Two Championship Teams Converge
Two time Overwatch League Champions take three time Contenders Korea Champions under their wing.
SF SHOCK X O2 BLAST
— San Francisco Shock (@SFShock) February 10, 2022
Return to the Minor Leagues
It has been two and a half years since the Shock have housed a Contenders subsidiary. It was in 2019, about a year before the other teams dropped their own academy teams as well. That team of course was the successful NRG. NRG is a one time Contenders champion of course, but more notably, they've sent ten players to the Overwatch League. O2 Blast is one of Korea's Overwatch League breeding grounds, producing over twenty Overwatch League players through the years.
With these two management powers combined, it's likely that future player development will result in many player moving up to the Shock from O2 Blast, or bought out of contracts by other teams. Of course, O2 Blast aren't just an academy team. They're a well known and highly successful Contenders team in their own right. They won not just one, but both of last years' Contenders Korea seasons. Not to mention their 2020 Season one win as well. This time, the Shock organization has the best of both worlds. A Championship level Contenders team that can create Overwatch League Championship level players.
The Future of Contenders
Many teams in the West have dropped attachments to formerly successful academy teams. It's been almost two years since Contenders finally cleared out their academy teams so Open Division teams and hopeful players could make a name for themselves. While this allowed easier access to Contenders for smaller teams, it came with issues. Contenders started to be seen as lesser than it's former self outside of Korea. Competition in Korea was still fierce, since individual organizations were more influential their. Outside of Korea though, it seemed their was less of a connection between contenders and the League.
Players weren't drafted up as easily, and often had to go through open tryouts to make League teams. Now though, with the Shock connecting with O2 Blast, it opens new pathways. Teams will see the idea of a partnership, where instead of running a secondary team, you sponsor an already established one. This can mean higher likelihood of drafting their players, or having access to their coaches and staff.
Nothing can be said with confidence until results are seen from both sides of the partnership, but this opens up possibility for future League interaction in Contenders.