Rule changes for the 2019 Contenders series has been announced with a news update on the official Contenders website. Among the new rules are changes to the numbers of teams per regions and the split of the North American region into two.
Each Contenders region will see the number of teams competing each season decrease from 12 to eight. The exception will be in North America, where the region will be split into North America East and North America West, resulting in an increase in number of teams. Both NA East and NA West will have eight teams competing within it, resulting in 16 total teams playing in North America. The reason for this split was to accommodate the increased number of academy teams that could potentially compete within North America, according to Blizzard's news post.
Contenders prizing will be distributed more heavily to the highest finishing teams in Contenders. The exact details of prizing breakdown for 2019 were not revealed.
There will only be two Contenders seasons in 2019, rather than three. As a result, each individual season will be longer in 2019 than they are currently in 2018. No details on exactly how long each season will be were revealed.
Teams competing in Contenders will be subject to a soft region lock. No team can have anymore than three "non-resident players" within their roster, according to Blizzard's new rules.
All academy teams will be automatically offered a spot in the first season of Contenders 2019. This does not extend into the second season of Contenders 2019. If an academy team does not finish high enough in the first season, they can still be relegated for the second season.
The amount of non-academy teams that automatically qualify for the first season of Contenders 2019 will depend on how many academy teams accept invitations into Contenders within their respective regions. If a team currently in Contenders does not get an automatic qualification into Contenders 2019, they will be guaranteed a chance to re-qualify through Contenders Trials.
According to the news post, Blizzard is "continuing to evaluate opportunities for cross-region play at live events." Despite this, they currently do not have any cross-region LANs ready to announce.
The news post also states more information about Contenders 2019 will be released in the upcoming months. These changes will not apply to Contenders Season 3 2018, which is set to begin in November.