Overwatch returns to Burbank’s Blizzard Arena this weekend, filling a void left by the end of Overwatch League Season 1. From September 7-9, six teams will be competing to take their country to Blizzcon in November. All of them are looking for their ticket to fight for the World Cup trophy, but which ones will make it?
America’s team is a powerhouse with both new and experienced talent. Sinatraa (DPS) and Rawkus (Support) were a part of World Cup 2017 and know how to topple qualifiers, having taken first place last year in Santa Monica. They’ve added newcomers in the form of their fellow Overwatch League players; Muma and Space (Tank), Hydration (DPS), Moth (Support) and Zacharee, a top Contenders DPS talent, have all joined the ranks of Team USA. With this lineup, they’re expected to dominate once again. Keep an eye on the tank line; Muma and Space are at the top of their game.
While Team USA is packing its roster full of new faces, Team Canada seems to be sticking to what works. Four of seven players are returning from the 2017 games in their prior roles, including XQC (Tank), and Mangachu (Flex DPS). New additions include Crimzo (Support) from Contenders, Bani (Support) from the Houston Outlaws, and flex tank NotE from the Boston Uprising. Watch out for the dangerous DPS duo of Agilities and Surefour. While they’re rivals on the LA teams in the Overwatch League, together they have the capability to clutch any game.
This year, South America has a chance to compete for a top spot at qualifiers. The bulk of the Brazil roster comes from Contenders team Brasil Gaming House, which is good for viewers: they’ve dominated the South American Contenders championship two years in a row. Some of last year’s Team Brazil is returning, such as dudu (DPS), liko (DPS), and alemao (Support). Liko and dudu form a powerful DPS team on Brasil Gaming House, and along with alemao’s support, they have a chance to bring down the big boys.
Norway is another team that has held on to a good portion of their 2017 roster and is hoping to topple USA and Canada. They were beaten out in the 2017 Shanghai qualifiers by China and France, but are hoping for a different outcome this time around. Their chance could come in the form of players who have had Contenders experience, coming from multiple teams with vast experiences. Onigod (DPS, Angry Titans) and Decod (Tank, Last Night’s Leftovers) gave stunning performances on their Contenders teams and could be saviors for Norway.
Austria is running on hope – and not much else. At the 2017 Katowice qualifiers, Team Austria managed to not take any maps off of their opponents. This year, much of the team has been wiped to start fresh. Returning members include tanks Sensotix and wat7. New addition MrDragonLol (DPS), besides having a great name, is the only member to have recently been on a Contenders level team. Hopefully their changes work out for the best.
Of all the teams in the LA Qualifiers, Switzerland has the chance to be a real wild card. The country hasn’t been represented in the Overwatch World Cup since 2016, when they won zero maps in the qualifiers. Their core roster includes four players from Silent Gaming, most of whom boast top 500 EU placements. For Switzerland, this round is a chance for both redemption and an opportunity to show off their players to other markets.
Matches: Watch or Skip?
Let’s be real: sometimes, you don’t have the time – or patience – to catch every game in a packed World Cup Qualifier. To help you out, here’s my list of what to skip, what to watch, and what can’t be missed.
Friday, September 7
- SKIP: Austria vs. Canada (10AM PST)
- Easy 4-0 for Canada. Sleep in.
- SKIP: Norway vs. Switzerland (11:45AM PST)
- Might be worth watching if you want to see what Switzerland is made of on LAN, but otherwise, should be easy for Norway.
- WATCH: Canada vs. Brazil (1:30PM PST)
- Both Canada and Brazil have DPS duos that run through their opposition, so seeing them go head to head will be exciting, if not full of clutch plays.
- SKIP: Austria vs. United States (3:15PM PST)
- Sorry, Austria – USA should be able to take this one easily.
- MATCH OF THE DAY: Norway vs. Brazil (5:00PM PST)
- This match would show viewers which team has an actual chance to overthrow Canada and USA, and every map counts for either team. Will Brazil’s cohesive team or Norway’s mix of high-skill players win out?
Saturday, September 8
- SKIP? Switzerland vs. Austria (10AM PST)
- Could be worth catching just to see how both Austria and Switzerland come back from previous zero-map World Cup performances, but if you want the good stuff, keep sleeping.
- MATCH OF THE DAY: Brazil vs. United States (11:45AM PST)
- I know, it’s early, but worth it. This will be Brazil’s first chance to take on one of the two top teams of this qualifying round. If they can show promise here, it might make for a great underdog story.
- WATCH: Norway vs. Canada (1:30PM PST)
- Much like the previous match, this is a chance for a strong team to take on the expected champions. If Norway manages to make Canada nervous, it can show promise for them as well.
- SKIP: United States vs. Switzerland (3:15PM PST)
- Should be an easy match for USA, unless they lose to Brazil earlier in the day – unlikely, but could shake their confidence.
- SKIP: Brazil vs. Austria (5:00PM PST)
- An easy match for Brazil, barring any wild events.
Sunday, September 9
- SKIP: Norway vs. Austria (10AM PST)
- Save your hype for later games. Unless Norway needs the map count, this should be a simple match.
- SKIP: Canada vs. Switzerland (11:45AM PST)
- Again, unless Canada is hurting for map counts, this should be easy for them.
- WATCH: Norway vs. United States (1:30PM PST)
- Norway’s chance to take on the USA will be interesting to say the least, with multiple Contenders members facing off against each other.
- SKIP…OR WATCH?: Switzerland vs. Brazil (3:15 PST)
- A mixed bag depending on how the weekend is going. If Brazil manages to beat either the US or Canada, they could use these last-minute maps to pull an upset. If they don’t, it’s a match for pride.
- MATCH OF THE DAY/WEEKEND: United States vs. Canada (5:00PM PST)
- Easily the most anticipated match of the entire qualifier, and it’s prime time, last day. This match could mean everything if either of these teams were toppled by Norway or Brazil earlier in the weekend. It could be a ruthless fight for a Blizzcon spot. Even if it isn’t, seeing these two teams go head to head is always a guarantee of a great match. Get pizza and get ready for a 5-map throwdown.
As far as who will make it to Blizzcon, my predictions are unfortunately pretty boring. Historically, Team USA and Team Canada have been unbeatable monsters in their qualifiers, only being taken down on the Blizzcon stage. In 2017, Team USA was the first to take a map from South Korea, long considered an untouchable behemoth. This year, they’ve combined young, new talents with experienced players and are looking to repeat their successes. USA’s tank line in particular has the capability to single-handedly carry them to Blizzcon – Space and Muma have clutched for their own teams more than those teams would like to admit. I have no doubt they’ll be at the top of this qualifier.
Team Canada is another massively successful team, taking 2nd place at last year’s World Cup, falling 1-4 to South Korea. They made their way to the finals by taking down multiple talented teams (Australia, Sweden) in close, 5-map matches. Considering much of the roster is the same, they’re well-equipped to repeat this success. Surefour and Agilities are terrifying damage dealers on their own; combined, they have the skills to take down support lines everywhere. Main tank XQC has his own infamous history, but when backed up by NotE’s offtank skills, he should be able to perform. The support line is questionable; Bani had a mediocre showing on the Outlaws and Crimzo is a new face to Team Canada. However, they may not have to do much if everyone on the other team is already dead from a Surefour headshot. It’ll be enough to take them to Blizzcon.
But There’s A Catch
Isn’t there always? Brazil and Norway are also two incredibly talented teams. Brazil, in particular, should be giving USA and Canada some pause. Brasil Gaming House has dominated the South American Contenders circuit for two seasons in a row, toppling their opponents with multiple 4-0 showings. The meta in Brazil differs from what is expected in North America. Their keys to success here may be in either out-damaging or outsmarting Team Canada and swiping their spot to Blizzcon.
While Surefour and Agilities are both talented, they’re mostly specialists; Surefour has spent 44% of his Overwatch League career playing Widowmaker. Even if Mangachu is subbed in, should Brazil’s DPS line kill them quickly — and then overpower their supports — Canada might be left to the mercy of the South American Champions. At best, Brazil could be an underdog hero. Even at worst, they will be a thorn in the side of the expected champions this Qualifier.