Today marks the start of Major League Gaming's first League of Legends Arena, with four of the best teams in the world at the MLG studios in New York City. In attendance are MLG Anaheim Champions Team SoloMid, and winners of the North American and European qualifiers, Curse Gaming and Team Black, respectively. Headlining over all will be OnGameNet League of Legends Champions Azubu Blaze from Korea, marking the first time a Korean League of Legends team has competed in a tournament outside of Korea.
"I'm really honored to be here, I always watch MLG at home," Azubu League of Legends Coach Huyn Jong "OnAir" Kang told GameSpot. "Being able to meet everyone here who I've watched online, it's like meeting Hollywood stars."
Azubu Blaze, formerly MiG Blaze, were invited this weekend owing to their victory at the OnGameNet 2012 The Champions tournament. Azubu Blaze's run at The Champions event included defeating both Western teams Counter Logic Gaming and FnaticRC, and taking home 100 million won ($88,000). Currently seen as the best team in Korea, they have a lot riding on their performance as the first Korean team competing outside their homeland.
"Although we came here as a team, I feel like we came here as one country, representing Korea as a whole," said Coach Kang, who before moving to Azubu was one of the main broadcasters for Korean TV channel MBC Game. "I'm honored to be here obviously, but there is a lot of pressure. We're invited here, and Korean fans want to know if we can win outside of Korea. We don't want to disappoint ourselves or our fans."
The first matchup for Azubu Blaze this weekend will be Team SoloMid, North America's hottest team as champions of the MLG Spring Championships, the Reign of Gaming Invitational, and the Gigabyte eSports LAN. This will be the first time both teams have met in competition. For Azubu Blaze, the stress is definitely there, but Coach Kang wants to come out swinging.
"Having Team SoloMid as the first team to play this weekend is a lot of pressure," Kang said. "Lately, the American and European teams have come to Korea to play in the OGN tournament, but haven't done so well. Many people say they didn't do well because of jet lag, food difference, and other conditions not related to the game. If we win at MLG, it'll show that we overcame those same difficulties, and that we were able to do what the Western teams weren't able to. I want to make that happen."
The Major League Gaming League of Legends Arena is now live on GameSpot, and can be viewed here.
--Translation assistance by Sophie Jung