**DO NOT PUB** Overwatch League releases 2021 season schedule: 6 games to look forward to

The Overwatch League released its 2021 season schedule Saturday as the league parent company Activision Blizzard wrapped up its annual "BlizzCon" event ("BlizzConline" this year). 

All 20 teams will play 16 regular season matches, and since not all teams will be operating out of their home cities due to pandemic restrictions, teams will be divided into two groups based on their location for the season: East and West.

The East includes the eight teams competing in China and South Korea: the Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge, Hangzhou Spark, Los Angeles Valiant, New York Excelsior (Korea), Philadelphia Fusion (Korea), Shanghai Dragons, and Seoul Dynasty.

The West contains twelve teams playing in Europe and North America: the Atlanta Reign, Boston Uprising, Dallas Fuel, Florida Mayhem, Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, Los Angeles Gladiators, Paris Eternal, San Francisco Shock, Vancouver Titans, Toronto Defiant, and Washington Justice.

The results of each quarter of the season will determine seeding for the four in-season tournaments: May Melee, June Joust, Summer Showdown, and Countdown Cup.

Even though the regular season won't start until April 16, here are six matches we're looking forward to in 2021 (all matches available on YouTube). 

Overwatch League matches to watch in 2021

SF Shock vs. LA Gladiators – Week 1

The Shock's quest for a three-peat begins against the Gladiators in the nightcap of the season's first day. The schedule-makers knew what they were doing by pitting LA's prized offseason free-agent acquisition, Grant "moth" Espe, against his former team in Week 1. Departures are nothing new for a Shock team that almost surely will be in contention for a third straight championship. 

Dallas Fuel vs. Houston Outlaws – Week 1

The Battle for Texas kicks off the 2021 season. Houston's Jacob "JAKE" Lyon debuts as the league’s first-ever player-coach after becoming beloved by the fanbase as an analyst on the league's broadcast team last year. Prior to his stint behind the microphone, he'd been on the Outlaws for OWL's first two seasons. The Fuel turned over its entire roster in an effort to meet high expectations from their fanbase. 

NY Excelsior vs. Philadelphia Fusion – Week 6

These pair of East Coast clubs take their regional rivalry abroad in 2021. Both teams made are coming off playoff appearances, as Execlsior was the West's No. 3 seed, while Philadelphia advanced to the Grand Finals last season, but didn't win a single map on the big stage. 

The fourth season of the Overwatch League kicks of f April 16. (Photo: Overwatch League)

Seoul Dynasty vs. Shanghai Dragons – Week 7

The Dragons, of 0-40 fame during the league's first season (the losing streak stopped at 42) have only improved since. Shanghai had the best overall record in 2020 and came within a match of reaching the final, but fell to the Dynasty in the playoffs’ semifinals last season. The Dragons have Byung-sun "Fleta" Kim is the league’s reigning MVP. Meanwhile, Seoul is the team who knocked the Dragons out last year and claimed their spot in the Final before losing to San Francisco. 

Toronto Defiant vs. Vancouver Titans – Week 11

This cross-Canada conflict will take place as the playoff push heats up. Likely to be jockeying for position in the standings, this matchup could have eventual postseason implications.

Washington Justice vs. Atlanta Reign – Week 12

After being one of the worst regular-season teams the last two seasons, the Justice made a deep run in the 2020 playoffs (all teams advanced) sbefore the Shock ousted them. The Reign were a playoff team in 2019 and despite finishing 12th in the 2020 standings, they had the eight-best map differential. 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

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