The League Office has made several massive changes to the roster guidelines, including significant changes to contract lengths and guarantees, along with a few rules that are going into practice right now.
Heading into the 2020 postseason, Blizzard wants to ensure all of its teams can continue to compete at the highest level, which means that if a team has a player retire, become unavailable for play due to COVID-19, or elect not to travel to events, they can sign a temporary replacement player.
Those replacement signings will all have expiring contracts that end following the 2020 postseason, meaning all of those players will be eligible free agents heading into 2021. There are also two travel-related rules in place that make a player eligible for signing a replacement contract.
- The free agent must have citizenship for a country in Asia
- The free agent must have an existing visa to travel to countries in Asia
This new signing period goes into effect on Sept. 14, while teams that have been eliminated from the postseason can begin discussing 2021 contracts with expiring players whose team options have not been exercised. The 2021 free agency period will run from Oct. 23 to Nov. 20, with a seven-player roster deadline placed on Nov. 23.
There is currently no listed trade deadline for the 2021 season and players who were born on or before June 30, 2003 are now eligible to compete in the OWL.
As for the contract changes, all teams must have at least seven players signed to season-long contracts by Nov. 23. A maximum of 12 players can be signed to any type of contract throughout the season.
Players can be signed to season-long contracts, which last the entire 2021 season and can also have a team option that can be used to keep that player under contract for the following season too. Three seasons is the maximum contract length allowed, which would include any team option year.
The two types of player contracts for the 2021 season are as follows:
- Season-long contracts: These contracts have a minimum initial term of one season. They may include a unilateral team option to extend the term for one additional season. The maximum term of a season-long contract is three seasons, including any team option year.
- Thirty-day contracts: These can be used to test a player on the main roster, but after 30 days, it expires and that player becomes a free agent again and is free to negotiate with other teams if they are not given a deal.
Season-long contracts are terminable by the team without cause, subject to payment of a buyout fee to be agreed upon by the player and their team. The minimum buyout fee will be equal to the salary owed for either the lesser of 30 days or the number of days remaining in the season, any earned but unpaid bonuses payments, and any earned but unpaid prize money.
Two-way players have also been reworked, as there is no limit to the number of players who may be designated as two-way players at any given time for an organization. Two-way players on teams with no academy team affiliate can also participate in Contenders competitions.
Players who are signed to two-way contracts will still receive pay and benefits according to their contracts even when competing in Contenders, which will be required to at least meet the OWL minimum salary at all times.
Any two-way player that does not play in five consecutive Overwatch League matches for their team over a minimum of three consecutive weeks will be eligible to participate in Contenders or other non-league Overwatch esports competitions licensed by Blizzard.
Teams without academy team affiliates may agree to player loan agreements with a Contenders team, though each loan must be approved by the League Office. And up to four two-way players may compete together on the same Contenders team roster in any given Contenders match.