#BabyBayChallege recipient NAMI San Francisco: solid financials, poor transparency in Charity Navigator criteria assessment

The San Francisco Shock selected National Alliance on Mental Illness – San Francisco as the recipient of the funds donated as part of the #BabyBayChallenge. I put NAMI San Francisco through the Charity Navigator scoring system (with some caveats, see below) to see how they’d do. The result: They would get one star out of five in the CN system.

Their financial health is pretty good; they’re on the higher end of four stars. Their accountability and transparency score, however, is an abysmal one star, which means that their overall score is one star as well.

As bad as that sounds, NAMI San Francisco could potentially get all the way up to three starts overall in a matter of days; they need only add important documents and information about the organization to their website.

Caveats

Some caveats before I go into the numbers:

  • Charity Navigator’s system is one group’s opinion of how to judge a charity. It’s not the divine word on whether a charity is well run or not. Most importantly, it doesn’t assess the value of programs, only financial viability and transparency. Whether NAMI SF does valuable work is a decision only you can make.
  • The CN system is designed for large charities (>$1 mil per year revenue) that have been operating for a decent amount of time (5 years of full 990s). Their system isn’t built with a charity as small as NAMI SF in mind.
  • The CN system uses 3-year averaging in some metrics, which creates vastly more work than just using the most recent year’s data. In any place where the CN system uses 3-year averaging, I only use the 2016 data. That said, I don’t think it’ll change their score drastically one way or the other.
  • I am not an accountant, I do not prepare form 990s professionally, and I have no affiliation with Charity Navigator.

Financial Health

NAMI-SF gets four out of five stars, with a raw score of 86.

Their financials are solid. Rapid growth can be unstable, but they have working capital to cover a potential drop in donations. Their fundraising expenses are high and not particularly efficient, but it’s really hard to get that right, especially in smaller, more specialized charities. An 86 is not a red flag.

Where they lose points:
In this section, there are seven criteria worth 10 points each, for a maximum of 70. 30 points are then added to that total to get the final raw score.

  • 71.2% of their expenses go towards programs, which is mediocre, and is good for only 6 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 85% or above.
  • 17.5% of their expenses go towards fundraising, which is poor, and is good for only 5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 10% or below.
  • They spend $0.18 to raise $1, which is a mediocre fundraising efficiency, and is good for only 7.5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires $0.10 or below.
  • They have 0.76% years if working capital (the ability to continue to run using only available assets), which is mediocre, and is good for 7.5 out of 10 points. A perfect score requires 1 year or above.

Where they don’t lose points:

  • 9.9% of their expenses go towards administration, which is excellent. A perfect score requires 15% or below.
  • Their financial capacity is excellent. This is a really complicated formula measuring growth in program expenses. A perfect score requires a value of 10 or above. NAMI’s value is 36.
  • Their liabilities are 0.57% of their assets, which is excellent. A perfect score requires 5% or less.

Accountability and Transparency

NAMI-SF gets one out of five stars, with a raw score of 51.

Simply not filling out entire sections of their Form 990 – the document they file with the IRS each year – has cost them dearly in the accountability and transparency metrics. Their website also doesn’t contain any of the information that Charity Navigator looks for. The good news is that most of this is quickly fixable; the problems with the 990 might even already be fixed (this was using their 2016 990; their 2017 one is not online yet). The bad news is that, for now at least, it’s an awful look.

Where they lose points:
In this section, the score starts at 100 and works down to get the final raw score.

  • Part XII is not filled out, so there is no information about whether they produce audited financial statements prepared or reviewed by an independent accountant (-15 points)
  • No whistleblower policy (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • No document retention policy (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • No process for reviewing and updating CEO compensation (they may have one, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section B) (-4 points)
  • Does not keep board meeting minutes (they may, but they didn’t fill out Part VI, Section A) (-4 points)
  • Does not publish board members on the website (-4 points)
  • Does not publish senior staff on the website (-3 points)
  • Does not publish audited financials on the website (-4 points)
  • Does not publish form 990 on the website (-3 points)
  • Does not publish donor privacy policy (-4 points)

Where they don’t lose points:

  • More than 5 independent voting board members; independent voting board members hold a majority.
  • No reported material diversion of assets
  • No loans to or from officers or other interested parties (they didn’t fill out Part IV, but they didn’t include a Schedule L, which would be required if they did have such loans)
  • Form 990 distributed to the board before filong
  • Has a conflict of interest policy
  • Reports CEO compensation
  • Reports board member compensation; board members are not compensated

Fast Fixes

NAMI SF can potentially get their accountability and transparency score up in a matter of days. Here’s how:

  • Publish the board members and senior staff. Pictures are nice, but even putting a list in plain text – just name and title – would meet the requirements. Depending on how complex the back end of the website is, this would take literally minutes to do. (+7 points)
  • Add a downloads page with the Form 990 and the audited financials (assuming, of course, that they have audited financials). Slightly more complex to implement, but we’re talking hours, not months. (+7 points)
  • Indicate on the downloads page that the financials are audited by an independent account (even if it’s immediately clear just by looking at the cover page). It’s no substitute for properly filling out the 990, but it’ll get the job done. (+15 points)

If NAMI San Francisco did all of those things, it would take their accountability and transparency score to an 84, which is good for three stars. That, in turn would, take their overall score to an 85, which is again good three stars.

If they don’t have audited financials to publish, but they did everything else above, it would give them a 61 in accountability and transparency, still one star, but would take their overall score up to a 71, good for two stars.

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Analysis

For Boston Uprising, Friday’s match could be the most important of their season

Welcome back! Last week I published the Overwatch League match previews for the opening day. Now, I’m back covering one more game taking place later on in the week. It might not look like much, especially with the juicy lineup on Saturday, but it’s the only game in opening week that could be season-defining.

This stage’s map pool and the league format are covered at the start of Tuesday’s article, linked above.

Uprising

Florida Mayhem hosts Boston Uprising

Dorado · Anubis · Oasis · Eichenwalde

Storylines: 

This is Boston’s easiest game this month. Can they seize it?
Commentators were panning Boston Uprising before they even played a game, and the team came into the preseason with a chip on their shoulder. Taking a map off of New Yok Excelsior and a win off of Shanghai Dragons shows that they have potential, however their January is brutal. They play Excelsior in their opening match, and after they take on Florida Mayhem, they have Seoul Dynasty, San Francisco Shock, London Spitfire, and Dallas Fuel to round out their January. For context, Excelsior, Dynasty, Spitfire, and Fuel are expected to be the top four at the end of the season, although probably not in that order.

With Mayhem looking shaky, Shock looking stronger than anticipated, and none of Dallas or the three all-Korean teams looking any less terrifying than expected, Friday’s match against Florida is Boston’s best opportunity to show what they’re capable of. In fact, aside from San Francisco, it’s probably the only game that can be expected to be competitive. If Uprising don’t show up on Friday, they could easily start the season 0-6, a devastating blow that could be difficult to come back from emotionally, let alone in the rankings.

While the season is 40 games long, six games is roughly a fifth of the season, and the middle of the standings is expected to be fiercely contested. Getting off to a slow start means that Boston will spend the rest of the season chasing their rivals, just one more stressor on top of having to build a team with little pre-existing synergy, speaking multiple languages, with a somewhat untested coaching staff. So yeah, a loss to Mayhem might not be season ending, but it could be season defining, especially if they lose to Shock in Week 2 as well.

Who is going to step up for Mayhem?
Florida’s best player during the preseason was Manneten, their off-tank. In TviQ and Logix, Mayhem have some of Europe’s strongest DPS talent, but neither showed up in a big way. While Mayhem’s January schedule isn’t as brutal as Boston’s is, the team is going to be in for a rough first stage if at least a few of their players don’t snap out of their slump in form quickly. The spotlight is going to shine harshest on Logix (more on that below), but Mayhem will need increased contribution from multiple players if they’re going to make it to the transfer window with a respectable point total.

Realistically, that’s probably their goal for the first stage. Even if Mayhem look like a completely different team in the regular season than they did in the preseason, they’re still hampered by their small roster size and small coaching team. Whether the goal is the championship (unrealistic), a 5th/6th place playoff berth (difficult) or just a decent 7th/8th/9th  showing (achievable), they’re going to need increased investment to pull that off. Somewhat counterintuitively, the Mayhem players will likely need to perform well in order to convince ownership to bring in additional players. If Mayhem look bottom of the barrel in the first stage, there’s less to gain from spending mid-season. If they look strong, however, they can justify getting reinforcements now and making a push in Stages 2, 3, and 4.

Mayhem’s goal should be wins against Boston, Shanghai Dragons, and Los Angeles Valiant. Houston Outlaws is probably too much for them, and London and Seoul are out of reach. Their February looks less daunting thein their January, and if they come out of the opening month 3-3, they could end the stage 6-4 or 5-5, a showing that would make the “spend now” approach justifiable. And with a six player roster, there’s plenty of room for that.

Mayhem

Who to watch:

Jonathan “DreamKazper” Sanchez
DreamKazper does not have a reputation as an elite Pharah; he’s much more known on hitscan. However, TviQ’s Pharah looked strong on the first part of Dorado during the preseason, and Oasis is the most Pharah-friendly map in the game, so DreamKazper is very likely going to have to spend time on her (or at least defending against her). If DreamKazper and Uprising can’t shut down TviQ, Mayhem is going to exploit it to great effect. However, if DreamKazper is able to win this positional battle, chances are very good for Boston taking the whole series.

Andreas “Logix” Berghmans
The Belgian Tracer specialist is considered one of the best DPS players in Europe, and his online performances towards the end of last year were impressive. However Logix was shut down hard in the Contenders LAN finals, and didn’t look his dominant self in the preseason either. While there’s room for improvement across the board, Mayhem needs a strong showing out of Logix most of all. If he continues to struggle, Mayhem are going to be in for a rough five weeks, and a reputation for not performing at LAN can’t be good for him personally either.

Prediction: 3-2 to Mayhem

Mayhem couldn’t have asked for a tougher opening game, and Boston aren’t faring much better in their opening either. Both teams will look to this, their second match, as an opportunity to grab a win and close out their opening week on a strong note. Boston came out looking stronger than many pundits expected, and Florida worse, but I see Mayhem scraping out an ugly win here. Mayhem need to rediscover their form, while Uprising need to build it. With such little time to work with, I believe that the former will be easier than the latter.

Boston will likely look to dive Florida’s supports tirelessly. Both Zuppeh nor Zebbosai spent quite a lot of time in the preseason waiting to respawn, and they simply look awful running Mercy without Pharah. Mayhem, for their part, will probably look to exploit Pharah, as they’re going to be confident that they have the better one, and there are plenty of places across the map set to run her. Ultimately, it’s the advantage in this position that has me giving the match to Florida. That being said, I wouldn’t put money on either team winning, especially without seeing how each team responds to their opening match Korean onslaught.

Analysis Florida Mayhem Overwatch League

Overwatch League match preview: Opening Day

Welcome to the first Overwatch League match preview!

In this feature, I’ll go over who I think is going to take each match and why, what the storylines to watch are, and who you, as a neutral fan, should be looking out for. These are incredibly time consuming to make, so depending on the reception, I’ll probably only do them for each week’s key matches going forward.

Week1-Banner1

Before we get started, some general notes:

This stage’s map pool: Escort: Dorado & Junkertown | Assault: Anubis & Horizon | Control: Ilios & Oasis | Hybrid: Eichenwalde & Numbani | Tiebreaker: Lijiang

Playoffs: When I refer to playoffs, I’m always talking about the end-of-season playoffs, not the end-of-stage ones. Six teams make it into the end-of-season playoffs. Most analysts, including myself, see the top four slots as all but locked up by some ordering of London, Seoul, Dallas, and New York, with a bunch of decently strong teams all gunning for the last two playoff spots.

Format: Outside of the playoffs, every game is a four map set (one of each map type). A score of 3-2 indicates that the first maps went 2-2, and a tie-breaking fifth map had to be played. A score of 2-1 indicates that one of the maps tied (most likely the Assault, although it’s also possible to tie on Hybrid).

San Francisco Shock hosts Los Angles Valiant

Dorado · Anubis · Ilios · Numbani

Prediction: 3-2 to Valiant

What a way to open the League! This looks like it’s going to be a tight match between two solid teams with playoff aspirations. I don’t see either team as having a significant edge, but I’m giving it to Valiant. The team in green is coming into the League with an established core – the former Immortals – and since neither team has had ample practice time, Valiant’s pre-existing synergy is going to be important. Additionally, I think that Shock might have shown a bit too much of their hand in the preseason.

Storylines: 

Redemption for the Preseason?
Valiant beat Shock 3-2 in the preseason, however Shock came into the match having just played another game (filling in for the absent Philadelphia Fusion), and later claimed that exhaustion played a part in their loss. With both teams coming into this rematch fresh, will Shock be able to get their revenge, or was Valiant the better team all along?

Can Valiant shut down Babybay?
While Shock is by no means a one-trick team, the preseason made it clear that they are a team that is currently built around the Babybay, who put on an absolute clinic on Widowmaker during the preseason, and was known before OWL for his strong Soldier:76. If Valiant is able to focus him down and keep him from dictating fights, Shock could be in for a rough night.

Who to watch:

Nikola “Sleepy” Andrews
Aside from Babybay, the most impressive player on San Francisco Shock has been Sleepy. He came into the League as a relative unknown, but his Zenyatta was one of the strongest in the preseason. As Philadelphia Fusion’s Boombox can attest, strong Zenyatta play can quickly catapult a player from unknown to “household name” status, and if Sleepy plays in Stage 1 like he did in the preseason, he’s going to be one of the League’s first breakout stars.

Shanghai Dragons hosts Los Angeles Gladiators

Dorado · Anubis · Ilios · Eichenwalde

Prediction: 4-0 to Gladiators

I want Shanghai to do well. China is a massive market, growing esports power, and has been one of the most active regions for Overwatch since the beginning. However, what we saw from Shanghai in the preseason was less than encouraging. They had little pre-existing synergy and very little practice time, and it showed in their lack coordination. Gladiators is going to come into this much more polished, and it’s going to show. The map type most forgiving to teams that haven’t built coordination is Control, but Ilios and Oasis are both strong Pharah maps, and Gladiators has two noted Pharah experts.

Storylines:

Can Diya carry?
The biggest bright spot for Shanghai during the preseason was Diya’s Widowmaker. Right now, Widow is quite strong on quite a number of maps, including at least parts of all four maps Shanghai chose. With limited time to build strategies, it’s quite possible that Shanghai have set themselves up around empowering Diya, and if he pops off, it could be a more competitive match than I predicted.

How good is Gladiators, really?
Gladiators beat Spitfire but lost to Valiant. Yes, it was the preseason, with rusty players and awkward forced substitutions, but that’s an odd spread. Gladiators is a tough team to place, both on paper and based on their preseason performances. I personally have them as bottom third, but I also think that they’re going to look strongest earlier in the season, so if they want to place well, a strong start is vital.

Who to watch:

Joao Pedro “Hydration” Veloso de Goes Telles
If the preseason is any indication, Hydration’s role in the team might not have been what people were expecting. A projectile DPS player with a strong Pharah and Genji, he actually spent a decent amount of time on tanks – specifically Orisa and Roadhog – swapping in and out for Bischu, who played only D.va. Where Hydration gets his playtime, and who is sitting on the bench while he’s in game, will tell us a lot about how Gladiators is going to play going forward. This team might wind up running solo tank, and possibly even triple tank, more than most others.

Dallas Fuel hosts Seoul Dynasty

Junkertown · Anubis · Ilios · Numbani

Prediction: 3-1 to Seoul

The best game of the week closes out the first day. EnVyUs, who became Dallas Fuel, won OGN APEX season 1. Lunatic Hai, who became Seoul Dynasty, won seasons 2 and 3. These are storied powerhouses that dominated 2017. Between their storied history and their current form, Seoul is the team to beat in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League. While they looked mortal during the preseason, Dallas looked vulnerable as well, losing more maps in less matches. In the end, Seoul is just on another level at the moment, and I expect them to come out with a win, albeit a hard-fought one.

Storylines: 

Will we see the streamers play?
Although both are skilled players, there’s still a decent contingent of people that think Dallas signed Seagull and xQc just to grab their massive fanbases. While Dallas seemed to relish the more aggressive tank play xQc brought, Seagull hasn’t clicked as well thus far. In a match against an opponent that will brutally capitalize on every misstep, will Dallas fall back on their old core, or will we see Seagull and xQc get significant play time?

What is Seoul’s ceiling?
Seoul could lose to Dallas. They could just squeak by. Or they could crush the boys in blue and put the rest of the league on notice. They’re going to pull out all the stops against Dallas, who look to be by far their most difficult opponents in the month of January. Without the constraints of the preseason (hiding strategies, forced subs), we will finally be able to see what Seoul is capable of.

Who to watch:

Je-Hong “ryujehong” Ryu
Throughout much of 2017, ryujehong was considered one of the best players in the world. His Ana was so dominant that it pushed the developers to change how ultimates work. Now, with Ana out of the meta, he might not even be the best player on his team. While he is a force to be reckoned with on any hero he plays, the fact is that everything else is a significant step step down from what he can do on Ana. His team has, in the past, tried to force Ana when she wasn’t in-meta, to varying degrees of success. It will be important to see which hero he spends most of his time on, and how Seoul plays around that.

Analysis Overwatch League

Three Key Takeaways from Monday’s Contenders News

Late Monday afternoon, Blizzard released the official rules for Contenders 2018, as well as a list of teams invited directly into Contenders or to the Contenders Trials. The new information paints a much clearer picture than we had before about how the Tier 2 scene will look in the coming year. Read on for the biggest takeaways.

OWContenders_S1_Playoffs_Day_Two__(1)

Blizzard has set a Contenders-wide transfer fee for players joining the Overwatch League

As Overwatch League teams worked to assemble their inaugural rosters, several players were either passed over, or nearly passed over, because of issues securing contract buyouts. Some organizations were asking for unreasonable fees, and others just weren’t responsive. London Spitfire claims that buyout issues were the primary reason they scrapped their plans of building a European roster. All in all, it was a mess that Blizzard was keen to avoid going forward.

The new Contenders rules contain a trio of provisions to address the issue.

  • If an Overwatch League team is interested in a player, their Contenders organization must allow the player negotiate terms with the Overwatch League team
  • If an Overwatch League team signs a Contenders player, their Contenders contract is automatically terminated
  • If an Overwatch League team signs a Contenders player, their Contenders organization receives a one-time fee equal to 25% of the player’s salary and signing bonus

The streamlined process protects both the Overwatch League team and the player from having the deal derailed by the Contenders org. The big question though, which only time will answer, is whether the financial incentive for the Contenders team is strong enough to entice endemic organizations back into Overwatch. Dreams don’t put food on the table; for Overwatch’s talent pipeline to thrive long-term, players will need to be able to earn livings in Contenders.

Every region has the same format, and it’s a doozy

Each Contenders region will have twelve teams, split into two groups of six. Each team will play a single round-robin with the other teams in their group, one game per week, for a total of five games during the regular season. With quarterfinals, semifinals, and finals, the team that wins it all will do so having played only eight games.

While there will be several Contenders seasons over the course of a year, each season will present limited opportunities for players to showcase their skills. In a season that lasts only two months, a single meta is season-defining, and a single bad game could be season-ending. Add on to that that all seven regions’ seasons heavily overlap, and players – especially outside of NA, EU, and KR – will have to go above and beyond to have any hope of standing out.

One positive to the shorter seasons with smaller prize pools: there’s room in the schedule for other tournaments, and a bigger incentive to for teams to participate in them. A LAN with the winners of each region would be an obvious draw, and we may even see the return of community-organized tournament series from earlier in Overwatch’s history.

Nine Overwatch League teams will field teams in Contenders, but many other Contenders slots are in doubt

The twelve Overwatch League teams were given an opportunity to field teams in the Contenders region of their choosing, and nine took Blizzard up on their offer. Seven of the nine will be fielding teams in North America, Dragons will field a team in China, and Spitfire in Europe. Dynasty, Valiant, and Fuel will not be fielding academy teams.

With seven academy teams and four invited teams (assuming that all four are willing and able to assemble a roster in time), there’s potentially only one spot up for grabs in North America through the Contenders Trials. For established pros, that’s not necessarily bad thing. While some of the slots will likely go to Korean or European players (Flower and aKm are speculated to be part of the NYXL academy team), there’s plenty of roster spots to fight for, and academy teams will likely pay better, and offer better exposure, than other Contenders organizations.

Europe, China, Korea, and the Pacific all have a large number of teams that have been invited directly into Contenders as well. Some of those teams – Miraculous Youngster in China, Libalent Supreme in the Pacific, and Singularity in Europe, for example – no longer exist, and are unlikely to claim their spots. However those regions will have a decent mix of established talent and new blood fighting for Contenders glory.

Other tidbits

  • Players will be able to stream their Contenders games on a three-minute delay. It will be interesting to see how many players take up that offer, as doing so would mean exposing team comms to the public, something that teams have been reluctant to do until now.
  • Up to nine people can be on a roster, and substitutions will be allowed between maps. There’s nothing in the rules indicating a limit to the number of substitutions.
  • The prize pools for South America and Australia are incredibly small. If a team wins all eight games on their way to the championship, they walk away with $8,676 ($1,446 per player on a six-man roster). While it’s great that the regions are getting attention, with those prize pools and no region locking, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the best South American teams attempt to land spots in North America.
Analysis Overwatch Contenders

Guide to picking an Overwatch League team

Whether you’re new to Overwatch, new to watching competitive Overwatch, or a relapsed fan that wants to know what the heck is going on now with all the new teams, welcome! I hope this guide will be helpful.

Heroes

I want to follow the team that’s going to win the first season

Everyone wants their team to win. There’s no shame in rooting for a team that you think is going to be successful, especially if you don’t have a local one to cheer for.

At or near the top of many lists is London Spitfire. The all-Korean team is a fusion of players from recent APEX and APAC Premier champions GC Busan, perennial APEX strong-finishers KongDoo Panthera, and two additional players. Their biggest challenge will be integrating all of their talent and balancing playtime. With birdring, Rascal, Profit, and Hooreg all on the same team, they’re always going to have a few world elite DPS players on the bench.

You’d be remiss not to consider Seoul Dynasty as well. Most of two-time APEX champions Lunatic Hai were picked up by Seoul, and their highly regard coach, alwaysoov, was brought on as well. Several talented players from other teams have been added to the mix, filling admittedly serious gaps in the former LH roster. With ample LAN experience, including against elite Western teams, the spotlight of the Overwatch League won’t faze them.

Finally, Dallas Fuel is considered by most to be the best team that’s not all-Korean (they do have one Korean, the immensely talented Effect). Formerly competing as EnVyUs, Fuel have proved themselves as elite competitors in every meta. When they won the inaugural season of APEX, they became the only Western team in any team-based esport to win a major tournament in Korea. With the addition of three new players, their vaunted flexibility will only increase.

I want to follow an American team

Even though three-fourths of the teams in OWL are based in the United States, there are no fully American teams, and that’s true whether you mean “American” as the country or the continent.

The Houston Outlaws gets you pretty close though; of their ten players, six are from the United States and one is from Canada. In Jake, coolmatt69, and Rawkus, Houston picked up half of the United States World Cup team. The organization’s branding – with a stylized Longhorn made out of revolvers, also feels the most “American” of any of the teams in the league.

San Francisco Shock also have a good number of Americans. Five of their nine are from the US and one is from Mexico (the only Mexican in the league). Two of those players, Sinatraa and super, won’t be old enough to play until mid-season. Sinatraa and dhaK, along with two members of the Shock coaching staff, are from the now-defunct Selfless Gaming, a team known for their extremely aggressive play.

I want to follow a European team

There’s only one team based in a European city, and it’s owned by an American organization, with an all-Korean roster and staff. So instead of them, let’s look at some teams with European rosters.

Florida Mayhem, formerly competing as Misfits, has an all-European roster with four Swedes, a Finn, and a Belgian. Although only one of Mayhem’s players – Zebbosai – was on Misfits when it they the Overwatch Open and DreamHack Winter LANs in 2016, this is a team of storied veterans. TviQ won several major LANs with Rogue. Zuppeh, Logix, and CWoosH have online tournament wins, Zuppeh with Ninjas in Pyjamas, and the others with Movistar Riders.

The next closest you’re going to get is Philadelphia Fusion. Of their 12 players, half are European, and one is Israeli (the nation competes in Europe in many region-based competitions). ShaDowBurn, the Russian Genji specialist, is probably the most high-profile European on the roster, but Fragi (Finnish) and Boombox (British) are also renowned. Snillo (Swedish) will be sitting out until he turns 18 in early March.

I want to follow a team with big streaming personalities

Seagull is one of the most popular streamers in Overwatch, and has become one of the faces of the game. He was recently picked up by Dallas Fuel. Fuel also picked up xQc, a tour de force of personality with a 5,000 subscriber community. Expect to see some of Fuel’s other stars, such as Taimou and Mickie, make appearances on stream as well.

The Houston Outlaws signed the popular streamer Mendokusaii (he calls his community “the Mendojo”). The org’s general manager, Flame, built his reputation with especially blunt match breakdowns, and has one of the larger Discord communities in Overwatch. Finally, while not one of the biggest names in streaming, Jake has recently started organizing and streaming pro pick-up games, and is known for his well-written Overwatch blog.

The owner of San Francisco Shock, NRG, was famous (or infamous) earlier in the year for signing a “Stream Dream Team” anchored around Seagull. While the rest of that team has departed, Swedish hitscan specialist IDDQD remains. He’s now joined by sinatraa, a popular streamer himself and star from the USA World Cup team.

I want to follow an underdog, but one that’s got a decent shot to surprise people

The consensus on both the Houston Outlaws and Florida Mayhem are that they’re middle of the pack teams. I have them fourth and sixth respectively, slightly higher than many analysts project.

Joining them in the middle of the pack is Los Angeles Valiant. The team is owned by Immortals, and many of the players carried over from one roster to the other. Immortals was in a slump when the changeover to Valiant happened, but Valiant has added several talented players since, including former Rogue players Unkoe and Soon. This is a strong roster with a high ceiling, and shows the potential to challenge the all-Korean teams and the Texas duo.

The consensus on Shanghai Dragons is that they’re a middle of the pack team as well, but also that they could have been much stronger. Not a single member of Overwatch Premier Series champions Miraculous Youngster is on the Dragons. There’s also not much overlap with the Chinese World Cup team. Still, while China is the region least known to Western fans, it’s had more high level competition than most other regions, and Dragons’ players are LAN veterans.

Finally, New York Excelsior is an underdog of a different kind. Expected to finish comfortably in the top half, they’re nonetheless considered the weakest of the three all-Korean teams. Many analysts have them fourth behind Fuel. I have them fifth behind Fuel and Outlaws. That being said, they have an incredibly talented roster, and Saebyeolbe is one of the top players in the world. If New York challenges for the title, it’s not going to be surprising.

I want to follow a real underdog – a team that people are projecting to be bottom of the table

There are two teams left that haven’t been mentioned. Grouping them together here feels almost wrong; there’s a lot of good things you can say about one, while the other has little going for it.

Los Angeles Gladiators have a lot of recognizable names, most prominent being former Cloud9 star Surefour. Both their tanks and their supports were respected duos before joining Gladiators. However, while this roster has the skill to challenge the mid-table, a lot of analysts are approaching it with trepidation. Gladiators is the latest in a long string of talented-looking teams built around Surefour, and none of the others have ever reached the expectations people had for them.

Most analysts, myself included, have Boston Uprising coming in last. In a league full of superstars, most of the players  (and coaching staff) on Uprising are relative unknowns. While it’s possible that a few of them could surprise us, the fact is that there are a lot of better players that didn’t make it into the inaugural season of Overwatch League that Boston could have been picked up instead. It’s a puzzling collection, especially since (per ESPN) Boston was the first team to commit to OWL, and had longer to build than most.

Analysis Florida Mayhem Overwatch League