As OWL fans are likely aware, the end of the last season and the contract change periods brought some huge changes, with a large number of players dismissed from their contracts, or their team contracts not extended.
There was a ridiculous number of high-profile players that were suddenly free agents – until they weren’t. Over the last few weeks, most teams have locked in their preferred teams for the upcoming 2021 season and possibly even beyond that, depending on the contract.
An upcoming season
After successfully defending their title, the now 2-time champions SF Shock didn’t make any major changes to their roster – they kept most of the successful line-up they had on their team.
The 2020 season was without a doubt one of the most difficult ones for the esport, what with cancelled events, postponed matches and travel bans – but looking towards the 2021 season, players and fans are hopeful that the Overwatch League will be able to find a good solution.
This means a few more changes though – the first is the much later starting date of the next OWL season. The off-season period has been extended significantly, leading up to the launch of the 2021 tournament in the spring of next year.
Exact dates are still to be announced, but it will definitely be later than the usual February start time. Additionally, the OWL will also bring back out-of-season tournaments like Melee May, Summer Showdown and the Countdown Cup – these will happen in addition to the regular season play.
In an announcement video, Jon Spector also mentioned that the OWL is looking at different bracket formats and competitive structures. The OWL will most likely once again be split into two separate regions, with teams being assigned to one or the other in order to minimise travel and satisfy safety measure. This means that the temporary pause of franchised teams will continue, though it isn’t expected to be permanent.
One big showdown
That doesn’t mean that there won’t still be an overall winner of the season – Spector confirmed that they are in fact planning to have one final showdown where the top teams of the year compete to determine the best of the best.
Until then though, fans don’t just have to wait – they’ll be able to see a feature of the OWL at next year’s BlizzCon event – BlizzConOnline, in February. There, an event is planned called ‘Shock vs the World’. As the name implies, it’ll feature SF Shock playing games against ‘dream teams’ made up of pro players from different teams, celebs and more.
The OWL teams 2021
The time period for teams to change, extend or replace their players is still in full swing – teams have until November 20th to extend contracts with their players – at that point, they become free agents. By Jan 4th, teams have to have 7 players signed in order to be eligible for the OWL.
Already, we have seen some changes – some China Contenders players have been adopted into the Chengdu Hunters, as well as Korean and Australian Contenders to Toronto Defiant, LA Valiant and Hangzhou Spark.
An unprecedented number of players was released to become free agents, but several players also switched teams – for example Bernar who moved from London Spitfire to Hangzhou Spark, Closer who went from Dallas Fuel to Washington Justice or Xzi who went from Paris Eternal to Dallas Fuel. There is still more time for additional changes, and several of the current free agents will likely be signed back onto teams, so stay tuned for more updates.
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