Podcast: James Ruth chats about eMLS launch to Digital Sport Insider

Esports is our monthly topic here at Digital Sport, and to kick off the month, Dan McLaren sat down with James Ruth, project lead of eMLS, ahead of the league’s esports tournament launch next month.

Major League Soccer has teamed up with EA Sports, who make FIFA 18, and FIFA, football’s world governing body itself to launch the eMLS Cup which will take place in April with entries from the participating MLS clubs who will send a player to compete for their team. The winners of MLS’s tournament will qualify for FIFA’s eWorld Cup global series play-offs, which will take place in August.

“It’s the eWorld Cup serving as this ultimate moment within the calendar, but being fed into by global series play-offs which are played on each console, but with this qualifier competition before it. MLS is lucky enough to work alongside EA on being the core elite qualifier competition for our region, which is the US and Canada,” said Ruth on the Digital Sport Insider podcast.

The structure is interesting and perhaps taps into the spirit of a global game like the FIFA 18 sector of esports in a way that football perhaps can’t do.

In football, every league is the most prestigious competition in its own country, but when it comes to creating continental or international tournaments above that, the sport finds it difficult. The money and the power is centred in a few European leagues, and even though every country sends its own representatives to competitions like the Champions League the competitive teams come from just a few leagues.

With this competition – and perhaps future iterations – its starts on a local scale to find the players and ends with a global finale which may engender that romantic feel that international sporting competitions have about them.

“[The structure] is fairly approachable,” Ruth told the podcast, “especially for people that may not follow FIFA or maybe aren’t that into esports. The way we break it down is that it’s a local-national-global structure.”

“And the way that eMLS is fitting into it is all of our participating clubs are going into their market places and saying ‘We are looking to sign the best esports player in FIFA to represent our club, wear our crest and participate in eMLS cup.’ And the clubs do that in different ways: some are going out and finding their own talent through their own research.Some are doing open tournaments, really open casting calls for gamers to come out and compete in open tournaments and competitions. And then each of those clubs select a player and that player plays in the eMLS Cup”

The winners of that then go and play against other nations in a truly global competition which seems much more equal than many other competitions out there.

Esports is still at that stage where there’s an even playing field, where money and other interests haven’t aligned to make some countries and their leagues more powerful than others. And it certainly makes for an excitingly structured competition.

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Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 635 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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