How to follow the Overwatch League playoffs

Back in January, Blizzard kicked off an ambitious new e-sports league for the popular shooter Overwatch. The Overwatch League featured 12 teams spanning the globe, and over five months, the competition created all kinds of storylines. The New York Excelsior was the dominant force all season long, taking the top spot in the league along with two of the four stage championships, while the early favorite Seoul Dynasty crashed hard and didn’t make the playoffs. Rosters changed, players behaved badly, and the Shanghai Dragons lost 40 consecutive games.

As exciting as it was for die-hard fans, it was also a long season, and there’s a good chance your interest started to wane over the months. Maybe you were lost in the ongoing furor of the World Cup in Russia or the frenzy of NBA free agency. Now is a great time to jump back in. Tomorrow, the inaugural playoffs begin for the league, and the six best clubs will compete for a $1 million grand prize. Here’s a cheat sheet so you can follow along with everything going on.

Overwatch LeaguePhoto by Robert Paul / Blizzard Entertainment

Structure and schedule

The main point of the regular season, as with most pro sports leagues, is to determine the seeding for the playoffs. The six teams to qualify in the Overwatch League are:

  1. New York Excelsior
  2. Los Angeles Valiant
  3. Boston Uprising
  4. Los Angeles Gladiators
  5. London Spitfire
  6. Philadelphia Fusion

For the first round, which spans three days this week, the bottom four seeds will compete to move on and play against the Valiant and Excelsior. The first matchup pits the Uprising against the Fusion, while the Gladiators will take on the Spitfire. The teams will play a best-of-three series to see who moves on to round two. The matches this week are:

Wednesday, July 11th

  • 5PM PT / 8PM ET: Fusion vs. Uprising
  • 7PM PT / 10PM ET: Spitfire vs. Gladiators

Friday, July 13th

  • 5PM PT / 8PM ET: Fusion vs. Uprising
  • 7PM PT / 10PM ET: Fusion vs. Uprising (if necessary)

Saturday, July 14th

  • 1PM PT / 4PM ET: Spitfire vs. Gladiators
  • 3PM PT / 6PM ET: Spitfire vs. Gladiators (if necessary)

The winners for each matchup will then continue to week two of the playoffs, where the Overwatch League’s two titans, the LA Valiant and NYXL, await. The week two matchups will depend on seeding. As the top-ranked club, New York will face the lowest remaining seed, while the Valiant will take on the other team. While the clubs are still to be decided, the schedule will look like this:

Wednesday, July 18th

  • 5PM PT / 8PM ET: TBD vs. Excelsior
  • 7PM PT / 10PM ET: TBD vs. Valiant

Friday, July 20th

  • 5PM PT / 8PM ET: TBD vs. Valiant
  • 7PM PT / 10PM ET: TBD vs. Valiant (if necessary)

Saturday, July 21st

  • 5PM PT / 8PM ET: TBD vs. Excelsior
  • 7PM PT / 10PM ET: TBD vs. Excelsior (if necessary)

Now here’s where things get exciting: at this point, only the top two teams will remain for a best-on-best matchup with a huge grand prize. Even better, the scene will shift. For the entire regular season and the first two weeks of the playoffs, the Overwatch League took place entirely in Blizzard Arena, a 450-seat studio in Burbank, California. But the finals will move across the country to a much bigger venue. The grand finals, as they’ve been dubbed, will be housed at the Barclays Center in New York, home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, in front of a sold-out crowd. Like the previous rounds, the grand finals will consist of a best-of-three series of matches that will be spread out over a few days. Here’s how things will play out:

Friday, July 27th

  • 4PM PT / 7PM ET

Saturday, July 28th

  • 1PM PT / 4PM ET
  • 3PM PT / 6PM ET (if necessary)
Overwatch LeaguePhoto by Robert Paul / Blizzard Entertainment

Where to watch

If you can’t make it in person to any of the games, the Overwatch League playoffs are still pretty easy to watch. Just like in the regular season, each matchup will be broadcast live on Twitch, so you can watch it on a huge range of devices for free. You can also watch each game — and keep up with the scores and schedule — with the league’s mobile app, which is available on both iOS and Android.

Overwatch World CupPhoto by Robert Paul / Blizzard Entertainment

All-star game, World Cup, and beyond

After the confetti falls in New York, there will be a long wait for the league’s second season to kick off next year. Luckily, there will still be plenty of competitive Overwatch to follow over the ensuing months. On August 26th, the league will hold its first all-star game, where the six top players from each division will face off, and Blizzard says there will also be “skill games” to watch in addition to the main battle.

For the second year in a row, there will be an Overwatch World Cup that will feature some of the best players in the world who will compete for their respective countries. Last year’s edition had some problems: scheduling issues led to matches played very close together, while China’s team was forced to go on after four of its starters were denied visas to compete in the US-based competition. South Korea ultimately prevailed, taking the finals 4-1 over an upstart Canada team.

Hopefully things will go a little smoother this year. In the 2018 edition, 24 countries will be involved. The initial group stage will feature four groups of six teams, competing in four cities across the world, including Los Angeles, Bangkok, Paris, and Incheon. The group stages start on August 16th in South Korea and will run through September 21st in France. The top two teams from each group will then move on to compete in the finals, which will be held at BlizzCon in November.