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Esports Overwatch

What the Contenders Changes Mean for Academy Teams in 2020

An official statement from the Overwatch League announced new changes to the structuring of teams in Contenders. These changes will take place next year, along with a few other changes for the League itself.  While many rules remain the same, there are few notable changes for Academy teams that fans of the scene should be aware of.

Academy Team Status

Fusion University
Photo courtesy of Overwatch Contenders

The most important changes mostly apply to Academy teams. Fusion University is known for making waves. In May, they made their biggest splash yet by announcing that the team would be leaving North America to compete in trials for Contenders Korea.

The reason why? Boredom, essentially. After winning not two, not three, but four consecutive championship titles in a row, Fusion University wanted a challenge. They had outgrown their competition in North America and proved themselves to be the best in the West after winning the Atlantic Showdown earlier this summer. FUNI wanted to see how well they would do in what is considered by many to be the best region for up-and-coming players.

This move caused a bit of an uproar in the community. Should a team be allowed to region hop simply because they’re bored? Blizzard decided to give fans an official answer: yes, but some restrictions apply.

Infrastructure and Losing Benefits

To maintain the status of being an Academy team, teams must now have local infrastructures in whatever region they want to compete in. The parent organization also must be willing to give up certain benefits that come with owning an academy team. One of those benefits is the right to match player contracts. However, an addendum to this clause was made so that teams that previously held the status of an academy team can maintain those rights for a limited amount of time underneath a grandfather clause.

This part of the new rules and regulations was confusing. Most people’s thoughts immediately went to Fusion University. Did this mean they would no longer be able to compete in Korea next year? Joe Marsh, Chief Business Officer for the Philadelphia Fusion, was quick to clear up any confusion on Twitter.

With infrastructures in place, and being the only eligible team to be grandfathered, Fusion University will be able to continue playing in Korea. For a little while, at least.

While that window of time is currently unknown, FUNI will likely be using this time to acquire more talent from the region. Many members of their current roster are now old enough to compete in the League.

With signing windows opening on September 30, 2019, fans believe that Fusion will do a full roster pullup from their academy team next season. Fans are eager to see players like Kyungbo “Alarm” Kim and Se-won “BERNAR” Shin compete on stage. However, the Fusion also have many talented players on their roster that they might not be willing to part ways with just yet. This is where the new two-way contract rules could come in handy.

Two-Way Contracts

Elk, Philadelphia Fusion
2019-02-23 / Photo: Ben Pursell for Blizzard Entertainment

Most Academy teams have two-way players on their rosters. For the Fusion, Elijah Hudson “Elk” Gallagher and Simon “snillo” Ekström take up two of those contracts. Elk’s Overwatch League debut was the first time fans saw how limited two-way contracts actually are. In the League, Elk was only eligible to play two matches per stage. If he elected to play those two games, he would not be able to compete in Contenders until the next Contender’s season.

For 2020, the Overwatch League will be more lenient. Teams can now have a maximum of four two-way players on a roster, and those players will still earn the same salary and benefits as their teammates on the main roster. Two-way players will only lose their Contender’s eligibility if they appear in more than two Overwatch League matches within 30 days. However, if they choose to play during a League game, they are not able to compete in a Contender’s game the following week.

Change is Good

Kodak, Atlanta Reign
2019-03-17 / Photo: Tyler Demogenes For Blizzard Entertainment

As of now, most players under a two-way contract elect to play in Contenders. They do this, so they have a real chance to compete. The Atlanta Reign’s Steven “Kodak” Rosenberger decided to move to a two-way contract after being benched in favor of his teammate Dusttin “Dogman” Bowerman. His teammate, and fellow two-way player, Blake “Gator” Scott has barely seen 12 minutes total playtime on stage this season. However, Gator has been killing it on ATL Academy for the entirety of the 2019 season though most wouldn’t know it unless they follow the scene.

With ATL Academy’s success, especially this season, it makes sense why Kodak would want to basically a step-down. On the Reign’s bench, he was wasting away. On ATL Academy, he could play, improve, and be part of something great. These changes will hopefully make it so that benched players don’t feel like it has to be an “either-or” situation in the future. Having four two-way contract spots will be beneficial for teams that have more than two players sitting on their bench. It will also give teams more flexibility in terms of how they want to strategize for games next season.

This new structure will make the Path to Pro more accessible for anyone who dreams of playing up on that beautiful main stage. The Overwatch League tends to neglect the Contenders scene, but these changes are definitely a step in the right direction.

There’s a lot more 2020 Overwatch League news on the way! Be sure to stay up to date with us here, at The Game Haus. 

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