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OWL 2020 – Building a Sizable Roster

2020 OWL Roster Size

For the Overwatch League, teams’ 2020 roster sizes will play a huge part in making or breaking a season. With the final roster announcements dying down (now that Atlanta finally announced their last two members), most teams now have their full squads for the start of the 2020 season. These range from eight players to a full squad of twelve, and the variability comes at a team’s discretion. However, each option has pros and cons, and bigger may not always be better. To get a true sense of who may have maximized their roster the best, let’s take a look at the various 2020 OWL roster sizes!

Benefits of Different Sizes

The league maximum for roster size has always been twelve and last year, a minimum of eight was set as well. Some teams got away with only six or seven in the League’s first year, but this was deemed too risky due to injury and burnout. Between those numbers, however, teams are free to choose how many players they want to employ. There are both benefits and detriments to picking on either end of the spectrum, so it’s important to consider those first in figuring out an ideal roster size.

Benefits to a Larger Roster

2020 OWL Roster Size

Going with the biggest possible roster seems like the obvious choice at first. Big rosters account for flexibility and depth in a way that smaller ones cannot. To have a 12-man roster means having a backup in nearly every position, while having a roster of eight means at least one spot has zero backups. Two factors in particular make this essential: travel and the newly announced hero pool system. Given tons of travel, it can be easy for players to get fatigued. Having backups ensures that in an emergency there will be someone able to play the position. Otherwise, a player may have to play off-role. And given the recent announcement of a weekly pool, having many players will be useful to maximize number of heroes played.

Another factor is a twelve man roster can also engage in internal scrims. All teams need to scrim in order to practice against talent their level, but this can give away key strategies sometimes to enemies in practice. Running internal scrims conceals strategies or could allow teams to hide any aces up their sleeves from the rest. Not only that, but at a time where teams are going to be in different regions all the time, finding scrim partners will be cumbersome. Running internal scrims mitigates the factor of distance, provided all the team members are in one place together.

Smaller Roster Benefits

With all those benefits, why would any team choose a smaller roster? While going big seems the play at first, there’s one crucial factor that limits this: cost. Considering the perspective of team management, only six players can play at any given moment. As a result, there will always be players riding the bench no matter how many they choose to have. However, with player salary as a factor, every player who rides the bench all season will cost a team $50,000 per year at a minimum. With a team who picks an 8-man roster well, this is only $100,000. For a team with 12 players, however, this becomes $300,000 a season.

2020 OWL Roster Size
Ian Cunningham // Washington Justice

For an OWL team without unlimited funds, this has to be a crucial factor. Some teams have parent orgs or sponsors, like Comcast or Cox, who are willing to fill a team to the brim with resources. However, others have to rely on a much smaller resource pool; those teams will capitalize on using their players to the max to save themselves some money. If they win, they can invest more the next year; if they go big now and don’t profit, they will be in the red for a while.

Another consideration is a player not meshing well. Starting small allows for room later to fix problems that arise. However if a team that starts with 12 has a player issue, they need to either trade or release a player to find a spot to fix it. Teams may very well continue making pickups into the season, so beginning a bit smaller increases a team’s options later on.

Current Roster Sizes

There are currently five possible roster sizes for league teams, which is having 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12 players. Here is a brief summary of each team’s roster size. If a roster has at least one two-way player, they will be included but marked with the symbol (*). If a roster has a player who is underage, they will be marked with the symbol (^).

Atlanta Reign: 12
2020 OWL Roster Size
Image Courtesy of the Overwatch League
Boston Uprising: 9*
Chengdu Hunters: 11
Dallas Fuel: 11
Florida Mayhem: 9
Guangzhou Charge: 9
Hangzhou Spark: 10*
2020 OWL Roster Size
Image Courtesy of the Overwatch League
Houston Outlaws: 11
London Spitfire: 12
LA Gladiators: 10
LA Valiant: 9
New York Excelsior: 10^
Paris Eternal: 12^
Philadelphia Fusion: 11^
2020 OWL Roster Size
Image Courtesy of the Overwatch League
San Francisco Shock: 10
Seoul Dynasty: 9
Shanghai Dragons: 12*
Toronto Defiant: 9*
Vancouver Titans: 8
Washington Justice: 8

The Ideal Size

In terms of team decisions: 10% of teams chose an 8-man roster, 30% chose a 9-man, 20% a 10-man, 20% an 11-man, and 20% with a 12-person roster. The highest number of teams chose nine people on their roster, with ten closely behind. Every person out there will likely have a very different idea of the best size given all these factors; however it’s interesting to note that among viewers, “nine players” was also the most popular consensus, followed closely behind by “ten or eleven.”

Only four out of the league’s 20 teams have chosen to go for 12 players, and two of those teams have underage or two-way players. With twelve players appearing to be the best decision by far, why have so many teams elected against it?

Most likely, it’s due to the overwhelming cost of benched players being too great a risk. If a team goes all in towards that many players and fails, they lose a heaping sum of money. With Paris and London especially having so many players yet being ranked low, not winning means they spend upwards of $600,000 with minimal return. Meanwhile a team like Vancouver or Washington may be under-prepared with having only a few subs, but can always make more pickups later in the season by saving now. However, it seems most teams have at least gone above the bare minimum.

The Verdict

2020 OWL Roster SizeNine players might be the best decision solely because a team can have one sub in each position. The Seoul Dynasty follow this pattern, having three DPS, three supports and three tanks. Some teams have played with this formula a bit, such as Guangzhou who have three DPS, two tanks and four supports. While this nine player roster gives them a tiny bit more depth than an eight player one, they still may falter by having zero tank substitutes.

One respondent even replied that the best strategy would be having nine players, but with four tanks and two supports instead. This goes to show that even among those who believe nine is the best way to maximize a roster, there are still many unique opinions remaining.

Ultimately, now that the rosters have been finalized and the season beginning in just a few short days, it’ll be a chance to see which teams have maximized their rosters the best. As both Vancouver and London will be playing, an 8-person roster, a 12-person roster and everything in between will be on display. The real test will be over the course of several months, where it will be interesting to see how quickly some teams make changes. Until then, it’s up to the viewers to decide on which teams made the best choices this weekend, when the Overwatch League makes its triumphant return.


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