Riot Games has threatened to cancel the entire North American Challengers League season if it cannot reach an agreement with the LCSPA ©Riot Games

Esports players have voted "overwhelmingly" not to compete in the League of Legends to protest against plans to reduce the number of North American Challengers League (NACL) teams.

Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends Championship Series (LCS), has claimed that the move to eliminate seven teams has been taken to ensure leagues in North America remain "sustainable [and] economically viable".

However, the LCS Players’ Association (LCSPA), which represents North American players, has slammed Riot’s decision, claiming that it put "as many as 70 players, coaches and managers" out of work.

"This walkout is for the benefit of all league players in North America," a statement from the LCSPA read.

"Based on our conversations, we believe players will stand in solidarity and any attempts to make scab rosters will fail.

"To start the LCS season without interruption, there is only one solution - meet with the players and agree to a plan that everyone can support."

The 16-team NACL was set up last year as a development league to the LCS.

Riot claimed that it had created successful tier-two systems in Europe, China and South Korea and vowed to do the same for North America.

Responding to a series of demands from the LCSPA, Riot rejected calls to "commit to a revenue pool for player salaries of $300,000 (£240,000/€280,000) per NACL team, per year".

"That simply isn’t sustainable – and to be brutally honest, it shouldn’t be necessary," Riot wrote in a statement.

"We have other tier two leagues around the world which thrive on their own, and we believe the NACL can get to that place too.

"What we will do is help the North American scene through this transition.

"So, as I mentioned above, we will be investing in a bridge period by providing a special, one-time payment of $300,000 to the NACL’s tournament operator (Rally Cry) to support NACL teams during the transition to the new structure."

Riot agreed to delay the LCS season by two weeks but threatened to cancel the league campaign should a deal fail to be reached.

"Hopefully, this two-week window will give us time for productive dialogue between the LCSPA, teams, and the league and then resume LCS competition this summer," Riot said.

"The LCS will not be penalising the teams for not fielding their rosters during this two-week period to allow everyone space to focus on constructive dialogue.

"We are doing our best to ensure LCS employees, contractors, and others supporting the LCS are not negatively impacted by the delay.

"Delaying beyond the two-week window would make it nearly impossible to run a legitimate competition, and in that case, we would be prepared to cancel the entire LCS summer season. 

"Carrying this forward, if the LCS summer season is cancelled, this will also eliminate LCS teams qualifying for 2023 Worlds. 

"I want to be clear that is not an outcome we’d want, but it’s unfortunately the reality of ensuring we run a fair, competitive global system."