For Overwatch League’s 2020 season, the number of teams will remain the same. Beyond this, the league wants expansion. Revealed earlier in the year and restated at BlizzCon 2019’s Watchpoint panel, the league anticipates and desires a minimum of 28 competing teams.
Currently sitting at 20 teams, this means eight expansion slots. 13 of the current franchises are based in North America; it’s safe to assume that at most two or three of these will be domestic. An international league with 65% of teams in North America will likely be looking to diversify.
So then, why should Nashville receive a coveted Overwatch League expansion?
An Untapped Market
Nashville’s market will serve the Overwatch League, and the Overwatch League will serve Nashville’s market.
Houston currently most represents the “southern” market within the league. The flavor provided by the Outlaws is drastically different from Nashville’s south. The city’s rich music history coupled with down-home sensibilities are world-famous. As Nashville’s population has grown, it also has become a city synonymous with diversity. Work transplants are funneled into the city on a daily basis (the population grows by nearly 100 people each day), leading to a melting pot of cultures, personalities and interests.
Of these interests is, of course, video games. The growth of organizations like the Tennessee Esports Alliance and We Are Nations coupled with the introduction of new businesses like Southeastern Esports and Esports Arena indicates that esports interest in Nashville is early but eager.
An Overwatch League expansion team would capitalize on this early interest and claim it as their own.
Nashville often finds itself at the center of collegiate competitions for Middle Tennessee and other surrounding states. An Overwatch League team would merely energize these teams and competitive series’ further, potentially providing local scouting opportunities.
The Overwatch League offers Nashville an opportunity to enter the competitive international stage. This is an opportunity not currently provided by Nashville’s numerous successful sports ventures.
Experience with Expansions
Nashville’s history with sports expansion is unquestionably successful.
The most famous example is, of course, the Nashville Predators. Launched in 1998, the Predators have since been passionately embraced by the city. Matches are routinely sold out (more often than not) and the fans are often considered to be among the best in the entire National Hockey League. Past their first five years in the NHL, the Predators have been wildly successful in their runs at the Stanley Cup, coming in as the runner ups against the Pittsburgh Penguins just two years ago.
As if the Predators weren’t enough of a success story, Nashville has recently gunned for and received a Major League Soccer franchise. Not only does this come with a new local team for Nashville to rally around, but the franchise is adding to Nashville’s extensive city growth with a brand new stadium in 2022.
Outside of expansions, the NFL’s Tennessee Titans operate out of the Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, drawing in crowds from all around Middle Tennessee.
Nashville as a city is notorious in its ability to rally around a high-value opportunity. There’s no question that a new esports franchise would be welcomed to Music City.
Whether or not local investors decide to capitalize on this untapped market with an Overwatch League expansion slot is a different question entirely.
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