What Are The Overwatch Contenders?

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What Are The Overwatch Contenders?

The complete guide for Overwatch Contenders 2020.

Overwatch esports is often reduced to the Overwatch League with its teams representing cities across the world and its million dollars cash prize. However, there's more to Overwatch esports than just the League. Most players climb their way to the top, then Overwatch League scouts draft them from their Contenders’ team.

Korean fans sit with signs, cheering on players during a live series of Ovewatch Contenders

But what are the Overwatch Contenders? What can you expect to see there? How is it different from the Overwatch League? What about the Open Division and Contenders Trials? In this article, ESTNN breaks down the Overwatch Contenders; from its structure and organization to its latest champions.

 A three-layer system to give everyone a chance to shine

Just like the Overwatch League, the Contenders include two divisions: the Atlantic and Pacific Conferences. As these divisions welcome many teams, they're split by regions: Europe, North America and South America regions belong to the Atlantic Division, with the Pacific Division welcomes Australia, China, Korea and Pacific regions.

A live series between teams from the Atlantic and Pacific divisions plays out on stage


Each region holds three distinct but complementary tournaments; the Open Division, Contenders Trials, and Overwatch Contenders. Teams competing in each region are placed in a tournament depending on their results through a promotion and relegation system, starting from Open Division to the Contenders Playoffs.

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Each week, the top teams of each tournament are qualified for the upper tournament, while the bottom teams fall back in an easier championship. The lowest tournament within the Overwatch Contenders is the Open Division, followed by the Trials, then Contenders and ending with the Contenders Playoffs.

Blizzard's Path to Pro, showing the progression from Open Division, to Contenders, to the Overwatch League

Academy teams

Each Overwatch League team can have a second team in Contenders, which is then referred to as an “academy team”. Although all teams initially had an academy team in Contenders, most closed their doors in 2019 and 2020.

The London Spitfire's academy team, British Hurricane, behind their PC's during the Atlantic Showdown in 2019

Six Overwatch League team still have an academy team:

  • Hangzhou Spark, with Bilibili Gaming (China)
  • London Spitfire, with British Hurricane (Europe)
  • Seoul Dynasty, with Gen.G esports (Korea)
  • Philadelphia Fusion, with T1 (Korea)
  • Shanghai Dragons, with Team CC (China)
  • Boston Uprising, with Uprising Academy (North America)

Overwatch Contenders recent results

Each of the seven regions competing in the Overwatch Contenders have their own internal fight for the crown. In Australia, the Sydney Drop Bears won the three seasons held in 2018 until ORDER came and stole their title for the two 2019 seasons. Talon Esports dominates the Pacific division, with three consecutive seasons victories. If Fusion University swept all competitors in 2018 and early 2019, the battle is now more balanced; as ATL Academy, Team Envy and Team Doge challenged the reigning champions.

The roster from Fusion University hold up the trophy after taking victory at the Atlantic Showdown 2019

The fiercest fight is in South Korea: teams include raw talents, sometimes underaged or former Overwatch League players, and form an elite squad. The most recent example is how Vancouver Titans hired the entire 2018 RunAway roster. Most Overwatch League players come from either Overwatch Contenders: South Korea or from an academy team, such as Fusion University or Team CC.

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Overwatch Contenders 2020 Season 1 champions:

  • Talon Esports (Pacific)
  • Mindfreak G (Australia)
  • Dignity (South America)
  • O2 Blast (South Korea)
  • Team CC (China)
  • British Hurricane (Europe)
  • Team Doge (North America)
What Are The Overwatch Contenders?
Ophelie Castelot
Ophelie is both an esport and journalism lover. She is the former head of the CS:GO section for a major esport website. Ophelie has been analyzing Overwatch ever since its release in 2016.