The Overwatch League revealed the schedule for the 2021 season alongside yet another new format, new region-sensitive broadcast times, and the prize pool for the year's competition Saturday. The league plans to host in-person competition for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Hawaii, conditions permitting.
The first match of the Overwatch League 2021 season will be a Battle for Texas, pitting the recently un-retired Jake Lyon and his Houston Outlaws against the Dallas Fuel. The league will follow that up with the San Francisco Shock playing the Los Angeles Gladiators.
The broadcasts for these matches and the rest of the season will adhere to a new standard for timing. Broadcasts featuring teams playing in the West will start at 3 p.m. ET, while broadcasts featuring teams competing in the East will start at 5 p.m. China Standard Time — or 4 a.m. ET.
Overwatch League 2021 Season Format
Leaning into the tournament-centric format that saw success in the 2020 season, the Overwatch League will divide its 2021 season into four tournament cycles: the May Melee, the June Joust, the Summer Showdown and the Countdown Cup. Teams will play four matches each cycle to determine qualification and seeding for each tournament.
The top six Western teams in each cycle will play knockout matches, with the top two teams advancing. In the East, only the top four will play knockout matches, and two teams will advance. The top two teams from each region will then play out a double-elimination bracket to determine the tournament champion.
The Overwatch League tentatively plans to fly the top two Western teams to Hawaii for these tournaments, where they'll use a directly routed connection to Asia to compete against the two teams from the East.
Overwatch League 2021 Scoring System
Wins at tournaments and their qualifiers will earn teams League Points. Each team will play 16 qualifier matches over the course of the season, with each win worth one League Point. Tournament winners will receive an additional three points, runners up an additional two, and third-place finishers a single extra point.
League Points accrued during a single tournament cycle will determine seeding and qualification for that tournament, while points accrued over the season will determine qualification and seeding for the end-of-season playoffs. The teams with the most League Points at regular season's end will qualify into the playoffs, leaving the rest of the teams in each region to compete in play-in tournaments for their spots in the post-season.
Overwatch League 2021 Prize Pool
The total $4,250,000 prize pool will be split among tournament and playoff prizing. Tournaments will pay out as follows:
- 1st place: $100,000
- 2nd place: $70,000
- 3rd place: $35,000
- 4th place: $20,000
Playoffs prizing, meanwhile, works out as follows:
- 1st place: $1.5 million
- 2nd place: $750,000
- 3rd place: $400,000
- 4th place: $300,000
- 5th place: $200,000
- 6th place: $100,000
- 7-8th place: $50,000
Overwatch League 2021 Hero Pools
The 2021 season will use hero pools at the June Joust and Countdown Cup, but won't implement them at the May Melee, Summer Showdown, or during the playoffs. Where hero pools are use, four heroes will be made off-limits: two damage, one tank and one support. The restricted heroes will be chosen at random based on play-rate data from the previous tournament cycle, and no hero can be removed more than once over the course of the season.
Finally, Overwatch patches will be implemented in the league between tournament cycles, during the bye weeks built into the schedule.