After a long six-month offseason, the Overwatch League (OWL) is finally kicking off its fourth competitive season this weekend. The 2021 season will feature new regional challengers, several brand new rosters, and even a partial return to live events. Here is everything you need to know about the Overwatch League as we kick off the 2021 OWL season.
Overwatch League 2021 Season Format
The new Overwatch season will feature 24 weeks of competition in total across two regions. The North American-based Western Region will include 12 teams, while the Asian-Pacific-based Eastern Region will include 8 teams.
The Western Region will include the following 12 teams:
The Eastern Region includes the following 8 teams:
The most notable regional changes from last season are the Fusion and Valiant moving to the APAC region while London Spitfire moved to the Western Region. Valiant ended up dropping their entire NA-based roster and picking up an all-new Chinese roster to compete in the Eastern Region with. Fusion also had some visa issues that have delayed some of their staff and players from joining them in Korea.
The 2021 season format will include four tournament cycles in each region. They are bringing back their May Melee, Summershowdown, and Countdown Cup tournaments from last year and adding the June Joust this year. There will be four qualification matches for each tournament, followed by a seeded tournament.
Each regional tournament will payout $100,000 to 1st place, $70,000 to 2nd place, $35,000 to 3rd place, and $20,000 to 4th place. The 2021 playoff prize pool will feature a $3.25 million dollar prize pool and will payout $1.5 million to the 2021 OWL season champions.
OWL competition will remain online, mostly
Due to the pandemic, the Overwatch League was forced to shut down most of their planned 2020 homestands. The OWL regular season continued in an entirely online format. This year the regular season will remain online due to pandemic limitations, however, the League announced three limited attendance live events that are set to take place in China in June, July, and August. The season playoffs will also reportedly be hosted in-person in Hawaii.
In a comment made to Inven GLobal, Overwatch League representatives has made it clear that they are committed to returning to regular season live events as soon as they possibly can. We may see some NA live events this year, though as of yet no NA live events have been announced. In the meantime, fans are finding ways to celebrate their favorite teams from home!
Big roster changes across the board
There was an unprecedented number of postseason roster changes following the end of the 2020 season. So the chances are, no matter who your favorite team is, their roster has been updated since the 2020 season.
Most notably, much of the Paris roster is now competing for Dallas Fuel, along with other former Element Mystic players. Meanwhile, Paris' new roster is underwhelming talent-wise, due to reported budget issues for the organization. As mentioned previously, L.A. Valiant signed a brand new Chinese roster, while Spitfire has replaced their former Korean roster with a primarily EU one. Other teams that experienced big organizational and roster changes include Houston Outlaws, L.A. Gladiators, and New York Excelsior.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.