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Overwatch League Announces 2019 Schedule: Expanded Divisions, Start Date, Playoff Changes, More

October 10, 2018 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Overwatch League

The Overwatch League has has announced details for its second season, including the start date and several changes for 2019. The league announced on Wednesday that the 2019 season will kick off on February 14th, with an expanded field of twenty teams.

The eight new teams, which were previously announced in the lead up to the 2018 All-Star Weekend, will be split evenly between the Pacific and Atlanta divisions. Atlanta, Paris, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. will join the Atlantic division, while Vancouver joins three new Chinese teams — Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou — in the Pacific Division. This gives the League its first two Canadian teams, adds a new European team alongside London, and expands the League’s Chinese presence from one to four. The American-based teams still dominate in number at eleven.

The new season will see all teams play twenty-eight matches over four five-week stages. That is down from the forty game schedule from the first season, with OWL allowing the increased team count to lift the grind of multiple games every week. That infamously led to instances of player burnout in some cases, something the League hopes to alleviate. The less-constant schedule for each team will also allow the teams more opportunities to visit their home cities during the season. The schedule will see teams playing zero, one, or two matches a week, creating more breaks for players. The League is also moving the All-Star weekend from the end of the season to the middle of the season, allowing for a longer break between the second and third stages.

The 2019 season will include the stage finals that took place last season, taking place after the first three stages. The 2019 stage finals will be a seeded playoff between the top eight teams from each stage, with divisional winners seeded into the top two spots. Last season’s stage finals awarded the top-performing teams additional bonus payouts and, while not stated in the new announcement, the same is expected for 2019.

Finally, the post-season playoffs are changing. As happened in the inaugural season, the divisional champions and next four teams in the standings will qualify for the playoffs. In 2019, they will be joined by two teams that will qualify through a play-in tournament after Stage Four between the seventh- through twelfth-place teams in the overall standings.

The Overwatch League was a major success for Blizzard in 2018, bringing in consistent viewership throughout the season and in the playoffs, which aired on ESPN channels and Disney XD as well as Twitch and other platforms.

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Overwatch League, Jeremy Thomas