It all began earlier this year, in March.
All over the world, the top competitive players of Overwatch were engaged in fierce battles, as the average skill ratings of the top 100 players from each nation would determine which countries would qualify for this year's Overwatch World Cup. Thirty-two countries from five continents made the cut, and their elected committees took on the task of crafting the perfect rosters to represent each nation.
These 32 teams were divided into eight groups of four, who then convened at group stages around the globe to compete for a ticket to the playoffs at BlizzCon 2017. Every team hungered to be one of the eight to advance and take one step closer to being crowned the Overwatch World Cup champions.
The Overwatch World Cup Group Stage kicked off in Shanghai, China, where in Group A the powerhouse home team stormed into BlizzCon without dropping a map against Team Norway, Team Hong Kong, Team Romania, and finally Team Thailand in the playoffs. In Group B, Team France claimed the second slot available in Shanghai over Team Thailand, Team Denmark, Team Argentina, and Team Norway in the playoffs, although not as cleanly as their Chinese counterparts.
Next, the Group Stage traveled Down Under to Sydney, Australia. Team Sweden dominated in Group C, ending Team Australia's dreams of sweeping the group after their ruthless 4-0 wins against Team Italy and Team Portugal. Meanwhile, in Group D, the underdogs ruled, with Team Japan claiming the number one spot over Team Spain, Team Finland, and Team Vietnam. The Swedish national team swept the Spaniards to pick up their spot at BlizzCon in the playoffs, followed by an absolute nail-biter between Team Australia and Team Japan, which went to a sudden death match on Oasis. The Japanese fought valiantly, but it was the hometown heroes who managed to secure their spot at BlizzCon, 3-2.
With four spots claimed and four to go, the Overwatch World Cup Group Stage arrived in Katowice, Poland, where the BlizzCon 2016 champions, Team South Korea, again proved they were a level above the rest of the competition. Not only did they not drop a map, they did it while sprinkling in off-meta hero picks such as Torbjörn and Junkrat. Their playoffs match was a repeat of the 2016 Overwatch World Cup finals against Team Russia, and again, the Russians were no match for the final boss. The second team to qualify out of Poland was fan favorite Team Canada. They finished on top of Group F, above Russia, Turkey, and Singapore, and took out Team Netherlands 3-0 in the playoffs.
Finally, after circumnavigating the world, the Overwatch World Cup landed in Los Angeles, USA. In Group G, Team USA had something to prove, and the passionate home crowd cheered them on as they swept New Zealand and Brazil, only dropping one map against the accomplished Chinese Taipei roster. Team USA went on to defeat Germany in the playoffs, punching their ticket to BlizzCon. In Group H, Team United Kingdom were a level above the rest, and did what Team USA couldn't in maintaining a perfect map record in their own round-robin matches against Germany, Israel, and Belgium. In the playoffs, Team UK made a strong statement, sweeping Chinese Taipei and claiming the final spot in the 2017 Overwatch World Cup round of 8.
Congratulations to China, France, Sweden, Australia, South Korea, Canada, USA, and the United Kingdom! The next step for the 2017 Overwatch World Cup will be the round-of-eight bracket draw on August 28 to determine the matchups for BlizzCon. Click here to relive your favorite Overwatch World Cup moments, and be sure to follow @PlayOverwatch on Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest news.