The Overwatch League's 2020 schedule will feature matches in local venues. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press)

The Overwatch League will kick off its all-important 2020 season Feb. 8, with two sets of matches in New York and Dallas. The schedule release, announced Tuesday, unveiled the road map that will direct its first season of competitions played entirely at local venues instead of at Blizzard Arena, its home for nearly all matches the past two years. Its success with such a model could redefine how esports leagues operate and will carry significant economic implications for the new Call of Duty league that also will follow the Overwatch League’s local franchise format.

As such there is significance in the decision to begin the schedule in New York and Dallas. The former is the largest U.S. market in the league’s global footprint, while the latter successfully launched the league’s homestand weekend trial in 2019, selling out consecutive days of matches in a 4,500-seat venue in late April.

The schedule release also answered the question of how the league would stagger matches to accommodate its audience watching via streams or traditional broadcasts. The opening weekend will feature matches at 1, 3, 5 and 7 p.m. Eastern time both Saturday and Sunday, eliminating potential overlap. The viewing experience won’t always be so seamless, however, as Week 2 will see matches hosted in Shanghai at 4 and 6 a.m. Eastern time, while two more in Philadelphia will be held at 4 and 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

With the league taking its next step into its goal of a true home-visitor format with a balanced schedule, this season will feature three teams that will host five homestands, while some have as few as two. The Dallas Fuel, Washington Justice and the China-based Guangzhou Charge will play host most often in 2020. Washington’s first homestand will be Week 3, Feb. 22-23. The Justice will hold its first matches at The Anthem, in Washington, D.C., facing the Paris Eternal on the 22nd, and the London Spitfire on the 23rd. The New York Excelsior, Philadelphia Fusion, Toronto Defiant and Houston Outlaws will also be on hand that weekend.

Washington’s four other homestands will be held March 7-8 and April 4-5 at the Anthem and May 30-31 and June 20-21 at D.C.'s new Entertainment Sports Arena.

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