The esports world spent nearly a full year with online competitions in an effort to work around the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, with parts of the world receiving vaccines, some corners of esports are starting to go back to live events. The Overwatch League is slower to return to live crowds, but it looks like fans will be able to catch the final two weekends of the postseason in person.
The Overwatch League revealed its 2021 postseason plans on Tuesday morning. The playoffs will begin on September 4 and culminate with the Grand Finals on September 25. While the regional play-in matches will play out in an online space, the playoffs and the Grand Finals will be held with live crowds in Arlington, TX and Los Angeles, CA, respectively. This will be the first time that an Overwatch League game has been played in front of a live crowd since 2019's Grand Finals. Tickets for the Arlington playoffs and Los Angeles Grand Finals are expected to go on sale in August.
The Overwatch League postseason will include the top three teams in the West Region, the top two teams in the East region, and the three winners of the aforementioned regional play-in matches, which will take place from September 4-5. This will lead into a double-elimination playoff bracket, which will run from September 16-19 from the Esports Stadium in Arlington. The last two teams remaining will then travel to Los Angeles and play from the Galen Center, home of the USC Trojans, on Saturday, September 25.
The playoffs are where the majority of this Overwatch League season's $4.25 million USD prize pool will be doled out. Here's how the prize money will be allocated (all amounts in USD):
- League champion: $1,500,000
- Runner-up: $700,000
- 3rd place: $350,000
- 4th place: $250,000
- 5th place: $200,000
- 6th place: $100,000
- 7th-8th place: $50,000 each
Last year's Overwatch League Grand Finals took place entirely in an online setting due to COVID-19, where the San Francisco Shock won their second straight championship. While Blizzard is planning for fans to return, the COVID-19 pandemic is still not over and worth monitoring. Los Angeles, the site of this year's Grand Finals, is currently being hit hard by the Delta variant of the disease and recently reinstated mask mandates. If COVID cases continue to rise, live events in Los Angeles may potentially be in jeopardy. Activision Blizzard will undoubtedly monitor the situation and offer any updates should the situation in Los Angeles change, especially since the Galen Center is also supposed to host the Call of Duty League Championship weekend from August 19-22.
As for the Overwatch League's immediate future, the league is coming off the Summer Showdown, in which the Shanghai Dragons warded off the Chengdu Hunters in five maps to win their second straight tournament. The march to the Countdown Cup begins with the league resumes play on Friday, July 30.