The official League of Legends eSports tournament League Championship Series has been recognised as a fully professional sport by the US State Department.
This is the first time a competitive gaming event has been approved by the by the US government.
Players from outside the US can now move to the country under specific visas, which are provided for pro sports players coming to America to work. Before this, overseas LCS players had to complete a complex string of applications in order to play professionally in the United States.
The news originally emerged during an interview with Riot Games’ eSports manager Nick Allen on GameSpot, in which he said that LCS players now qualify for professional athlete sports visas.
“This is a watershed moment,” said Riot’s vice president of eSports Dustin Beck. “It validates eSports as a sport. Now we have the same designation as the NBA or NHL or other professional sports leagues. This opens the gates for other professional League of Legends players to make the transfer to U.S. teams. It’s like David Beckham coming to LA Galaxy.”
Speaking to Polygon, Beck said that the change in status had been requested by Riot Games: “It was a long process. 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.”
League of Legends next tournament, the Season 3 World Championships, is due to take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on October 4th, a significantly larger venue than that of last year's Galen Center.
In recent years, LCS has grown hugely, with top teams drawing seven-figure sponsorship deals and annual salaries for the leading players averaging around the $100,000 mark.