Today the Overwatch League released the 2020 schedule, allowing for fans to plan ahead for the coming global roadshow. With this schedule release, I worked with stats guy and travel veteran Eric Doerr to provide an immediate analysis and consider a few underappreciated implications.
As a rough back of the envelope estimate, we took distances between airports, applied the 2020 schedule and came up with the below pictured travel chart ranked by fewest miles travelled. Eric had to assume that teams will travel directly site to site unless there is a bye week or travel through their base to next site would add less than 3,000 miles. Furthermore, the open to be determined week 10 games were assumed to be in Los Angeles.
The Atlantic South division owns the top five spots, solely because none of these teams travel to Asia. Washington’s central location and number of hosted Homestands means the Justice get to spend the most time sleeping in their own beds which will probably turn out to be a considerable advantage.
At the other end, Boston’s inclusion near the bottom sticks out, though there is one quick fix to put them in the middle of the pack. They have a July 4th trip to China, and if they stay in Asia rather than returning stateside for their July 11th bye-weekend, their estimated mileage drops to around 55,000 as the Uprising play in Shanghai on July 18th.
And finally, to no one’s surprise, Europe gets screwed over again. Having only two geographically isolated franchises, the continent bears the biggest travel burden. How could the Spitfire and Eternal improve their situation?
With the original Homestand reveal, there was also a stipulation that teams could be based out of a city of their choosing, not limiting them to their franchise city. This was a peculiar inclusion, but the schedule release makes the significance clear. There are a few teams that could significantly benefit in basing outside of their franchise city in 2020.
For instance, Paris and London expect to travel the most if they are based out of Europe next year, but they may be able to reduce travel burden and have better practice by residing on the US east coast. Basing themselves out of Washington, they would cut their estimated travel by 20% and have many scrim partners playing at an equivalent ping.
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Another angle to consider includes the hassles of crossing international borders. The Vancouver Titans play in Canada twice in 2020, but if they decide to extend their lease in Los Angeles or take up residence in Dallas, they will reduce the number of border crossings from 30 to 13 and have more options for direct flights.
The schedule implies the playoffs are dramatically shorter, taking under a week while 2019’s will span a month. Reading between the lines: expect single elim over double elim, fewer playoff teams, no play-in, and little practice time in between rounds.
Fans love the All-Star break, though All-Star players now face an increased cost. This year players complained being named an all-star shortened their break between stage 2 & 3 and minimized their opportunity to travel home. Now All-Stars could face an extra cost of an additional long international flight. The league should consider finding a solution, otherwise agents better add All-Star incentives to their player’s contracts to mitigate these costs. Without all star attendance incentives, fans can expect players to opt out of all-star festivities like many NFL and MLB players.
On a humane note, think of the impact of travel on pets. The cats of stars like Agilities and Custa and the dogs of Gamsu and Saebyeolbe will need caretakers while their owners frequently travel for long stretches of time. Surely free agent decisions will be impacted by 2020’s Homestand schedule, but is provided pet care a potential advantage for free agent recruitment? Perhaps on a more serious note, what about spouses and families? We’ve seen remote head-coaching work in instances like Packing10 who coached his team to an impressive comeback while staying home for a lot of the time taking care of his newborn. The psychological and social aspects of travel are not to be underestimated.
Teams will attend up to 19 Homestands, but Overwatch League production has to cover 2 Homestands over 26 weekends. Let’s say they keep their current rotation of 4 casting duo’s, 2 per Homestand travelling directly site-to-site (best case assumption, they would likely often travel back to their base). Using that assumption, the talent teams would each have to travel a minimum of 50,000 miles; over six months, this would be a taxing amount of travel. It seems reasonable to either expect additions to the rotation, splitting the casting teams up or introducing some remote production, like the non-English OWL streams and Contenders casts.
Overall, the 2020 schedule announcement has many implications, some of them worth thinking it over. What were your first double takes seeing next year’s schedule?