The Overwatch World Cup approaches. For Americans, this means that the whole missing out on the FIFA World Cup thing isn’t really a big deal. (No, it doesn’t! We should still be sad.)
Anyways, there have been plenty of rumors and lots of news about who will represent Team USA, and we’re here to try and put what we know into one location.
Aaron “Aero” Atkins will be Team USA’s HC for this World Cup. Aero has a robust resume, having coached Contenders teams like Fusion University FNRGFE. He’s now the head coach for the Dallas Fuel, and since joining has helped to transition them from a bottom three team into a middle of the pack contender for Stage playoffs.
Aero brings a plethora of knowledge and experience, as well as a clear ability to win at the highest level to Team USA.
There has been no officially announced roster thus far; however, we have learned that Team USA will be holding tryouts for invited players from June 20th to July 5th. These players have already been informed of their invitation as of June 6th.
We don’t know exactly who has been invited, although we have a very good idea thanks to some great reporting on reddit.
The invitees have been split into teams (gangs) and each gang is named after the four presidents on Mount Rushmore.
|Team/Role||Teddy Gang||Thomas Gang||George Gang||Abraham Gang|
|Hitscan DPS||ZachaREEE (Fusion U)||sinatraa (Shock)||babybay (Shock)||Corey (Gladiators Legion)|
|Flex DPS||Danteh (Shock)||Jake (Declined)||Hydration (Gladiators)||silkthread (Gladiators)|
|Off-Tank||space (Valiant)||Gods (Gladiators Legion)||coolmatt (Outlaws)||McGravy (Envision)|
|Main Tank||Muma (Outlaws)||FCTFCTN? (Outlaws)||super? (Shock)||Beasthalo (Fusion U)|
|Main Support||Elk (Fusion U)||Adam (XL2 Academy)||Moth? (Shock)||–|
|Flex Support||sleepy (Shock)||–||Rawkus? (Outlaws)||Goliath (XL2 Academy)|
These teams are not going to play in an elimination-style tournament, but are instead organized into these squads to show their talent as individuals and as a part of a team. As they are evaluated, players will be picked from each squad as Aero and the committee reduces the pack to 12. The 21 players we know so far are a good mix of high profile OWL and Contenders stars.
OWL Tempered Players
Some of the names on these rosters should be familiar to fans of the OWL. They may all represent the stars and stripes, but during the season their talents are spread out among the teams. Oddly, most of the talent can be found on three specific teams. The Outlaws and Shock share the most American pros (4 and 6 respectively,) while the Gladiators and Valiant each have a smattering of American talent (3 and 1).
USA by the Bay
Let’s start with the Shock. Sleepy, Moth, Danteh, sinatraa, super, and BABYBAY all have a shot at making Team USA. For any people familiar with my work you may find it surprising(/s) that I’m not much of a Shock fan. I think their fanbase is great, and that they are full of talent, but something about the way they play the game always turns me away. Hopefully, this is just a product of the organization (sorry) because if a decent portion of Team USA is made of the Shock players it will be hard for me to get behind them. The talent is there, but the results have been average at best for these players as a team. I will say that the Shock DPS have great potential, and paired with an impressive tank duo (foreshadowing the next paragraph) they could end up with a winning combination.
— BABYBAY (@KING_BABYBAY) June 9, 2018
Them Texas Boys
If the Shock players make for an average (C grade) team in the OWL, then the Houston Outlaws make for a B roster. Rawkus, Coolmatt, Muma, and FCTFCTN (pronounced FactFiction) make up a decent portion of the Houston based team’s roster. These four have a great chance at making the roster, and I could almost see an all Shock/Outlaws final roster with Danteh/sinatraa playing DPS, Muma/Coolmatt at Tank, and Rawkus/Sleepy in the support roles.
The City of Angels
Space is the lone American on the Los Angeles Valiant. He may play most of his time coming off the bench, but the guy is an incredible asset to have.
Hydration and Silkthread make up 2 of the 3 DPS players on the Los Angeles Gladiators. This duo is another to rival Danteh/sinatraa, and could definitely find themselves as part of that final 12 man roster.
McGravy has been playing for Envision for some time, but only recently transitioned from flex DPS to off-tank, where he’s been doing quite well. Elk, ZachaREEE, and Beasthalo are members of the Fusion University team, which gives them chemistry with Team USA HC Aero. Corey and Gods have been playing for the Gladiators Legion. This Gladiators affiliate lost to Team Optic in the NA Playoffs back in April, but they’ve shown that they’re a team to be reckoned with. Finally, Goliath and Adam have been playing for the NYXL affiliated XL2 Academy team. XL2 may not have the chops there big brother NYXL does, but they’re also not half of team South Korea either.
Given this list, it’s clear that Aero expects to find World Cup-level talent from outside OWL, as well as from within. If you’ve only followed the League itself, some of the Contenders players may seem unfamiliar. Many of these players are too young to play for the OWL, but have the chance to show their stuff here – a chance Aero is happy to give them, given the precedent set by other underaged stars like team South Korea’s Yeon-oh “Fl0w3R” Hwang.
Fl0w3r current plays for XL2, NYXL’s Academy team- but only because he isn’t of age. The DPS superstar has been hailed as one of the greatest talents Overwatch has ever seen and was a member of South Korea’s World Cup team last year as they brushed team USA aside on their way to a second straight title. Examples like this make it easy to see why Aero is making it a point to scout talent from all sources, regardless of age.
Last year South Korea won the Cup, with Canada coming in 2nd, Sweden in 3rd, and France in 4th. USA finished 8th- out of 8. The starting 6 of USA were familiar to any who’ve been watching the OWL or Contenders; sinatraa, JAKE, coolmatt, FCTFCTN, Adam, and Rawkus. These 6 have been invited again, and may just make up a decent portion of the final 12.
Let’s talk about Team USA’s chances. As anyone knowledgeable on esports in general knows, South Korea will almost always be seen as a favorite to win any competition before it starts. This may not be fair to every team involved, but there’s a lot of factual evidence to support the assumption. South Korea has supported professional esports longer than any other country, and Korean players are often perceived similarly to the way American traditional sports athletes are, if not better.
If you look at where Team USA finished last year, the amount of possible returning players, and when you consider the same assumption for the other countries, I think one can come up with a pretty decent assessment as to where Team USA will finish…Somewhere in the top quarter of the pack. USA has a good chance to qualify for the top 8 again. After that, it’s a bit of a toss-up. Take last year’s top 8, for instance. We’ve already explored the top 4, but 5-8 were the United Kingdom, Australia, China, and USA respectively.
USA has a great chance of making the top 8 again, as their group contains Canada, Austria, Brazil, Switzerland, and Norway. Apart from Canada, the USA shouldn’t have too much trouble in the group, giving themselves a good chance at qualifying for the top 8. To be honest, apart from maybe seeing another couple of Scandinavian teams (Denmark/Finland), I think this year’s top 8 should be assessed to be very similar to last years. The groups set it up well for South Korea, Canada, Sweden, and USA to have a great chance to advance.
Will We Win?
Assuming that USA qualifies for the Top 8, they should have enough skill and experience to finish up pretty well. Sweden and South Korea should retain many of the same players from last year, and will probably find themselves in the top 4 again. France and Canada should again make it to the top 8, from there it is really a toss-up. China may have a harder time, the OWL has shown that a full Chinese team doesn’t equate to success against teams of split nationalities, and that could very well translate to a poor showing against national teams. They have enough skill to make it to the top 8 but it’s not exactly a question of their skill but whether it translates to the big stage.
Ultimately, this year’s Team USA should be happy with a Top 8 finish. Making it further than that, though… we’ll see.