The Overwatch League debuted Wednesday, and Twitch and social media were aflutter with the esports pros battling it out in Blizzard Entertainment’s sensational team shooter. Now, EA and Major League Soccer are going to show what happens when esports comes to the biggest sports game in the world.
Today, EA Sports and MLS announced the eMLS, a new esports league for FIFA 18. So far, 19 of the MLS’ 23 clubs are onboard, and players will represent each of these teams in the eMLS. Each will have their own qualifier to determine who will represent them in the league. Once each of the 19 teams have their players, they’ll face off at the PAX East game convention in April for a spot in the EA Sports FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs and the world championship in August.
Market research firm Newzoo projects that esports will bring in $922 million in revenues this year, and with the Overwatch League’s debut, the reorganization of Hearthstone’s competitive gaming, and the continued dominance of events like Dota 2’s The International, we’re seeing esports continuing to get stronger and stronger.
And like esports, MLS is enjoying a growth spurt. Forbes valued the average MLS club at $185 million, a 400 percent increase since 2008. And according to the AP, average MLS attendance has increased by more than 5,000 fans since 2008.
And FIFA 18 has a significant presence on Twitch, the livestreaming platform where esports lives. Streamlabs, a startup that makes software and tools for streamers and streaming platforms, said that players livestream 971,981.08 hours of FIFA 18 in 2017.
These 19 MLS clubs have joined this esports push:
- Chicago Fire
- Colorado Rapids
- Columbus Crew SC
- FC Dallas
- Houston Dynamo
- L.A. Galaxy
- Minnesota United FC
- Montreal Impact
- New England Revolution
- New York City FC
- New York Red Bulls
- Orlando City SC
- Philadelphia Union
- Portland Timbers (the best team name in sports, in my opinion! — Ed.)
- San Jose Earthquakes
- Seattle Sounders FC
- Sporting Kansas City
- Toronto FC
- Vancouver Whitecaps FC
“We are excited to unveil eMLS,” said Gary Stevenson of MLS Business Ventures in a canned statement. “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 the millions of FIFA players around the world.”
The eMLS said it will release more details as we get closer to competitions. I asked for more details and will add more once I receive an answer from an eMLS spokesperson.
Update, 1:56 p.m. with FIFA 18 streaming numbers.