MLS launching esports league for FIFA 18 World Cup

Major League Soccer is partnering with EA Sports to create an esports organization for FIFA 18’s worldwide gaming competition, the sports league announced today.

Known as eMLS, the league will resemble esports organizations like the NBA 2K League in that its competitors will represent real-life sports teams. At the start, 19 of the 23 MLS clubs will participate in eMLS: Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

 

Competition to make eMLS will be fierce, as each of the aforementioned clubs will field an esports squad of just one professional gamer to represent it in the FIFA 18 league. The organizers of eMLS are leaving that process up to the individual clubs; each one will figure out its own method of selecting a FIFA 18 pro “from its region.” With only one esports athlete per eMLS club, rather than a roster of multiple players, it’s unclear whether the league has a standard contingency plan in case a club’s sole representative is unable to compete for some reason. Asked for details, an MLS spokesperson told Polygon that “some teams may choose to have multiple players represent them,” although clubs can send only one player to eMLS events.

MLS, the top level of professional soccer in the U.S. and Canada, joins Australia’s A-League as real-world leagues that have pledged to create esports counterparts for the road to the FIFA eWorld Cup. (EA perhaps should’ve gone with a different name — when you Google it, the search engine assumes you’ve misspelled “FIFA World Cup,” probably since the real-life World Cup returns this June in Russia.)