Overwatch League announces new 20-team playoff format

The 2020 OWL playoffsOverwatch League

The Overwatch League has announced its post-season plans for the 2020 playoffs, bringing back the double-elimination format from 2019, but with some big new additions.

To begin, starting September 3, single-elimination qualifying matches will feature the lowest seeds out of the 20 teams in the Asian and North American regions. The seeding is determined by teams’ performance during the regular season and any extra wins they earned by placing in the three monthly tournaments.

As lower seeds advance, the higher seeds will have the opportunity to pick their opponents just as they did in the monthly tournament format.

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From there, the winners will advance to a double-elimination bracket on September 5. Once again, higher seeds will be able to pick their opponents, thus forming the bracket. Matches will play out until only two teams from each region remain.


Once four teams are left, the last two teams from North America will travel to Asia to compete against the remaining two teams in the APAC region – once they’ve completed a fourteen-day quarantine.

Additionally, the teams who had been knocked into the losers’ bracket will have a fresh start of sorts as the final four portion is treated as its own mini-tournament.

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It should be noted, however, that while the North American teams will be traveling to Korea, the matches will still be played online.

London Spitfire win the Overwatch League championshipPatrick Dodson for Blizzard Entertainment
The OWL’s first season was won by the London Spitfire.

The team on the winners’ side in North America will play the team from the losers’ side in Asia and vice versa, eventually leading to a winners’ finals, losers’ finals and Grand Final.

The Grand Finals will be a first-to-four format while the other matches are a first-to-three.

According to Competition Operations Senior Manager Adam Mierzejewski, the league decided not to implement a bracket reset in the event the team from losers’ prevailed in Grand Finals, but it was something they had considered.

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The Shock celebrate winning the 2019 Overwatch League seasonRobert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment
Will the Shock repeat in 2020?

“It’s something we talked about since the very first season. We considered it, but didn’t go forward with it,” he said. After the 2019 post-season, no teams or fans pushed for a map advantage or bracket reset so it remained the same.

The plans do differ quite a bit from the 2019 format, which according to Mierzejewski was going to be the basis for the original 2020 plans until world events affected the seasonal structure.

“We wanted to find the best way to highlight the best teams in North America and Asia by keeping health and safety first,” he explained. “The reason we are where we are today is that our utmost priority is keeping the health and safety of our league staff, teams and players.”

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Overwatch League bracketOverwatch League
Brackets for the first week of post-season play in North America.

Because there would be so many teams facing off for the first time this season, it only made sense to implement a completely new tournament once the Final Four had been established.

“We want to make the best possible finish to the playoffs while also keeping the players isolated from one another and other teams,” he added.

The format could change

This all said, it is also possible that if the world situation affects travel, the league does have back-up plans in place. One possible scenario is having two regional champions in the event teams can’t travel to Asia.

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Super competes in Overwatch LeagueTyler Demogenes for Blizzard Entertainment
The Shock have returned as a dominant force.

“We’re constantly monitoring how visa situations are changing… but we’re excited about where we’ve landed working together with teams and players to create exciting Overwatch for fans,” Lead Strategy Manager Aditya Rudra said.

The road to the 2020 Overwatch League playoffs resumes on Friday, July 17 with three weeks of matches headed into the Countdown Cup on August 7 as the final monthly tournament of the year.

The 2020 Overwatch League regular season concludes August 29, giving teams a small break before the play-in matches kick off September 3.

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