There is a new dawn on the horizon in the sports world and in New York, it begins on Thursday.
The Big Apple will officially throw its hat into the esports ring as the New York Excelsior, better known as NYXL, play their first-ever match in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League (9 p.m. ET) when they take on the Boston Uprising from Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles.
“I think everyone is really excited to finally get started,” NYXL Director of Player Personnel Scott Tester said. “There’s been a lot of preparation for this and everyone has been kind of building up to it for a long time. So I think everyone is super excited to just finally start playing matches.”
With a roster of eight players, all hailing from South Korea, NYXL is one of 12 teams that will be competing in the Overwatch League’s first season.
Here is their roster and each player’s Gamertag. Each player’s role on the team is italicized:
NYXL 2018 Roster
DPS: Jong-Yeol Park (Saebyeolbe)
DPS: Do-Hyun Kim (Pine)
DPS/Flex: Hye-Sung Kim (Libero)
Flex: Tae-Hong Kim (MekO)
Tank: Jun-Hwa Song (Janus)
Tank: Dong-Gyu Kim (Mano)
Support: Sung-Hyeon Bang (JJoNak)
Support: Yeon-Joon Hong (ArK)
Putting together this roster was one of a number of hurdles Tester and the brass at NYXL had to get over.
“It’s been a long process with a lot of work,” Tester said. “Everything from creating a brand and the team logo and all those assets from scratch, to getting the team here from Korea and finding them accommodations and setting up their practice facilities. It’s taken a lot of effort from a lot of interesting people.”
That process has resulted in the first-ever esports team to represent New York City, an honor that means a lot to Tester.
“Honestly it’s historic,” he said. “I think that means a huge amount. It’s a responsibility I don’t take lightly.”
NYXL and the other 11 teams of the Overwatch League have been broken up into two geographical divisions of six teams, labeled the Atlantic and Pacific Divisions:
Los Angeles Gladiators
Los Angeles Valiant
San Francisco Shock
Each team will play 40 games, with 20 coming against each division as the season is broken up into four, five-week stages. Matches will be played between Wednesday and Saturday of each week with every team playing twice during that span.
Each match will contain four games, one for each of the different maps that are featured in Overwatch.
While the six-team postseason qualification is based on overall record, the top three teams of each of the four stages will compete for a $100,000 bonus. Those extra games played for that bonus money does not count toward the cumulative record of the teams competing.
The first-place teams in each division receive an automatic berth and bye into the semifinals, but the remaining four playoff spots go to the teams with the best record, regardless of division.
“In general I think this is a great league,” Tester said. “I think everything is set up in a way that’s going to ensure the long-term success of the league.”
What’s on the line for the winner of the inaugural season of the Overwatch League? $1 million, which is a tangible target for NYXL.
“I definitely expect our team to perform well in the first season. I think the team we brought over to the Overwatch League is one of the best teams in the world,” Tester said. “And I think part of our motivation in getting this team specifically is that they’d be able to go into the first season and really show everybody what we’re capable of doing.”
For now, it starts with an opening match against Boston, bringing the always-enticing New York/Beantown rivalry to a brand-new stage.
“We’d like to continue the tradition of beating Boston,” Tester admitted.
There are plenty of New Yorkers who could get behind that.