The Overwatch League made enormous strides by announcing the addition of eight new teams for their second season. These include three Chinese teams (Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou), two Canadian teams (Toronto and Vancouver), two American teams (Atlanta, Washington D.C.) , and one French team (Paris). With the addition of these new teams, the addition of new rivalries comes to fruition as well.
Think of some of the greatest sports rivalries: the Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears, Real Madrid versus FC Barcelona, the Boston Red Sox versus the New York Yankees. These three rivalries all have various aspects in common. One of those is a relatively close distance to one another. These rivalries do not always unfold in the same city, like the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox. However, the the “Battle for LA” between the LA Gladiators and the LA Valiant may be the best current rivalry in the Overwatch League.
While proximity is one part of a rivalry, there are other factors that come into play as well. There needs to be a certain level of competitive balance. The Shanghai Dragons, who went 0-40, are not balanced with the New York Excelsior. Teams that performed better during Season One, such as the Excelsior or the London Spitfire, have a better chance of having a rivalry begin. A particularly intense series or some tension between players or coaches could plant the seeds for a rivalry to be birthed. Highly competitive meetings are often hard to forget, especially for the fans.
Rivalries also have an aspect of history. This is where Overwatch League fans will have to be patient. After just one season, it is highly unlikely that any of these teams will develop a true, full-force rivalry. However, the introduction of the new teams, as well as the events that unfolded in the first season of the Overwatch League, give hints that teams in the league will start to develop rivalries over time.
Let’s dissect some of the potential rivalries that could blossom in the upcoming season. To do so, the aspects of proximity, competitive balance, and history will be considered.
East Coast Dominance
There are 227 miles between New York and Washington D.C. These teams will have fanbases that are relatively close to one another. A simple three-hour train ride separates the two cities on the East Coast. That ticks the box of proximity.
Competitive balance is more of a speculation at this point. New York are often considered the best team in the Overwatch League, and their 1st place finish, where they went 34-6 over the four stages, in Season 1 supports that claim. Washington D.C. is a brand new team, that currently only has one player signed onto their roster. That player is Joon-hwa “Janus” Song. Janus played an integral role at main tank for the NYXL. On the same day that Janus was released, NYXL also released their coach Hyeong-seok “WizardHyeong” Kim. WizardHyeong signed on to coach for the new D.C. expansion the same day as Janus was signed as well.
This leads into the history. With both a former coach and a former player from NYXL joining as the first players for D.C., this may lead to some tension when the teams meet for the first time. Depending on who else the D.C. expansion picks up, especially with the rumors swirling around that Yeon-joon “ArK” Hong, a support player for the NYXL, may be joining, the history may come in the form of former players.
London Spitfire entered the Overwatch League at the beginning as the only European team in the league. For the second season, Paris has entered the league, much to the delight of European fans. With the addition of a new team based in Europe, fans in the continent will now have a choice of teams to support that is close to home. London is just short of 300 miles from Paris.
There has been no news about any signings, both player or coach, from the Paris expansion. London is the reigning champion of the Overwatch League. The competitive balance could be on either end of the scale. London struggled through the later stages of the first season, but pulled it together for the playoffs. With a new coach in Kwang-bok “Coach815” Kim, will the Spitfire start Season 2 as strong as they finished? Paris will hope not. Expansion teams have exclusive rights to sign free agent players from Sep. 9- Oct. 7. With a large free agent pool to pull from, plus the amount of players who have not played in the league yet, Paris has many opportunities to become a high level team.
History is not on the side of this rivalry yet. Other than being the only European teams so far in the Overwatch League, the lack of news from Paris makes it difficult to predict if a rivalry could bloom from these two teams.
Rapid Chinese Expansion
The Shanghai Dragons did not start (nor finish) the first season of the Overwatch League well. They finished 0-40, with a -120 map differential. When it came time for players to be released, the Dragons released eight of their players, leaving them with only three at the moment. They also released two of their coaches. The Dragons are ready for a full overhaul. Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou are also ready to bring the pressure. Three new teams in one country, with one of the biggest markets for the game, will surely bring in heaps of viewers whenever they play.
Since the Dragons have nowhere to go but up, and the three Chinese teams are brand new, all of China’s teams will working their way up the competitive ladder. All four teams have zero wins, thus making their competitive balance pretty even. All four teams have options when it comes to building their rosters. They can bank off of the group of free agents, or dip into the lower tiers of competitive Overwatch. Rumors have been swirling that Guangzhou have been attempting to sign the entirety of Lucky Future Zenith, a China-based team playing in Contenders.
Three new teams brings plenty of opportunity. The lack of history is something that, when looking back on Season 2 in the future, should be easy to see the points that sparked rivalry between any of these four sides. The only way is up for these teams, and with that rise can come conflict, something rivalries thrive on.
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Featured Image Courtesy of Polygon
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