On January 12, 2018, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that it partnered with Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) to create an eSports league, eMLS. The league will feature the best EA Sports FIFA 18 players in the United States and Canada. eSports is a form of competitive video gaming where gamers participate in tournaments such as the International, the League of Legends World Championship, the Evolution Championship Series, and the Intel Extreme Masters, in order to win cash prizes.
Nineteen of the 23 MLS teams will recruit their own players from their local regions to compete in local tournaments. It is unknown why the remaining four teams were not included. From the local tournaments, the MLS teams will narrow their selection down to one player and this player will represent the MLS team in the new eMLS league. This player will also represent their respective MLS team at the inaugural eMLS Cup that will be played in April 2018, at the PAX East gaming festival in Boston, MA. The winners from the PAX East gaming festival will serve as the qualifiers for the United States and Canada to the EA Sports FIFA 18 Global Series Play-offs, which could eventually lead to a FIFA eWorld Cup spot. Last year, the world’s FIFA champion, England’s Spencer “Gorilla” Ealing, took home $200,000.
MLS already has a partnership in place with EA Sports, but the new partnership aims to build the MLS brand “both domestically and internationally.” MLS is following the trend of many of the major national sports leagues. As we have previously covered, the NFL and the NBA already have existing eSports leagues, nor is the MLS the first to come up with the idea of an eSports league based on the popular FIFA games. In France, Russia, and Belgium, there are existing eSports leagues that use FIFA.
According to Gary Stevenson, MLS Business Ventures President and Managing Director, “This step forward into competitive gaming is a key component in our partnership with EA Sports to promote deeper engagement and connections between MLS supporters and millions of FIFA players around the world.”