NBA 2K? eMLS? Madden NFL? Major Sports Continue Connecting To Esports
Recent announcements from some of the biggest sports leagues in the United States prove the popularity of esports continues to gain steam. Unlike its growth over the past decade or so, which has largely been based on games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and League of Legends, reaching out to major sports fans means a larger connection to fanatics that love to spend money to show their allegiance.
Major Sports Leagues Making Major Esports Connections
The sports gaming “game” has been around for nearly three decades, and major sports leagues in the United States are starting to tap into their popularity. Here are some recent ways they esports leagues are now connected to real sports leagues.
Major League Soccer + Esports = EMLS
On January 12, Major League Soccer partnered with EA Sports to help create eMLS, which is a competitive esports league using EA Sports FIFA 18. This eMLS league is going to feature the top FIFA 18 players in North America, competing for the opportunity to play in the EA SPORTS FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs on the Road to the FIFA eWorld Cup 2018 in August.
The really cool part of this is that participating MLS teams are recruiting their own players by using local tournaments to find the best FIFA 18 talent. That means a match between the eMLS clubs of the Orlando City Lions and the Seattle Sounders will represent people from those areas – even more than the real sports club! (Although, teams will also be able to sign their own FIFA Pro from anywhere if they choose.)
Nineteen of the 23 MLS clubs are participating in eMLS, and each team will sign one player to represent their region in a battle to win the eMLS Cup, which will debut in April at PAX East 2018 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
Here’s a list of the 19 MLB clubs participating: 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.
National Basketball League + Esports = NBA2K
Last February, the NBA 2K League became the very first esports league owned and operated by one of the four major pro sports in America. “Tryouts” will happen in February of 2018 for the inaugural season, with an esports draft by the 17 participating NBA clubs, and the season will begin in May. Each team will choose five players who will live in that team’s city, just like NBA players.
These five players are going to compete in head-to-head games throughout the season in five-on-five matchups at one or two locations.
One of the biggest changes, however, is that you won’t see the NBA stars in this game – the esports players will be have their individual avatars playing in the game. That instantly makes it a much more fair competition, not allowing whomever plays as Steph Curry an unfair advantage before the games even start.
” “We know that of our NBA teams, two-thirds of their social media followers are outside the U.S. so this gives all of our 17 teams a chance to engage with these fans in a new way. We have 1.6 million players playing every single day. We know we have millions of NBA fans and we know they are more likely to play video games than other fans and more likely to engage in esports than other fans.” – Brendan Donohue, NBA 2K League’s Managing Director
NBA 2K, which originally came out in 1999, is currently the highest-selling sports video game series among U.S. sports leagues, selling nine million copies in 2017.
Heads up - the Online Application will be made available during February. This means you only need your 50 wins to advance to the NBA 2K League Combine in February – stay tuned for more info, and go get your 50!
— NBA2KLeague (@NBA2KLeague) January 24, 2018
NFL Hires Head of Esports: Madden NFL + NFL Next?
In mid-January, the NFL started looking to hire a “Head of Esports,” which would presumably be the start of their own eNFL league, likely based on EA Sports Madden NFL games.
Currently, all 32 NFL clubs are involved in one way or another with esports, as part of the Madden NFL 18 Club Championship. But this recent announcement, following the paths set by the NBA and MLB, should mean NFL teams will soon be signing Madden NFL players to represent their teams in tournaments.
What makes this different than the other two is that the NFL is largely a sport followed by mostly Americans, whereas both soccer and basketball have international popularity.
How far behind is Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League from moving into this foray?
For that matter, when will we have our first major esports royal rumble, based on the champions of keystone games for each of these five major sports?
Wouldn’t it be cool to see the esports players from the five Boston clubs join together to do battle in a once-every-four-years esports event against the esports players from the five Miami clubs? Speaking of Boston, here’s a great look at the ELEAGUE Major: Boston 2018.
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