Reports have been circulating about a merger between Dallas Empire and OpTic, leaving the future of Chicago’s Call of Duty League spot uncertain.
CDL Rostermaina was only heightened by bombshell reports that Dallas Empire & OpTic could be merging. The 2020 CDL champs could be in line to acquire the OpTic brand, leaving the Chicago slot owned by NRG Esports with an uncertain future.
This begs the question — what happens to the Chicago CDL spot if the merger goes through?
NRG keeps the spot
While reports suggest that the merger would lead to NRG selling their Call of Duty League spot to a third party, that is not confirmed and there is every possibility that NRG holds onto their spot in the league. If this was the case, the organization could do one of two things:
- NRG rebuilds in Chicago: NRG could simply stay put and try to rebuild in Chicago. They have an established fanbase and presence, so it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to move. While Dallas will likely claim what remains of Chicago’s roster, leaving Chicago with four starting spots to fill, they aren’t the only team starting from scratch this offseason.
- NRG relocates to San Francisco: NRG Esports is headquartered in Los Angeles but operates the Overwatch League’s San Francisco Shock. With the CDL already operating two teams in Los Angeles, NRG may look to give their team a fresh coat of paint in the City by the Bay.
Rise Nation enters the CDL
Rise Nation is a household name in the world of Call of Duty, but they haven’t been seen on the pro scene since the CWL days. However, Rise owner and Tennessee Titans guard Rodger Saffold has been very vocal on the topic of joining the CDL. In an appearance on Barstool’s Bussin’ with the Boys podcast, Saffold confirmed that Rise had been approached by the CDL but expansion plans for the league had been delayed.
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However, if NRG were to sell their spot in the league, it wouldn’t make sense for Rise, who are eager to join sooner rather than later, to continue waiting for a promised place in a future expansion.
If Rise bought the spot currently occupied by Chicago, relocation could be on the table. While there is every chance the team would stay in Chicago, Saffold could decide to take the team to Nashville, where his NFL career is based.
A new org joins the league
There is every possibility that a new org purchases the spot from NRG and debuts a team in 2022. That org would then have the choice as to whether they stayed in Chicago or moved to pastures new.
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Note: Any proposed moves are purely speculation and not confirmed.
- Staying in the Midwest: If the team was to leave Chicago but stay in the US Midwest, one option could be Detroit. Renegades has become more linked with the Asia-Pacific Call of Duty scene in recent years, but the Detroit-headquartered org has history in North America. However, any team in the Midwest will have to fight Minnesota to the northwest and Atlanta to the south for regional control.
- East Coast: The CDL currently only has a single team on the US East Coast (sorry Florida) in the New York Subliners. The Kraft Group aren’t strangers to esports, owning the Boston Uprising of the OWL, and Boston-New York is a classic rivalry that could reach new heights on the maps of Vanguard. Comcast Spectator could make a move to bring the team to Philadelphia. Or perhaps Washington Esports Ventures look to expand their assets into the world of Call of Duty, bringing the CDL to the US capital.
- Somewhere else entirely: Cloud9 have been linked with a move to the CDL since the latter stages of the 2021 season. While their social comments seem to be little more than trolling, they could always surprise everyone by coming into the league. While their usual hub of London already has a team, they might not be deterred from making the move. Similarly, Beasley Media Group, current owners of the OWL’s Houston Outlaws, are a known force when it comes to buying their way into esports. Ironically, that would set up a Texas rivalry with the very team that caused the relocation in the first place.
What we do know is that the spot occupied by Chicago is going to look very different entering 2022, whether it’s a brand-new roster or a brand-new city.
But until more information emerges about the Empire-OpTic merger, Chicago’s future remains unwritten.