The time for speculation and practice runs is over. Preseason has come and gone, and we are finally ready to begin the Overwatch League in full, as the 12 franchises enter the first stage of the inaugural season to become the first-ever league champion. Every week following a round of regular-season play, ESPN will be here to separate the contenders from the pretenders in the quest to hoist the trophy.
1. Seoul Dynasty (Preseason ranking: 1)
The only team to take three wins during the preseason round, Seoul Dynasty -- the favorite coming into the season -- has only gained more credence going forward. Seoul Dynasty ran through the competition in its preseason games, dropping only two maps in three strong performances, capped off with an impressive win over fellow all-South Korean side New York Excelsior. Kim "Fleta" Byung-sun established himself as the team's ace DPS in the preseason, and every team going up against the Dynasty will need to plan for Seoul's hard-carry. Team members said in interviews following the preseason that they believe Seoul is the best team in the league, and so far, who can really question that?
2. London Spitfire (Preseason: 2)
This team has too much talent to fail. Although the Spitfire got upset in its first game of the preseason with the Los Angeles Gladiators, it bounced back with its Kongdoo Panthera side of the roster to shut down the San Francisco Shock in a one-sided sweep. It's going to take time for the GC Busan and Panthera sides to become one, but if they ever do, the Dynasty might have a legitimate rival on its hands. Just look at the Spitfire's DPS lineup -- it's simply unfair. GC Busan's core didn't have the best preseason, but that's what's scary about the Spitfire. If a few of its world-class players are having an off day -- even an off week -- it has another set of world-class players to step up behind them. The depth on this roster is ridiculous.
3. New York Excelsior (Preseason: 3)
This is where the rankings get interesting. Three teams were in contention for this spot, but I went with the XL. It had a tough loss against the Dynasty, but don't forget New York was without its heralded support rookie, Bank "JJoNak" Sung-hyeon, who didn't turn 18 until after the preseason. That forced the NYXL to stretch its roster in a way it probably won't need to do during the regular season, and we didn't get to see the team at its full potential. Whereas the Dynasty prides itself on its class and straightforward approach, NYXL plays with a swagger and attitude that should garner a strong fan base in the West, especially with the antics of team ace Park "Saebyeolbe" Jong-yeol.
4. Los Angeles Valiant (Preseason: 5)
It was a good preseason for the Valiant. It began with a close win over Northern California rival San Francisco before winning the first "Battle for Los Angeles" against the Gladiators in a relatively dominant fashion. This was all without one of its star players, Brady "Agilities" Girardi, who didn't reach the league's age requirement of 18 until the final week of 2017. Ted "silkthread" Wang performed well in his pro debut, and the acquisitions of the two former Rogue members at the end of the transaction window paid off big. Valiant needs to be considered a contender going into the regular season.
5. Dallas Fuel (Preseason: 4)
The last team to have a perfect record in the preseason, the Fuel played with an air of reckless abandon in the exhibition matches, trying things out more so than wanting to win every match with a shutout scoreline. It narrowly got by Texas rival Houston before giving up a game to the Mayhem in a series that was expected to be in heavy favor of the Fuel. Fans should not worry, though; Dallas, like the Spitfire, has a wealth of depth on its roster, and experimentation isn't a bad thing in the preseason. Come the later stages of the season, the Fuel should be fighting for a division title and in line for a comfortable playoff berth.
6. Houston Outlaws (Preseason: 7)
Some teams had easy preseason schedules. Houston was not one of them. Outlaws was given the difficult gambit of playing both the Fuel and Dynasty, two favorites, in the preseason, and it lost both affairs but went down to the wire in those matches. Preseason is where you want to learn what to do for the regular season more than just purely winning, and the Outlaws should feel confident going forward. Jacob "JAKE" Lyon had another strong outing following his coming-out party at the Overwatch World Cup, and if the team can build upon its losses to the Dynasty and Fuel, next time those results might have a different ending.
7. Los Angeles Gladiators (Preseason: 8)
I know I just said that winning isn't everything in the preseason, but ... THE GLADIATORS BEAT THE SPITFIRE! Yes, yes, I know -- it's preseason, the GC Busan half of the roster wasn't playing well at all, and if the Spitfire could have played the Panthera side for the entire series it might have been a complete sweep, but the Gladiators beat the Spitfire! It happened. The Gladiators couldn't keep up the momentum a few days later in a loss to the Valiant, and yet, the team showed a lot of promise in its preseason games. At least for one week, I'm going to count that victory over the Spitfire as something. If it happens in again in the regular season, look out, top five!
8. San Francisco Shock (Preseason: 10)
Speaking of teams that were a pleasant surprise in the preseason, the Shock certainly was one. While the team only bumped up two spots in the rankings, what I believe the preseason showed most is that although there are elite teams in the league with a lead over the middle and bottom packs, the gaps aren't as huge as we once thought heading into the season. The Shock, a team with players like Andrej "babybay" Francisty stepping into the limelight, has so much more room to grow over the course of an entire season in which teams will be playing daily in practice and onstage.
9. Boston Uprising (Preseason: 11)
Besides the all-South Korean teams in the league, the team that got talked about the most in a positive sense during the preseason was the Uprising. Multiple teams discussed in post-match interviews how Boston had surprised them in scrimmages and how good of a team Uprising could become down the line. Uprising took a game off NYXL and beat the Shanghai Dragons in the preseason, and I have to agree that time will be the best friend of the Uprising. Right now, I still have Boston near the bottom of the rankings, but as time goes on, its young players mature and the team learns how to play together, playoffs are a realistic goal for a team once believed to be the cannon fodder of the league.
10. Philadelphia Fusion (Preseason: N/A)
The Philadelphia Fusion has a good roster, but I don't even know if it will show up for the regular season. I have Philly penciled in at 10th for now if it can bring its entire starting roster to opening day. If not, who knows? I haven't seen have an esports organization have such a rocky start to its entrance into the space, and I want better for a team that has an electrifying DPS duo and a solid core around its stars. Until then, this is more of a work-in-progress grade than anything. First, play a game onstage, and then we'll talk about moving up a few spots.
11. Florida Mayhem (Preseason: 6)
The team with the biggest dropoff in the rankings following the preseason, the Mayhem brought anything but in its debut games. The team's roster is the antithesis of a brand built around fiery plays and chaos; Florida only has six players on the roster, and opposing sides knowing what and who to expect every time they plan for the Mayhem. The Fuel and Spitfire can pick names out of a hat and still have a world-class roster on the field, while the Mayhem will need to make do with the players it has. The good news is the Mayhem players are better than what they showed in the preseason. The bad news is with only six players, if the losing continues, there is no one walking through that door to change things up until the midseason transaction window is opened.
12. Shanghai Dragons (Preseason: 9)
Weida "Diya" Lu is world-class. That's the only good thing I really have to say about the Dragons. The team was flat in the preseason, and I don't know how much Shanghai can improve during the course of the regular season. The team's starting support duo is the weakest in the league, and regardless of how many headshots Diya can get, it won't matter if the rest of the team can't protect or help him out. China has the largest pool of players to choose from in the world, and the Dragons might need to do just that if it wants to think about playoffs in the first season of Overwatch League.