Fans of the Dallas Fuel now have more reason to anticipate the Overwatch League 2020 season. Along with a shake-up in the overall league structure, Dallas' team in the competitive esport will host more home games and finally relocate their operations to North Texas.
The Overwatch League, currently one of the largest esports organizations in the U.S., supports competitive play of Overwatch (Blizzard's vastly popular team-based objective shooter). Founded in November 2016, the league has recently been signing new teams from around the world to its growing roster and now represents countries like Canada, China, France and South Korea.
The 2020 season will shake things up thanks to two new additions: geographic divisions and the formal institution of home games, according to Greg Miller, a spokesman for the Dallas Fuel. Despite every team ostensibly representing a major city, all OWL games up to the present have been played at Blizzard's Arena Los Angeles.
Now, each team will host between two and five weekends of league games throughout the season. Several other teams will fly in, giving attendees the opportunity to see their second- or third-favorite Overwatch teams compete. This structure helps alleviate travel stress and provide more inter-season interaction, according to Miller.
In May, Dallas was among the first teams to test hosting matches in other cities with the Homestand Weekend. The festival-style sports event enticed over 4,000 fans and spectators to the Allen Event Center on each of its two days, which the Fuel considered a huge success.
Dallas will host five weekend matches across the OWL's 28-week schedule next year, the most any one team is allowed. That means Fuel fans can catch 10 games live in North Texas. Since the dates for matches have yet to be released by Blizzard, Miller said the Fuel is still scouting potential venues.
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In addition, the OWL announced a new structure that might look familiar to fans of traditional sports. The 28 teams will be split first into two conferences, Pacific and Atlantic, that are both further split into two divisions. The Dallas Fuel fell under the Western Division of the Pacific Conference, along with the LA Gladiators, LA Valiant, San Francisco Spark and Vancouver Titans.
Missing from this list is Texas' other competitive Overwatch team, the Houston Outlaws. The friendly friction between them and the Fuel was a highlight of the Homestand Weekend, so it's disappointing to see that budding rivalry nipped by Blizzard's new structure.
“It is tough not having them in our conference from a pure rivalry standpoint," said Miller. "But for fans, it’ll make when we play inter-conference that much more exciting. Given the history between our organizations, those will be some of the most high-energy games.”
The full Dallas Fuel operation will be relocating to Dallas later in the fall. Their existing space in Victory Park will be expanded to facilitate practicing, production and everything else involved in supporting the players. As for a permanent space, Miller said that's a long-term goal. For now, the Fuel is excited to finally be coming home.