What can $25 million dollars buy you? A few dozen Ferraris? A couple of mansions in Beverly Hills? Or just one franchise spot in the new Call of Duty League.
The CDL is the first Call of Duty competition to have city-based franchises after the series’ publishers Activision Blizzard decided to bring it in line with another of its esports titles, Overwatch. The league has seen some big investors from the worlds of entertainment and traditional sports, as well as existing esports organisations, setting up their own CoD teams in cities across North America and Europe.
It has, however, seen a number of recognisable teams from the last few years of competitive CoD being either rebranded, like OpTic Gaming, or priced out of the league with the huge cost of the buy-in, such as 100 Thieves. The league has also been subject to a number of changes to its format and scheduling since it was first announced leaving many fans confused. One thing that has stayed the same since the first announcement, however, is the prize pool: A cool $6 million.
But who are the twelve teams, what are their rosters looking like, and what is the format and schedule for the all new Call of Duty League?
Which teams are in the Call of Duty League?
There are 12 city-based franchises in the Call of Duty League. They represent 11 different cities across North America and Europe.
The confirmed Call of Duty franchise cities are:
- Atlanta FaZe
- Chicago Huntsmen
- Dallas Empire
- Florida Mutineers
- London Royal Ravens
- Los Angeles Guerrillas
- OpTic Gaming Los Angeles
- Minnesota Rokkr
- New York Subliners
- Paris Legion
- Seattle Surge
- Toronto Ultra
So let’s meet them, your twelve Call of Duty Global Series teams, and have a look at their shiny new rosters.
Thanks to some sneaky co-ownership and co-partnering and co-coing, FaZe Clan have managed to keep their brand alive and kicking in Call of Duty esports in the franchise era. Although FaZe don’t technically own the spot, their partnership with Atlanta Esports Ventures, who also own the Atlanta Reign Overwatch team, means that famous name and logo will be seen on CoD players’ jerseys once more.
Atlanta FaZe has assembled one of the youngest rosters in the league, with the oldest members of the team being just 21. However, it’s brimming with exciting talent, most notably 18-year-old Chris ‘Simp’ Lehr, who was a member of the eUnited roster that won last year’s world championship and was voted Console Rookie of the Year at the 2019 Esports Awards.
Atlanta FaZe CDL roster:
- JurNii (SUB)
- GRVTY (SUB)
If you want to back the CDL team with the most experience and titles, this is it. The roster that Chicago Huntsmen has put together is pretty mind blowing and has a combined 56 major titles between them.
Former world champions Seth ‘Scump’ Abner and Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper are reunited and will be hoping to spark the same fires that saw them dominate together at OpTic Gaming. With the addition of Alec ‘Arcitys’ Sanderson, who was one of the key players in eUnited’s world championship win last season, then you’ve got a pretty good base. Along with young talent in Dylan ‘Envoy’ Hannon and a reliable pair of hands in Pierce ‘Gunless’ Hillman, they are one of the favourites to win the 2020 CDL.
The Huntsmen also has another Call of Duty legend in their midst. The team’s spot is owned by esports organisation NRG, which in 2019 recruited former OpTic Gaming founder Hector ‘Hecz’ Rodriguez as a co-CEO. He will play an integral role in making Chicago a force to be reckoned with.
Chicago Huntsmen CDL roster:
- MBoZe (SUB)
- General (SUB)
Dallas Empire, who are owned by esports organisation Team Envy, has built a roster of two extremes. At one end is a host of extremely young players, some of who are unproven in top tier Call of Duty, but have immense potential. And at the other are two of the most experienced players in the world, including the winningest player in Call of Duty history.
26-year-old Ian ‘Crimsix’ Porter – who has now rebranded his in-game name to just ‘C6’ – has a record-breaking 32 majors to his name after an illustrious career at OpTic Gaming. He steers the ship alongside 27-year-old James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks, who broke a duck of going over 1,400 days without a major win last year when he won the world championships with eUnited. The pair are two of the oldest players in the CDL but come with heaps of title-winning experience.
But what is experience without a little youth thrown in? The owners of the Dallas spot, Team Envy, retain one of its most promising prospects of 2019 in Cuyler ‘Huke’ Garland, who is widely tipped to make a big impression this year. Teenagers Indervir ‘ILLeY’ Dhaliwal and Anthony ‘Shotzzy’ Cuevas-Castro are unproven, but have both shown promise in early scrims.
Dallas Empire CDL roster:
- C6 (formerly Crimsix)
- Tommey (SUB)
- Tisch (SUB)
Florida is desperate to become one of the next big esports hotbeds, and with Mutineers owners Misfits Gaming also having an Overwatch League team in the Florida Mayhem, it looks like it could soon be.
The Mutineers come into the inaugural CDL season with a roster that is all about balance. The only real star name is Preston ‘Prestinni’ Sanderson who alongside his brother, Chicago Hunstmen’s Arcitys, won the world championships with eUnited in 2019.
While the roster may lack standout names, it includes a number of consistent and dependable players such Chance ‘Maux’ Moncivaez. To add to the balance, all members of the team are aged between 20 and 22. This is a group of players either already in or about to hit their prime. No rusty veterans or unproved youngsters here. It’s a gamble-free approach, and one that could serve the Mutineers well.
Florida Mutineers CDL roster:
- MaNiaC (SUB)
London Royal Ravens
London played host to one of the most exciting and memorable Call of Duty majors ever in 2019, and fans in Britain and all across the world were hoping that someone would buy up a franchise spot for the UK.
Their prayers were answered when ReKt, the company behind Rogue Esports, announced that London Royal Ravens would be one of the 12 teams in the CDL and one of just two that are outside of North America.
The roster is aptly filled out with the best British and Irish talent around. While the storyline of twin brothers Matthew ‘Skrapz’ Marshall and Bradley ‘Wuskin’ Marshall being reunited to compete together once more is what most people gravitate to, let’s not forget that Dylan ‘Dylan’ Henderson was the driving force behind last year’s massively over-achieving Team Reciprocity and was consistently one of the highest performing pros of 2019.
Many of these players have competed alongside each other for other teams in the past, so there is also a lot of existing chemistry between them. The Royal Ravens look like they’ve got what it takes to take on the big boys across the pond.
London Royal Ravens CDL roster:
- Seany (SUB)
- MadCat (SUB)
OpTic Gaming LA
It’s the most recognisable and iconic name in Call of Duty esports. Yes, they may have somewhat lost their identity by losing long serving players Scump, Crimsix, and Karma, as well as their founding father Hecz, but OpTic will still be a force to be reckoned with.
LA OpTic retains the two youngest members of last year’s roster with Thomas ‘TJHaly’ Haly and Brandon ‘Dashy’ Otell staying in green and white. They’re joined by two members of the impressive 100 Thieves team that scooped two majors last year: Austin ‘SlasheR’ Liddicoat and Kenny ‘Kuavo’ Williams.
It’s a very different-looking OpTic to the one that the Green Wall has supported over the last ten years or so, but it’s one that still has potential to be one of the best in the business.
LA OpTic CDL roster:
- Kuavo (formerly Kenny)
- Chino (SUB)
- Goonjar (SUB)
Los Angeles Guerrillas
What’s a league without a city rivalry? The second LA team in the CDL are the Guerrillas, owned by one of the biggest names in, well, any game, the Kroenkes. Not only do they own teams in other esports, such as the LA Gladiators in Overwatch League, they are also giants in traditional sports, owning basketball teams, Premier League football teams, and NFL teams.
They know how to run things, but do they have the players to deliver? The only real standout name in the roster is Patrick ‘ACHES’ Price, a former world champion with Evil Geniuses back in 2018.
He will be the driving force behind a relatively old roster by Call of Duty standards, with an average age of over 23 years. Their lack of youth is a concern in a league flooded with young talent, but could they cause an upset and potentially do a number on their city rivals? Only time will tell.
LA Guerrillas CDL roster:
- Blazt (SUB)
The award for both the most out-there and the most badass franchise name certainly goes to Minnesota Rokkr. Not only has the branding department done a grand job, the Rokkr also has an extremely talented and exciting roster for the first CDL season.
In the ‘experience’ department, two members of Evil Geniuses 2018 world championship-winning roster will now be calling Minnesota their home: Justin ‘SiLLY’ Fargo-Palmer and Adam ‘Assault’ Garcia, the latter of which was the 2018 MVP.
In the ‘youth’ department, the Rokkr have Obaid ‘Asim’ Asim in its arsenal, one of the bright sparks from last year’s admittedly underachieving FaZe Clan roster. It’s a well-balanced and strong team which has real potential and that will likely be towards the top of the CDL table.
Minnesota Rokkr CDL roster:
- TTinyy (SUB)
- Exceed (SUB)
New York Subliners
One of the earliest movers in building a CDL roster were New York Subliners. They acted fast to secure two key members of the 2019 FaZe Clan roster – Trei ‘Zer0’ Morris and Thomas ‘ZooMaa’ Paparatto – and also picked up one of last year’s most outspoken but strongest players in Donovan ‘Temp’ Laroda.
New York is also now home to Evil Geniuses’ dependable duo Lamar ‘Accuracy’ Abedi and Dillon ‘Attach’ Price, the latter of which tasted the glory of becoming a world champion all the way back in 2015 with Denial Esports.
The Big Apple wants to make a big splash in the CDL, and they look to have the roster to do it. If they can get the chemistry flowing between these five experienced and consistent players, they have a recipe for a few tournament wins throughout the season.
New York Subliners CDL roster:
- Censor (SUB)
- Happy (SUB)
One of just two European teams in the Call of Duty League, Paris Legion is not just a go to team for European Call of Duty fans; it’s tapped into the Oceanic market as well.
As well as marquee Frenchman Paul ‘Breszy’ Breszynski and his American teammate from his time at Enigma6 Matthew ‘KiSMET’ Tinsley, Legion has taken on a trio of Australian talent to become the only team in the CDL with players from Oceania.
Interestingly, Paris was the only franchise to reveal all seven players of its entire extended roster in one go.
Their dive into the Australian market and their decision to create a diverse roster spanning three continents, could be a stroke of genius or a poor call. Only time will tell if these players from different corners of the globe manage to gel as one.
Paris Legion CDL roster:
- Phantomz (SUB)
- Breszy (SUB)
When you’ve got the planet’s only three-time world champion on your team, you know you’ve got a chance at winning a title. And when you have two teammates from last year’s immensely successful 100 Thieves roster backing him up, you’ve got an even bigger chance.
Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow and his three championship rings will represent the city of Seattle in the CDL, but this is no one man team. The aforementioned 100 Thieves duo of Ian ‘Enable’ Wyatt and Sam ‘Octane’ Larew provides a foundation of a team that very few can rival.
This roster is a relatively old one, with an average age of over 23 years. But it is virtually all of proven quality. Seattle Surge will surely be a contender to win the first ever CDL season and make it world championship number four for their star man.
Seattle Surge CDL roster:
- Pandur (SUB)
- Proto (SUB)
Toronto Ultra appears to hold great weight in the saying: “Better to be safe than sorry.” In what is the largest roster in the CDL, Ultra has a total of ten players hailing from both North America and Europe.
The elder of the roster, Daniel ‘Loony’ Loza, is a seasoned Call of Duty veteran. Other notable names like Anthony ‘Methodz’ Zinni and Carson ‘Brack’ Newberry stand alongside him, as do the young and exciting Spanish duo of Alejandro ‘Lucky’ López and Adrian ‘MeTTalZ’ Serrano.
It’s a diverse roster, with a great blend of young and old. But with the exception of Loony, there isn’t much in the way of serious winning pedigree. First instincts are that Toronto Ultra is destined for the middle of the league, but if things aren’t going its way it has plenty waiting in the wings to take over. The depth of talent might be enough to push Toronto towards the top.
Toronto Ultra CDL roster:
- Brack (SUB)
- Mayhem (SUB)
- Lucky (SUB)
- Bance (SUB)
- CleanX (SUB)
Who is the favourite to win the Call of Duty League?
With all of last season’s teams disbanding and the city-based franchises picking up the talent they want to build their dream teams, the Call of Duty League starts with something of a clean slate. While the players obviously have previous records, the teams themselves do not.
Related: The best esports teams in the world
There are some clear names, however, who stick out. Chicago Huntsmen are certainly one of those, with its starting roster having 56 major titles between them.
Seattle Surge is also a force to be reckoned with. In its ranks it has the only player in history to win three Call of Duty world championships: Damon ‘Karma’ Barlow.
Then there’s Dallas Empire, who has Ian ‘Crimsix’ Porter, the winningest individual player of all time, and James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks, a Call of Duty esports veteran and leader of last year’s world champions, eUnited.
There are also plenty of bookmakers who are giving odds for an overall CDL winner. One of the leading esports betting companies, Betway, has these teams down as its favourites to become champion.
- Dallas Empire: 7/2
- Atlanta FaZe: 9/2
- Chicago Huntsmen: 6/1
What is the Call of Duty League format?
In simple terms, the first Call of Duty League is a season long points-based league in which five-man teams battle it out to place as high up the league table as possible to give themselves a better chance at the playoffs.
A team’s league position in the regular season league is determined by how many CDL Points each team has earned. Every victory earned at events throughout the regular season will award 10 CDL points.
The regular season will begin with the Launch Weekend, hosted by Minnesota Rokkr, in which all twelve teams will attend and play two matches. From there on in, the rest of the regular season will comprise of Home Series Events, with each of the twelve franchises hosting an event. Each Home Series Event will be its own stand alone tournament and will feature eight of the twelve teams.
The tournaments will split the teams into two groups of four. The two teams in each group that earn two wins progress to the semifinals, and the winners of the two semis face each other in the final. As well as the ten CDL Points awarded for each victory, the winner of a Home Series Event will receive ten bonus points, meaning event winners will achieve a maximum of 50 points (four wins and the ten bonus points).
- 1st Place – 50 CDL Points
- 2nd Place – 30 CDL Points
- 3rd/4th Place – 20 CDL Points
- 5th/6th Place – 10 CDL Points
- 7th/8th Place – 0 CDL Points
At the end of the regular season comes the playoffs, which will be a double-elimination bracket tournament. The top eight teams with the most CDL points from the regular season progress to the playoffs and the top two teams receive a first round bye, meaning they will begin their playoffs in the second round.
The bottom four teams from the regular season will become the four wildcards. They will face each other, and the two winning wildcards will advance to the playoffs. This means that at the conclusion of the regular season, every team still has a chance to reach the playoffs.
As previously mentioned, the ten teams to reach the playoffs then compete in a double-elimination bracket until two teams reach the final. The CDL will conclude with the Championship Weekend, but it’s currently unclear how much of the playoffs will be played across this weekend.
What is the Call of Duty League schedule?
The regular season of the inaugural Call of Duty League begins on January 24 with the Launch Weekend in Minnesota. There will then be 12 Home Series Event weekends in each of the franchise cities, which are at an interval of every one to three weeks. The final Home Series Event will be in Toronto from July 27-28.
There will then follow the Call of Duty League Championship Weekend, but the date hasn’t yet been revealed by Activision Blizzard.
The full lineup of events for the 2020 CDL can be found below. The individual match schedules for these events can be found on the Call of Duty League website.
Call of Duty League schedule:
Jan 24-26 – CDL Launch Weekend in Minnesota
Feb 8-9 – London Royal Ravens Home Series
Feb 22-23 – Atlanta FaZe Home Series
Mar 7-8 – Los Angeles Guerrillas + OpTic Gaming LA Home Series
Mar 28-29 – Dallas Empire Home Series
Apr 4-5 – Chicago Huntsmen Home Series
Apr 11-12 – Florida Mutineers Home Series
Apr 18-19 – Seattle Surge Home Series
May 9-10 – Minnesota Rokkr Home Series
May 16-17 – Paris Legion Home Series
Jun 6-7 – New York Subliners Home Series
Jun 20-21 – London Royal Ravens Home Series
Jun 27-28 – Toronto Ultra Home Series
Date and location TBA – Call of Duty League Championship Weekend
What is the Call of Duty League’s prize pool?
The inaugural Call of Duty League will offer a total prize pool of $6 million (£4.6 million). There is currently no information how the prize pool will be split among events and how much the CDL champions will receive.
Which game modes are played in the Call of Duty League?
The 2020 Call of Duty League will see teams compete in three of Modern Warfare’s game modes: Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, and Domination. Domination makes its return to competitive Call of Duty having not featured for a number of years.
Each best of five series will be structured like so: Hardpoint, Search and Destroy, Domination, Hradpoint, Search and Destroy.
As is usual at competitive esports events, there is a restricted map pool for each mode. There are five available maps for Search and Destroy, five for Hardpoint, and three for Domination. The map pools can be found in the section below.
Which maps are played in the Call of Duty League?
The Call of Duty League has a restricted map pool for its three game modes. There are seven Search and Destroy maps, six Hardpoint maps, and four Domination maps. The full list can be found below.
CDL Search and Destroy maps:
- Arklov Peak
- Gun Runner
- St. Petrograd
CDL Domination maps:
- Gun Runner
- Hackney Yard
- St. Petrograd
CDL Hardpoint maps:
- Azhir Cave
- Gun Runner
- Hackney Yard
- St. Petrograd
Why is there franchising in the Call of Duty League?
The publishers of the Call of Duty games, Activision Blizzard, decided to apply the franchise model to Call of Duty esports to bring it in line with another of its esports titles, Overwatch.
The Overwatch League, which will enter its third season in 2020, saw investors and esports organisations purchase spots in the league, which is overseen by Activision Blizzard, and create city-based teams to compete against each other.
Related: The biggest esports games in the world
This is the same model now used in the Call of Duty League. 12 spots were purchased at a price of $25 million a piece. The 12 teams are based in 11 cities across North America and Europe.
While franchising makes it harder for teams to break into the league as it requires a lot of money upfront and there is no promotion or relegation, it is done to achieve stability and is seen to be a step towards the professionalisation of esports.
The biggest esport on the planet, League of Legends, also uses a franchise model where teams buy spots in a number of regional leagues around the world. However, they are not tied to becoming city-based franchises, and can continue to operate as esports brands.