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Esports Overwatch

Overwatch League: Contenders in the League

With the regular Contenders season coming to an end and the Overwatch League returning in just over a month, it’s worth taking a look at some of the players bridging the gap between the two. After all, Contenders is intended to serve as the step just before the Overwatch League. A lot of season two’s new faces made names for themselves in the tier two scene. Whether they’ve moved up into new rosters or taken two-way contracts, they now have the chance to expand on the talent they’ve shown so far.

Here, we recap a handful of Contenders players who have secured Overwatch League spots for season two. We’ll also give credit to some Contenders teams who sent a lot of their players to the league. With the season just ahead, it won’t be long before these players have a chance to make sure Overwatch League fans know their names.

Two-Way Players

The Overwatch League introduced the two-way contract during this off-season, linking teams even closer to their academy teams. Players can be signed both to a league team and to its affiliate, playing interchangeably between the two. The rules regarding playtime for these players are fairly strict, so we’ll likely still see them more often in Contenders. However, implementing two-way contracts serves as a useful stepping stone for academy players, and it makes affiliating with a league team that much more beneficial.

Those keeping an eye on the Contenders scene know that some serious talent is coming up through two-way contracts. Elijah Hudson “Elk” Gallagher, of Fusion University, signed a two-way contract with the Philadelphia Fusion. Many consider Elk and his teammate, Kyung-bo “Alarm” Kim, to be the most talented support duo in North American Contenders. Though he will likely remain an integral part of the Fusion University roster, he also has the exciting possibility of pairing his skills with those of the Fusion’s regular support players.

Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth at the Overwatch World Cup. Courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.

Similarly, the Boston Uprising picked up a potential star on a two-way contract. Cameron “Fusions” Bosworth made a name for himself during the Overwatch World Cup, showing off dominant tank play for Team UK. He currently plays primarily for Uprising Academy, but can potentially join the Uprising throughout the season. Young-jin “Gamsu” Noh will likely remain the team’s star main tank, but Fusions’ previous performances earned him a lot of attention, and he’s a strong contender for the main stage as well.

Academy Team Promotions

At the moment, eleven of the Overwatch League’s teams have affiliate teams in Contenders. Though these academy teams operate under the umbrella of their parent teams, their players can sign with any team that makes an offer. Playing on an academy team doesn’t necessarily make a player more likely to get picked up; it does, however, grant them some extra visibility, especially in the North American region that most academy teams call home.

Academy teams and their affiliated OWL teams. Note: GG Esports Academy was disbanded in October 2018. Picture courtesy of Liquipedia.

Several academy teams had plenty of success moving players up this offseason. NRG Esports, the San Francisco Shock’s academy team, had three players sign with league teams. Ethan “Stratus” Yankel and Riley “Fahzix” Taylor both joined the Washington Justice, while Seong-won “Swon” Yoon now plays for the Florida Mayhem. Gladiators Legion and Team CC, academy teams to the Los Angeles Gladiators and the Shanghai Dragons respectively, had similar success. Gladiators Legion promoted Corey “Corey” Nigra to the Washington Justice and Jeffrey “blasé” Tsang to the Boston Uprising. Team CC, meanwhile, sent Ma “lateyoung” Tianbin and Kong “Kyo” Chunting to the Chengdu Hunters.

Though people might have expected more academy players to move up to their affiliated teams, the league as a whole clearly has eyes on the academy teams, which explains the variety of pickups.

Group Promotions

Despite the benefits of affiliating with an Overwatch League team, plenty of Contenders squads were noticed without that affiliation. The offseason saw several teams move up huge chunks of their rosters. For instance, Lucky Future Zenith, reigning champion of Chinese Contenders, signed six players. The Hangzhou Spark, Seoul Dynasty, Atlanta Reign, and Shanghai Dragons all picked up players from the team, and were willing to pay significant transfer fees for them.

Korean Contenders squad O2 Team (previously known as O2 Ardeont) also gets some heavy representation in the league this year. Four of their players now play on the Toronto Defiant, while a fifth, Min-ki “Viol2t” Park, plays for the San Francisco Shock. O2 may not enjoy as much fame as some teams in Korean Contenders, but they can take pride in having so many players in the big league.

In North American Contenders, the former Toronto Esports sent a huge portion of their roster to the Overwatch League over the course of the off-season. Prior to the baffling drama that ended in the team’s disbandment, they saw four of its players signed. Joon-hwan “GuardiaN” Cho joined the revamped Shanghai Dragons roster, Harrison “Kruise” Pond was signed to the Paris Eternal, and the Boston Uprising took both Kelsey “Colourhex” Birse and Min-seob “Axxiom” Park. During the short-lived period between the fall of Toronto Esports and their rebranding as Uprising Academy, the Guangzhou Charge also picked up Charlie “nero” Zwarg and Jin-seo “Shu” Kim. Even with its messy end, the Toronto Esports roster had a successful off-season, and many of the team’s players are just getting started.

Taking the Next Steps

The players mentioned here make up just a handful of those coming in from Contenders this season. Though the tier two scene typically doesn’t get the viewership of its major-league counterpart, those following it have seen the skill present there. Whether these new players are taking the stage in earnest or moving between the tiers on two-way contracts, they’ve taken that next step towards showing that talent to the world.


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Featured image courtesy of Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment. 

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