Activision’s New Call of Duty World League: Everything we know so far

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The Call of Duty World League (CWL) is now operating under a franchise model for its 2020 season. Under this model, only those organizations that have purchased a franchise qualify to play in the league. This post will explain what we know about the CWL so far and what it means for players.

Activision’s CWL franchising model closely parallels its sister company, Blizzard’s, Overwatch League (OWL). The OWL launched in 2018 and tied its franchises to a city. Bidding organizations had to pay a startup fee of USD $20 million or more to join. Similarly, the CWL will have its franchises tied to a city. While there is no information on what the winning bids were, given the big names involved, it was likely a multi-million dollar investment to join.

The Teams

Presently, all the purchased teams are in North America or Europe:

  • Atlanta Atlanta Esports Ventures
  • Dallas Team Envy
  • New York Sterling VC
  • Paris c0ntact Gaming
  • Toronto OverActive Media
  • Los Angeles Immortals Gaming
  • Minnesota WISE Ventures
  • Florida Misfits Gaming
  • Los Angeles Kroenke Sports & Entertainment
  • Chicago NRG Esports
  • London ReKTGlobal
  • Seattle Acquilini Group

So far, there are a total of twelve teams. It is unclear whether more will be announced.

The Format

Activision has announced that professional match play will be 5v5 team versus team competition. All games are played on a console. The minimum roster size per professional team is 7 and the maximum is 10, and the rules may include mid-series substitutions. 

Beyond this, Activision has yet to announce the format of the league. It may mirror the OWL, which has multiple stages and playoffs at the end of each stage, but that has yet to be determined.


Activision has stated that all professional players are open to being signed beginning September 3, 2019. This means that any player may negotiate and sign a new contract with any team in the league. However, this does not mean that contracts with existing organizations are void.

According to Activision, all players will be required to sign a new form contract in order to be eligible to compete in the upcoming league. They have stated that the League Office will not advise players or teams in contract negotiations. Therefore, contract negotiation is solely between a player and the teams. In these negotiations, it is crucial for players to have the proper representation to ensure that their rights are maintained, they are being compensated fairly, and that they understand their obligations under the contract.


Activision has also added a few rules around trading players during this transitional period. First, existing CWL teams will have the right to match a competing offer made to a player on their current roster. Second, CWL teams will have the ability to negotiate a contract buyout fee, capped at 100 percent of the player’s salary in the new league plus any applicable guaranteed bonuses. Third, they have said that player trades among teams may take place through the majority of the 2020 season. Despite this, the right to match and buyout fees are subject to any contractual limitations on such fees that the player has negotiated in the player contract with the CWL team. 

Effectively, if the existing player contract limits the right to match or buyouts, then that limitation will remain valid. In other words, these rights will only be effective for those player contracts that have not placed any limitations on them. This highlights why it is always important to have a proper negotiation in the first place, in order to avoid oppressive or unwanted limitations on your rights to be bought out or to have matching offers from your team.

Salary Guarantees

Activision stated that all professional players will receive a minimum base salary of USD $50,000 per year, health care benefits, and retirement benefits. Additionally, teams must distribute at least 50% of their prize pool earnings directly to the players. While this is a good starting point, many players are worth much more than the bare minimum and should look to obtain some assistance prior to entering any negotiations.

Lastly, any team that drops a player from their roster without cause is required to pay out that player’s remaining salary. This means that negotiating a salary is particularly important, as the player is guaranteed the full amount negotiated. However, this requirement will likely mean that there will frequently be disputes about whether a player is terminated “with cause”, as that would negate the requirement that the team or organization pay the player.

Path to Pro

Activision has also recognized the importance of the amateur scene. They have stated: 

We recognize the importance of a thriving Path to Pro competitive scene in Call of Duty esports, which has continued to garner strong participation and prizing each year. Going forward, we will support and administer extensive amateur competitions, both online and via open bracket tournaments in cities around the world, with dedicated prize pools.

More details about the path to pro [sic] system and upcoming open bracket tournament events will be shared in the coming months.

Previously, the Path to Pro system was based on the allotment of CWL Pro Points, which were earned by ranking in various tournaments and events. These points would allow the player or team to qualify for higher-tier tournaments with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the CWL Pro League. 

Since the Pro League is now franchised, it is unclear what the purpose of the Path to Pro system will be. It is possible that Activision will set up a system similar to Overwatch Contenders, which is essentially a minor league for Overwatch.

Contact Us

With the rapidly changing layout of the new CWL and the increasing size and complexity of esports organizations, it is more important than ever to have the proper legal advice before entering into contract negotiations. The lawyers and agents at Level Up Esports are here to assist you to ensure that you are being paid fairly for your talent and to ensure that your rights are not being infringed on. 

Contact us today at 604-336-GAME or email us at [email protected] and let us take your esports career to the next level. 

You play. We protect.