The Overwatch Contenders league will undergo some big changes in 2018, Blizzard announced today, beginning with the addition of two new regions to the action, South America and Australia, bringing the total number to seven. Three of the existing regional leagues will also be renamed to reflect their status as Contenders leagues: Overwatch APEX will become Contenders Korea, the Overwatch Premier Series changes to Contenders China, and the Overwatch Pacific Championship will be known as—you guessed it—Contenders Pacific.
Announced in May, Overwatch Contenders is a "development league" for Blizzard's top-tier Overwatch League. It's a full-on pro league in its own right, with top teams including Envyus, Immortals, and Cloud9 taking part, and a $100,000 prize pool per region, but more importantly it's a showcase for the world's best unsigned players to strut their stuff, and maybe claim a spot on an OWL roster.
The Contenders league will run for three seasons over the course of 2018, with the top six teams from the current tournament series invited to take part. The newly-added leagues will hold their own open online qualifiers to determine who gets in. Contenders isn't region locked, but "online matches will be played on each region’s server," Blizzard said. "As with the Overwatch League, it’s important for us to have the best players in the world competing at every level of competition."
The Overwatch Open will also resume action in January, in the same seven regions as Contenders, will top teams eligible to take part in new Contenders Trials that will be held at the end of each Contenders seasons. Beginning in February, the Trials will see eight teams from each region doing battle in a "promotion-relegation tournament" that could earn them entry into the next season of Contenders. Blizzard said that a more detailed breakdown of the changes coming to the Overwatch Contenders league and Open Division will be revealed in December.