Here's what you need to know about the Call of Duty League 2021

Call of Duty League 2021
(Image credit: Call of Duty League)

We're just over a week away from a brand new season of the Call of Duty League, where we'll see 12 professional teams battle it out across Call of Duty: Cold War's maps. After a successful first year, the CDL is introducing several changes that should make it even more exciting, competitive, and rewarding for us to watch.

From squads shrinking down to four players, to big personalities hopping over to rival teams, there's a lot to cover. I also had the chance to speak to CDL commissioner Johanna Faries about some of the new changes, and how they'll impact the league this year. Here's everything you need to know about the Call of Duty League before it starts.

CDL 2021 Schedule

(Image credit: Call of Duty League)

When does the Call of Duty League 2021 season start?

The Call of Duty League 2021 will kick off its opening weekend, hosted by Atlanta Faze, from February 11-14. The 2021 season will be split into five stages, with a Major concluding each stage in April, May, June, and July. There are 12 teams to follow this season, and all of them will compete in each Major. So, whether you're returning to cheer on the reigning champs, Dallas Empire, or make some noise for another team, you'll have a chance to watch them at every stage.

You can check out the full schedule on the Call of Duty League website, which displays all match times in your local time zone.

What's new this season?

Majors and CDL Points

 The CDL structure has adapted to make way for its second season, and getting it right was a major focus for CDL commissioner Johanna Faries. In an interview with PC Gamer, Faries outlined how the league has changed in preparation for 2021.

"One thing we took a real hard look at was the structure of the season competitively. We've evolved it to more of a stage-based competitive system, we have five stages in our regular season, they're each going to culminate with a major high stakes tournament at the end of each of those five stages." said Faries. All 12 teams will play each week, and CDL points will be up for grabs in every match. Only the top eight teams will head into the Playoffs, so this season should be packed with nail-biting rounds as teams try to score as many CDL points as possible.

Even the competitive game modes will be slightly different this season. While we'll be seeing more Search & Destroy and Hardpoint matches, we'll be saying goodbye to Domination this year. Instead, Control will be filling the third game mode slot. Naturally, all of these games will unfold on Call of Duty: Black Ops - Cold War's maps in best-of-five matches.

The CDL is now played on PC

In its inaugural season, the COD League was exclusively played on PlayStation 4. However, 2021 sees it coming to PC. Not only does this ensure the experience is as smooth as possible for both players and viewers, it offers players more flexibility when they're choosing a controller. In our interview, Faries noted that "we've seen controller choice enable more engagement, especially in the path to pro system." This means that talented prospective players should find it easier to break into the scene as they can play using a controller they're comfortable with, rather than being limited to just one platform.

While we won't see them using KBM anytime soon, Faries mentioned that the engagement from both the Xbox and PlayStation communities has led to the scene feeling more open than the previous year. Judging by the preseason games viewership stats shared by Stream Hatchet, the CDL is off to a strong start for its 2021 season.

Heading back to a 4v4 format

The COD League introduced a 5v5 format last year, but it looks as though it's returning to a 4v4 setup for 2021. This wasn't a decision that was taken lightly, as Faries outlined in our interview. 

"We were having these open dialogue sessions last season about, [the] pros and cons, and risks and rewards of making such a shift", explained Faries. "And so it was so important to us that we made sure that this wasn't a top-down decision by any stretch—that this was actually coming from the very players who were going to have to take the field".

I know that the players and the teams feel great about it, and the community sentiment we've seen and heard about it has been really, really positive

Johanna Faries

When it came to finding a format that felt best for the players, fans, and the sport in the long-term, 4v4 came out on top. According to Faries, the preseason matches have already shown some of the positives of shrinking teams down, noting not only the "quality of the gameplay, but also the way in which spacing, and strategy can now come forward. Because there's a little bit more breathing room on each of our maps, there's just a different way in which maybe a more casual viewer, or maybe a first time viewer can follow the action." 

Faries went on to say that, "now having seen it in action, we feel even more, edified in the decision. I know that the players and the teams feel great about it, and the community sentiment we've seen and heard about it has been really, really positive".

See more

As expected, this change has had a significant impact on the teams in the run up to the new season. Squad sizes have been reduced, but the league hasn't been expanded to include more teams. Faries is confident that this is better for the scene, though, especially when it comes to shaking up teams and following the rivalries between them.

"Although there have been shifts to the rosters, for obvious reasons, by virtue of that change, we're now seeing so many different faces donning different uniforms than they did last year. Because the very scouting process and the makeup of a team has changed."

Take a player like Clayster as an example. Last year, he won the Championship as part of the Dallas Empire. However, he's poised to take on his former squadmates after transfering to the New Yourk Subliners this season. "Those stories emerge because of modifications like these, where we can continue to keep strong gameplay preserved, and yet also bring forth new reasons to watch, new tension points that make the sport compelling, just as entertainment", explained Faries.

Where to watch

Keep up with the Call of Duty League on YouTube

The CDL had an exclusive partnership with YouTube last season, and that continues in 2021. To avoid missing the live games and extra post-match content, it's a good idea to subscribe to the Call of Duty League YouTube channel. If you missed the Kickoff Classic matches last week, you can also catch up on all the action with this playlist.  

Don't forget to link your account for in-game goodies

As viewers we'll be able to link our accounts to earn Call of Duty: Cold War items as rewards for tuning in, including Emblems, Calling Cards, XP Tokens, Weapon Charms, and more. Similar to Twitch, these drops will be random but it's worth linking your accounts in advance if you're planning to cheer on your favourite team.

Teams & Players

(Image credit: Call of Duty League)

Here are the 12 CDL teams

You may have noticed a few changes to the teams and players involved this year. Several players have switched to other squads in time for the new season, whereas other teams have been entirely replaced. A couple of the franchises have also returned under new names. Chicago Huntsmen has rebranded to form Optic Chicago, and esports giant 100 Thieves has also taken the LA spot, now known as the Los Angeles Thieves.

If you've been struggling to keep up with all the transfers and changes, here are all the CDL teams competing in the 2021 season and their rosters:

Atlanta Faze

  • Alec ‘Arcitys’ Sanderson
  • Chris ‘Simp’ Lehr
  • McArthur ‘Cellium’ Jovel
  • Tyler ‘aBeZy’ Pharris
  • Daunte ‘Sibilants’ Gray (sub)

Dallas Empire

  • Anthony ‘Shotzzy’ Cuevas-Castro
  • Cuyler ‘Huke’ Garland
  • Ian ‘C6’ Porter 
  • Indervir ‘iLLeY’ Dhaliwal
  • Tyler ‘FeLo’ Johnson (sub)

Florida Mutineers

  • Cesar ‘Skyz’ Bueno
  • Colt ‘Havok’ McLendon
  • Joseph ‘Owakening’ Conley
  • Josiah ‘Slacked’ Berry
  • Travis ‘Neptune’ McCloud (sub)

(Image credit: Call of Duty League)

London Royal Ravens

  • Sean ‘Seany’ O’Connor
  • Trei ‘Zer0’ Morris
  • Thomas ‘Dylan’ Henderson
  • Alex ‘Alexx’ Carpenter
  • Marcus 'Afro' Reid (sub)

Los Angeles Guerillas

  • Adam ‘Assault’ Garcia
  • Bryan ‘Apathy’ Zhelyazkov
  • Reece ‘Vivid’ Drost
  • Justin ‘SiLLY’ Fargo-Palmer
  • Martin ‘Chino’ Chino (sub)
  • Billy ‘MentaL’ Putnam (sub)

Los Angeles Thieves

  • Thomas ‘TJHaly’ Haly
  • Austin ‘SlasheR’ Liddicoat
  • Kenny ‘Kenny’ Williams
  • Donovan ‘Temp’ Laroda
  • Zack ‘Drazah’ Jordan (sub)

(Image credit: Call of Duty League)

Minnesota Røkkr

  • Dillon ‘Attach’ Price
  • Lamar ‘Accuracy’ Abedi
  • Michael ‘MajorManiak’ Szymaniak
  • Preston ‘Priestahh’ Greiner

New York Subliners

  • Conor 'Diamondcon' Johst
  • James ‘Clayster’ Eubanks
  • Makenzie ‘Mack’ Kelley
  • Obaid 'Asim' Asim
  • Paco ‘HyDra’ Rusiewiez (sub)

Optic Chicago

  • Brandon ‘Dashy’ Otell
  • Dylan ‘Envoy’ Hannon
  • Matthew ‘FormaL’ Piper
  • Seth ‘Scump’ Abner
  • Jordon ‘General’ General (sub)

(Image credit: Call of Duty League)

Paris Legion

  • Luis ‘Fire’ Rivera
  • Matthew ‘Skrapz’ Marshall
  • Nicholas ‘Classic’ DiCostanzo
  • Ulysses ‘AquA’ Silva

Seattle Surge

  • Daniel ‘Loony’ Loza
  • Sam ‘Octane’ Larew
  • Peirce ‘Gunless’ Hillman
  • Preston ‘Prestinni’ Sanderson

Toronto Ultra

  • Ben ‘Bance‘ Bance
  • Cameron ‘Cammy’ McKilligan
  • Tobias ‘CleanX’ Juul Jønsson
  • Anthony ‘Methodz’ Zinni
  • Jamie ‘Insight’ Craven (sub)
Emma Matthews

As PC Gamer's guides writer, Emma is usually juggling several games at once. She loves competitive first-person shooters like CS:GO and Call of Duty, but she always has time for a few rounds of Hearthstone. She's happiest when she's rescuing pugs in Spelunky 2.