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Volume 25 No. 66
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Upstart Esports League Could Be Key In Driving New Fans To MLS

The MLS this season is debuting its esports league eMLS, and in-house research by the league shows that "more of its avid fans point to FIFA video games as a driver of their interest than playing the actual sport," according to Eric Adelson of YAHOO SPORTS. Setting up an esports league "might actually work as well or better than growing soccer in a more traditional way." The Earthquakes signed gamer Alan Ortega, one of eMLS' "first 19 signees," to a deal that makes him an "employee of the club." Ideally for the league, fans cheering for Ortega will "feed into cheering for the team he’s playing for and with: the Quakes." Ortega's online identity, CaliSCG, "became quite popular -- especially after he won a silver medal in the FIFA Twitch Cup -- and he amassed nearly 40,000 followers." So, the league "reached out to Ortega as a way to build its brand and fan base." eMLS' structure will include each gamer setting up a team that "must include at least three MLS players and two players from the club he represents." The rest of the players can be from "clubs around the globe." MLS Senior Dir of Properties & Events James Ruth calls it "fantasy football for video games." Adelson noted it is "easy for longtime soccer fans to scoff at this." Video games "don’t have a sterling reputation in this country." The idea that the MLS is actually "encouraging its fans to watch strangers play games online might irk those who feel children don’t connect with each other the way they connect to a console" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/6).

RAPID ASCENT: The Rapids announced the signing of Connor Buckley as their "first competitive gamer." In addition to representing the Rapids in eSports competitions, Buckley, who "goes by the gamer tag BuckArmy and has more than 79,000 followers on Twitch, will also help the club produce digital content" (DENVER POST, 3/6).

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.