bring a more modern, dynamic aesthetic that will usher in a new LCK era.

While the logo may just look like simple triangles, the two shapes represent the future and past of the LCK and the two camps of the Summoner’s Rift map, and also symbolizes the stretched wings of a flying bird, another motif seen on previous LCK logos. On top of that, the overlap of the triangles also forms a star shape, alluding to its former designs.

“The new brand of LCK will be the first step in the growth and development that LCK will achieve in the future,” said Oh Sang-heon, LCK, CEO. “The LCK will provide the best sports experience through constant innovation, technology, and building a healthy league ecosystem.”

To help define its new era, the LCK’s playoffs format ditches its longstanding King of the Hill format for a standard single-elimination double-bracket format that will feature the top six teams of the split.

Credit: LCK

While the league considered implementing double-elimination playoffs like the LCS and the LEC, the LCK decided to turn it down because of potential scheduling conflicts with international tournaments and the regular season that uses a double round-robin format with best-of-three matches.

“There was a consensus among the league, teams, and fans that a change in the playoffs format is necessary in order to raise the competitiveness of the international stage of LCK,” said Lee Jung-hoon, LCK, Secretary General. “Most of the teams hoped to keep the regular season as it is and looked for competitive expansions in the playoffs.”

The LCK has also increased its Split prize pool to KR₩400M (US$367,000), with first place taking KR₩200M (US$183,500) and second place taking KR₩100M (US$91,750).

Credit: LCK

As for Worlds qualifications, the LCK revised how teams can secure a Worlds slot with Championship points. With the revised point system, fifth and sixth place will now award 20 and 10 points respectively in Spring while the Summer Split will have an overall increase by 10 points in all paclement except for the bottom four. While this may not seem like much for the league’s superteams, this will increase the chances of mid-table teams making it to the LCK Regional Finals.

With the LCK entering a newer and improved form, we’re bound to see more intense match-ups that will showcase the region’s most talented teams and players in a new light.

The LCK will start its 2021 season on January 13.

READ MORE: LCK off-season report card: Hanwha Life Esports and T1 are poised to dominate