Riot Games has announced their plans for the 3rd season of competitive League of Legends, and never one to maintain the status quo they've raised their standards once more. Introducing the League of Legends Championship Series, a professional league made up of the top 8 teams from each region (North America and Europe run by Riot, Asia details TBA). These teams will play in weekly games, all streamed live in HD for free, and will culminate in regional playoffs and a final World Championship.
If you're currently unfamiliar with the current competitive structure for League of Legends, it boils down to this: a series of 3rd party tournaments (MLG, IGN Pro League, ESL Intel's Extreme Masters) where the winning teams are awarded points, then at the end of the season the teams with the highest point rankings compete in regional finals for a spot in the Riot-run World Championships. Season 3's Championship Series will be, depending on region, entirely Riot-run and focus on weekly appointment-style league play, rather than marathon-style tournaments.
This doesn't mean the 3rd party tournaments are being phased out though, rather, they play a more important role than ever. These tournaments, the Challenger Circuit, will foster up and coming League of Legends teams, offering what appears to be the only way to progress into the Championship Series. Consider the Challenger Circuit to be the NCAA to the Championship Series' NBA.
Overall, the new format works better for players as well. The Championship Series will have a war chest with millions of dollars in prize money, teams involved will be salaried allowing them to focus entirely on the eSport, and large tournament prizes will still be available through the Challenger Circuit for new teams. It's truly designed to foster a sustainable environment for players, tournament organizers, and the game of League of Legends itself.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves though, Season 2 is only just ramping up for this fall's epic World Championship conclusion. gamescom, site of the European regional finals, begins August 15, and PAX West starts on August 31, leading to World Championship and Season 2's grand finals on October 13. From there, Season 3's Championship Series starts in early 2013 -- the top 3 teams from gamescom and PAX West automatically qualify. This is gonna be good.
The eSports revolution will be livestreamed. For free. In HD. I've ruined this joke.