Blizzard Entertainment has announced a new amateur eSports league for hit shooter Overwatch, which will help countries find competitors for the upcoming Overwatch World Cup to be held later this year.

Called Overwatch Contenders, the developmental league will help prop up the expanding Overwatch Pro League by giving unknown players a chance to shine, but also a chance at being picked for the World Cup by each nation's team organisers.

Earlier in May a fan vote decided who from the Overwatch community would help select the teams for each of the 32 countries competing in the World Cup tournament starting this summer, culminating in the finals at BlizzCon in November.

Top teams will face off against some of the fiercest opponents in their region as they battle for a share of the competition prize pool," reads a statement. "But there's more than fortune and glory on the line.

"Ambitious players will be keen to impress Overwatch League organisations looking to fill spots on their rosters."

The online-only tournament will kick off with competitions pitting players from North America and Europe against each other, and will take place from 3 June to 1 July. Each region has a prize pool of $50,000 (£38,500), and hopefuls can register their interest on the Overwatch Contenders website.

It's a team tournament – so players will need to group up with friends – split into three events. Open qualifiers will take place 3 and 4 June in North America and 10 and 11 June in Europe, followed by a Group stage on 17 and 24 June in NA, 18 and 25 June in Europe.

The playoff finals will take place on 1 July in North America and 2 July in Europe.

The event is being referred to as "season zero", with firm plans in place to evolve and expand Contenders over the coming years.

Blizzard also announced the Overwatch Open Division, a tournament series for those with a Master rank or higher in the game's competitive mode. "From 2018, the competition will also offer emerging teams a path to Overwatch Contenders leagues in each region," said the statement. "More information on the Open Division is coming soon, so stay tuned."

The Overwatch World Cup group stage was announced earlier this month, with the UK pitted against Germany, Belgium and Israel. Blizzard is yet to announce exactly when the summer stages of the tournament will take place.

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