A surprise announcement from Ubisoft today gave us our first look at the 2021 Season in the North American League, as they announced a drastic change in format from the 2020 season.
The change sees the US and Canadian Divisions merge into one tournament for the year. However, little to no details have been given to how this will work and which teams will retain their spots in the new league.
We have made the decision to merge the Canada and US Divisions into one, unified North American Division...
We are actively working with the four Canada Division teams about next steps to transition to the North American League...
In addition, we are also pleased to announce that the Canadian Challenger League and US Challenger league will merge into a single, unified Challenger league.
This comes after a widely criticized debut season for the new format saw players and teams complain about lack of games and coverage. This led to the US Division ending the year with just six teams from the initially planned total of 10, with the USD format specifically criticized by eUnited after they left the scene:
The merging of the divisions now means there will be just one top-tier and one Challenger League tournament in the North American region as we saw back under the Pro League format. This is likely to streamline the competitions and to ensure all games are covered throughout the year.
The announcement that the Canadian Division teams -- LiViD, NordiK, Altiora, and Mirage -- are in talks with Ubisoft about transitioning to the new combined NAL implies that Ubisoft aims for these teams to replace the recently departed US Division organisations to create the 10-team pro-tier league that was initially announced at the last Six Invitational.
The Challenger League, meanwhile, likely won't be as accomodating, as all 16 US and CA teams will probably not be invited. As such, some teams will lose their CL spot.
While not announced by Ubisoft, tweets from the NordiK coach of oGrievous have expanded on various issues facing the CAD orgs around this news.
In the next two weeks, the four teams must decide whether they can afford the move to Las Vegas -- a move which pushed away the much bigger orgs of Evil Geniuses and Luminosity Gaming -- before moving there by the 2021 season kick-off in March.
Should the organisations be unable to move to Las Vegas, they will apparently be demoted to the NA Challenger League. Consequently, current CL rosters will be then invited to the pro-tier league instead (assuming they can find an organisation willing to host them in Vegas).
This is all to ensure the planned NA LAN League in Las Vegas goes ahead after it was delayed due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Considering no organisations have come forward to buy the NAL license off of Tempo Storm so far, this is a risky bet that may leave the 2021 season with just six teams if no organisation is willing to pay for a team house during a recession and pandemic on such short notice.
While likely a positive change for NA as a whole, this does mark the end for the short-lived Canadian Division; the first time Ubisoft has effectively rolled back a regional expansion.
While met with initial skepticism, the Canadian Division proved itself to be very capable, with two of its teams -- Mirage and Altiora -- competing in-line with some of their American counterparts.
While Mirage attended both North American League qualifiers, took down Tempo Storm, and took Soniqs to a third map, Altiora beat Disrupt Gaming and the suprsoniqs to qualify for the upcoming Six Invitational in their debut season.
This has shown the new division was achieving its purpose in promoting Canadian teams and players.
Altiora is now preparing to become the first Canadian team to attend any international event next month, with it possibly now leading three other Canadian teams to the biggest league in the region.
Keep an eye out here at SiegeGG for any further announcements as they come!