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Overwatch League 2021: Schedule, format, prize pools, and more

The fourth season of the Overwatch League is almost upon us, get all the details ahead of the beginning of OWL 2021, including its new format, schedule, and more.
Overwatch League 2021: Schedule, format, prize pools, and more

The 2021 season of the Overwatch League draws closer with fans eager to find out if the San Francisco Shock can pull a threepeat or if any other team will rise to the occasion ending their dominant streak. 

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, Blizzard has found a way to make the competition embrace its global nature, fully adopting the tournament format, pitting the best from East and West regions across four different seasonal tournaments. 

Let's not keep you waiting any longer and fill you in on all the details.

Overwatch League 2021 - Start date

overwatch league 2021 schedule
(Image: Blizzard Entertainment)

As Blizzard previously teased, the 2021 season was pushed back from its usual January/February start date, landing officially on 16th April as the inaugural day for OWL 2021.

The two matches that will kick things off involve the two-time Champions, San Francisco Shock facing against Los Angeles Gladiators, and the Battle for Texas, between Dallas Fuel and Houston Outlaws.

Overwatch League 2021 - Schedule

The regular season of OWL 2021 will from April up until August, ending with the Countdown Cup. Here's the full schedule for the season.

owl 2021 schedule
(Image: Blizzard Entertainment)

For OWL 2021, West team matches will begin at 12:00 pm PST (8:00 pm GMT). East region matches will kick-off at 5 pm standard China time/6 pm Korea Standard time.

Overwatch League 2021 - Format and Hero Pools

As you can see, the tournament format has been integrated from the beginning of the season, giving us a total of four seasonal tournaments:

  • May Melee
  • June Joust
  • Summer Showdown
  • Countdown Cup

Unlike the 2020 season, only the top two teams from the West and East will qualify for these events. The West region will run a single-elimination bracket with the best six squads, meanwhile, the East will do so with four to determine who's participating.

Once the West side of things determines the two teams that will compete in the tournaments, these will travel to Hawaii and compete against the East teams located in Asia via "a directly routed connection from Hawaii to Asia," Blizzard explained. 

owl 2021 tournament
(Image: Blizzard Entertainment)

With these format changes, the scoring system has shifted from a win-loss method to a points system. Each win during the regular season will grant teams a League Point.

During the three weeks of competition before the start of any seasonal tournament, teams will play three qualifying matches that will also count towards their regular season overall record.

Something to keep an eye out for is the fact that there will be a bye-week, meaning that during any given week, a team will play two matches to have more time to rest.

The tournament themselves are a double-elimination bracket, giving teams a chance to adapt and fans more matches to get excited about. On top of cash prizes, there will be League Points on the line that will help them secure a better position in the overall standings. 

  • 1st place - 3 League Points
  • 2nd place - 2 League Points
  • 3rd place - 1 League Point

As for Hero Pools, the League has opted to go for a rotation-based system, ditching the weekly and biweekly format from last season.

The June Joust and Countdown Cup will feature Hero Pools, these include both the tournament and all qualifier matches played prior. On the other hand, the May Melee, Summer Showdown, and season playoffs won't feature any. 

Hero Pools will remove four heroes from the game: two damage-dealers, one tank, and one support. The heroes are randomly selected from a pool of characters that have over 10% playing time across the League. No hero can be removed more than once during the season.

Map Pools

Each tournament cycle will feature 14 maps featuring all game modes (Assault, Hybrid, Escort, and Control). The game mode order will change for each tournament cycle and the playoffs.

Here's the confirmed map pool for the May Melee circuit:

  • Control—Lijiang Tower, Busan, Oasis, Nepal, Ilios
  • Hybrid—King’s Row, Blizzard World, Eichenwalde
  • Escort—Dorado, Watchpoint Gibraltar, Havana
  • Assault—Hanamura, Volskaya, Temple of Anubis

During the tournaments, the higher-seed will choose the first map (must be Control) with the loser picking subsequent maps.

Overwatch League 2021 - Prize Pool

The winner of each regional tournament will receive $100,000, with the seasonal playoffs taking home the grand prize of $1,500,000. 

Take a look at the full breakdown down below:

owl 2021 prize pool
(Image: Blizzard Entertainment)

Overwatch League 2021 - Where to watch

You can watch all the action live on the Overwatch League YouTube channel. All the match VODs are available shortly after the broadcast ends.