The Call of Duty League, Activision’s own competitive league for their popular franchise, is returning for its 2021 season today. Taking place entirely online, the league’s official season kicks off this weekend, with 12 teams competing across various phases called “stages” that will conclude in Majors at the end of each before culminating in a tournament for the grand prize.
If the structure sounds familiar, it’s because it’s heavily based on the Overwatch League, which Activision also owns and launched for that game in 2018 to much success. While Call of Duty has had professional leagues in the past, the COD League represents Activision’s approach to owning the scene themselves, and marks a firm choice to consolidate things under one umbrella and grow it as much as they can internally.
This season, the COD League will be played on the latest title, Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War and on PC. In a change from its inaugural season, games will be played 4v4 instead of 5v5, to allow for easier to follow action and tighter games.
In the offseason, Optic Gaming’s slot in CDL was purchased by 100 Thieves, a gaming organization founded and owned by former Optic Gaming member, Matthew “Nadeshot” Haag. The Chicago Huntsmen, another team in the league, rebranded to Optic Chicago though, keeping the name and brand alive in the professional scene it used to run.
The CDL, much like the Overwatch League before it, will air exclusively on YouTube Gaming.