Major League Soccer is officially entering the eSports realm through a partnership with video game development giant EA on a professional development league known as eMLS.
In such leagues - NBA 2K League also recently launched - professional teams will often have a designated eSports team. In the case of eMLS, 19 of the 23 currently active Major League Soccer clubs will “field” a team in the league, our beloved Philadelphia Union included.
For eMLS, each participating franchise will have a team comprised of one player to represent their club on the virtual fields of FIFA 18.
According to a report in Polygon, teams will be allowed to have “multiple players represent them” within the game, but only one player can be sent to participate in official eMLS competition. Each eMLS franchise will have their own ways and criteria of choosing who from their region to represent them, according to the report.
I believe this clearly indicates that the competition will be one-on-one matches, which is interesting considering the team nature of professional sports. In a normal eSports competition/tournament, players play a series of matches/games, often in best of 3 or best of 5 series.
EA has created a virtual World Cup tournament very creatively titled the FIFA eWorld Cup that will be the big conclusion to the series of tournaments known as the FIFA 2018 Global Series. Within this series will be a competition known as the eMLS Cup, which will take place during PAX East 2018 in Boston (Penny Arcade Expo, an international gaming/pop culture convention) in April. This will include all of the participating eMLS clubs and the winner will be awarded a qualifying spot in the 2018 Global Series.
It will be interesting to see how this works out and what it does for the league’s popularity in the world of eSports competition.
“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,” MLS Business Ventures President and Managing Director Gary Stevenson said in a news release.