Four of the top collegiate Overwatch teams in North America will face off Saturday at the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship at Arizona State in Tempe, Arizona.
The contest has a heavy West Coast flavor following the decision by Tespa Championship Series to drop the regional rounds this year: University of California-Irvine, University of California-San Diego and University of California-Berkeley are all in the semifinals, as is the University of Toronto.
The regional rivalries aside, there's plenty to like about this lineup. Here's a look at how each of these teams made their way to the final four and what to expect when six $7,000 prizes go up for grabs on Saturday.
The Anteaters are undefeated entering Saturday's competition and will get a shot at revenge to start things off at ASU.
UCI faces UCSD at 5 p.m. ET to begin the semifinals, and it's a matchup similar to last year, albeit in the regional stage. UCI was unbeaten then, too, and was blindsided by the skill of UCSD in a shocking loss.
This year, the Anteaters aren't taking anyone lightly, and they have some reinforcements, too. Coach Jacob Bishop, main support Behrod "Behrod" Baghai and main tank Nick "learnedtooplay" Theodorakes made this team better when they transferred to UCI Saddleback College. If Saddleback sounds familiar, that's because it made a miracle run through the Tespa playoffs last year, from a 27th seed to the final eight, only to have to forfeit its quarterfinal match against UC Berkeley because one of Saddleback's starters had to leave for a prescheduled cruise.
To round it out, DPS Chansoo "Lootre" Park has been exceptional throughout the elimination rounds. These players are confident they're the best team in the country, and no other squad has proven the Anteaters wrong - yet.
UC San Diego
Perhaps the lineup with the most individual skill in the tournament, UCSD enters with a six starters who have all seen time in the Top 500 on the Overwatch competitive ladder in the States. Andy "Schooled" Chen, whose McCree play is nearly unmatched at the college level, is the Tespa version of New York Excelsior's Kim "Pine" Do-hyeon. Schooled is also the captain of this squad, which pulled off that upset against UCI in 2017 only to lose to -- you guessed it -- Saddleback.
The Tritons, too, could get a taste of revenge in this opening matchup, and coach Cody "KlutchDoc" Sargeant (who also plays for UCSD's Heroes of the Dorm team) said viewers should watch out for Gene "Maylibooya" Pan, who "has hard pop-offs as Genji."
All the talent on those other rosters is great, but only Cal has Tespa titles to show for its performances.
The Golden Bears are the reigning champs and got the title last year by battling through West Coast competition and then beating Rutgers in the semis and University of Toronto with a 3-0 sweep in the finals. Three members of that team returned this year, and Cal doesn't look like it skipped much of a beat, in part thanks to captain and DPS guru Daniel "Alined" Lee.
Cal also might get a boost thanks to the Mercy meta changes: Alex "Paigwut" Dam, who joined the team in the fall, specializes in Moira, and with the break in Tespa scheduling, no college team has faced another in a meaningful match on the current Mercy-nerfed patch.
The wildcard strength for this team is its flexibility. Most of the players, according to Cal Overwatch co-coordinator Tiffy Tsay, have histories on multiple roles and masteries of heroes that create challenging compositions for opponents.
University of Toronto
The North Remembers, and it is back.
Last year's finalists return to the Tespa championships hoping to redeem a disappointing performance against Cal in the 2017 finals. Toronto has the farthest to travel but also plans to bring the element of surprise to Tempe, manager Luke "IAmSacul" Matthews said.
Team captain and main tank Ronald "Renanthera" Ly returns to lead Toronto to a potential title, and he brought hitscan artist Calvin "TaintedDucky" Thai with him this time around. IAmSacul said TaintedDucky "has proven himself to be one of, if not the, best DPS in TCS." Alongside the "Canadian Genji," David "Dimes" Huang, TaintedDucky has a chance to make a major mark on this championship and take the title to colder climes.