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Esports is starting to build a serious competitive infrastructure.

As esports has grown into a massive industry, with millions watching finals and thousands attending live matches, the scene is really starting to look more and more like traditional sports. That extends to the lowest levels, too, as the industry begins to build infrastructure along the same lines as collegiate sports.

A number of college esports organizations have popped up over the years, including the Collegiate Starleague (CSL), Ivy League of Legends (IvyLoL), and The eSports Association (TeSPA). But one developer is taking things to the next level.

Riot Games announced earlier this year that it would be sponsoring a North American Collegiate Championship, League of Legends, their massively popular multiplayer game. This tournament worked with CSL and IvyLoL to determine the top college-based teams through qualifiers.

This weekend, the top four League teams will face off at Riot’s own studio in Santa Monica, Calif., to determine the best college team in the nation. The remaining teams are San Jose State University, University of British Columbia, University of California Irvine, and University of Washington

Each had a tough path over the last two months, as shown in this infographic:

Teams qualified either through IvyLoL, CSL, or through an open qualifier hosted by Riot. Then, the top 16 faced off in increasingly tight brackets, until only four teams remained.

They all have unique stories: San Jose State, for example, is headed by Wayne “The_Best_In_SJ” Nguyen, a business finance major whose personal computer can only run the game at 30 frames-per-second, a relative handicap for any aspiring pro. The desirable standard is 60.

Then there's Kenny “i KeNNy u” Nguyen, top laner for University of Washington, who has turned down challenger team offers to remain focused on school.

“I don't have the luxury of spending a lot of time dedicated to [League],” he says in an interview with the CSL, “so I just bounce around.”

His bouncing has gotten him far. This weekend, 20 players, including both Nguyens, will battle for $100,000 in scholarships in the highest level of competition they’ve ever faced.

The NACC Finals will take place this coming weekend, with the semifinals happening after the League Championship Series matches on Saturday, and the finals after LCS on Sunday. To watch, tune into the Twitch the stream at 7pm EST on both days. The semifinals will feature San Jose State taking on British Columbia, while UC Irvine contends with Washington.  

Photo by Sergey Galyonkin/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

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