OWL Playoff Picture Explained
The days remaining in the 2021 Overwatch League season are rapidly dwindling. Two weeks of regular-season action and one final tournament are all that remain before the league launches into playoffs. So little time is left, yet so much of the OWL playoff picture is still to be determined.
Per the league’s playoff structure, five teams will earn direct berths into the eight-team double-elimination bracket that will play out live in Arlington, Texas in September. Three of those slots are still very much up in the air, and the competition is fierce in both regions. With that in mind, we’ve detailed the important races down the stretch, and all the crucial matchups that will decide each team’s fate.
A Barfight Brewing in the West
The Fuel have already locked up the first seed for the region, but that still leaves two spots up for grabs. The stakes are high: the West’s second and third seeds avoid the dangerous single-elimination play-in that will determine the region’s last two playoff teams. Four teams still have a realistic shot here – sorry, Washington, you shot yourself in the foot by failing to win a map last week.
Three teams are currently at 10 Points: Atlanta, Houston, and San Francisco. The Reign have arguably been the best of those squads this year, representing the West twice in Hawaii. Unfortunately for Atlanta, those appearances only earned them a single point, and a 1-3 start to the season put them behind the 8-ball.
Also working against the Reign is the league’s tiebreaker structure this year. If teams are tied in points, their regular-season record is the first tiebreaker, followed by Map Differential, and then head to head record. Because one of their points comes from tournament performance, they’ll likely need to finish with more points than their competition to earn a playoff berth. Their match against Dallas this week will be telling. If they can’t find a win there, they’ll probably need another fruitful trip to Hawaii to avoid the play-ins.
The Gladiators find themselves in a similar situation to the Reign, just without the luxury of the extra point from tournament showings. Their map differential (+15) suggests an excellent team, but they’ve been unable to put it all together. At this point, they’ll have to prove themselves either by going 2-0 against Florida and Houston or by making a deep run in the Countdown Cup, maybe both.
Both the Outlaws and Shock have been impressively consistent this year, despite their issues. Their highs have been excellent, and they’ve avoided the lows that have plagued the other teams here. As the season comes to a close, they’ve earned pole position for the final stretch.
San Francisco, in particular, should be a lock here. Matches against Vancouver and Toronto ought to be easy wins. If they take care of business, it would take two teams behind them earning points in the Countdown Cup to steal their spot.
For Houston, much rides on their match against the Gladiators. Assuming Florida doesn’t have a huge upset in them, a win over LA will give Houston a great shot at the last slot.
Must-See Matches: Reign vs Fuel (Aug 8th), Gladiators vs Outlaws (Aug 14th)
Hunters Poised to Pounce in the East
The Dragons had already secured the East’s first seed before the Countdown Cup even began, but the all-important second seed is still undetermined. Three contenders, Chengdu, Philadelphia, and Seoul, could come away with the coveted prize.
As of right now, the Hunters have the clearest route. Their runner-up finish in the Summer Showdown earned them two big points and papered over an up-and-down regular season. They still have four games left against the bottom four teams in the East. With a Hero Pool that favors their preferred style, the expectation is they go 4-0 and set themselves up for another deep tournament run.
The longshot of the trio is Philadelphia. They’re tied with the Hunters in points at the moment but have just two more matches. If they can take care of NYXL (not guaranteed by any means), it sets up a big showdown with Seoul. A win there could tie them with the Dynasty and keep the Fusion within striking distance of Chengdu heading into the Countdown Cup Knockouts.
So much of this race hinges on how Seoul performs this week. Not only do they have that date with the Fusion, but they also have the chance to keep the Dragons out of the Countdown Cup entirely if they can knock off a Shanghai team that looked shaky last week. If that happens, we could very easily see the East’s second seed come down to whichever team goes furthest in the Countdown Cup.
Must-See Matches: Dynasty vs Dragons (Aug 7th), Dynasty vs Fusion (Aug 8th)
Two Teams Limp Into Play-Ins
As the season comes to a close, the race for the final play-ins spot in both regions comes down to two teams. In the West, that’s the Mayhem and the Defiant. Despite a hot start to the season, things have fallen apart in Florida with Seunghoon “CHECKMATE” Baek replacing Minseok “OGE” Son at main tank to disastrous results.
As a result, Toronto has gained the edge as they fight down the stretch. Their one-point lead is really more like two because the Mayhem earned a bonus point from the May Melee and neither team is likely to earn any more tournament points. Four games remain for both teams, but Florida has the tougher schedule. They’ll have to pull off multiple upsets and hope for a Defiant flop to make up that ground.
Over in the East, Hangzhou and New York are tied at 7 points each and just three maps separating them on the season. Truthfully, this feels like the Spark’s to lose at this point. They have the map differential advantage and the easier remaining schedule thanks to a matchup with Guangzhou to close the season.
NYXL have the chance to put some pressure on the Spark if they can pull off an upset over either Philadelphia or Chengdu this weekend. They’ve been good for some surprising results this season, but both opponents have been on a tear recently. This young team is probably going to fall short in the end, but they’ve shown promise in a rebuilding year.
Must-See Matches: Defiant vs Spitfire (Aug 6th), Mayhem vs Uprising (Aug 8th), NYXL vs Fusion (Aug 7th), Spark vs Charge (Aug 14th)
These crucial matchups and more can be seen starting August 6th at 3 PM ET on the OWL Youtube channel.