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MLS and Fox Sports to stage FIFA 20 tournament with real pros

Esports competitors and league counterparts pair up in eMLS Tournament Special

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FIFA 18 - Alex Hunter on LA Galaxy chasing a ball
EA Sports’ fictional Alex Hunter, playing for the very real LA Galaxy, in FIFA 18.
Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Major League Soccer, which had its 2020 season suspended just three matches into the schedule, will stage a monthlong esports tournament featuring a field of 32 professionals from both the real-life pitch and EA Sports’ FIFA 20 Global Series.

The eMLS Tournament Special will air on the league’s broadcast partners, FS1 and Fox Deportes, beginning Sunday, April 19 at 7 p.m. EDT. Coca-Cola and PlayStation have also joined as presenting partners. The tournament is being played to benefit Feeding America and Food Banks Canada, with donations to both made after each broadcast weekend.

The episodes will be remotely contested and broadcast, with competitors playing from their homes. Sixteen MLS sides are represented. Their MLS and eMLS pros will face their counterparts in two-leg, single elimination tournaments of four teams, for a total of five matches broadcast each weekend.

Sunday’s opening event pits Chicago Fire against FC Cincinnati, and LAFC against LA Galaxy in the esports answer to their derby, “El Trafico.” That means Chicago’s Francisco Calvo and BITW7 will meet Cincy’s Kendall Waston and Fiddle, respectively, while LAFC’s Adama Diomande and RemiMartinn likewise tangle with the Galaxy’s Chicharito and Godfather. The winning clubs (by aggregate goals) will meet in a one-match final to determine who advances to a final tournament at the end of the month.

Here is the remainder of the draw. On Sunday, May 17, the winning clubs from all four stages will meet in a grand final following the same format as the first round.

bracket showing teams and competitors in the first four stages of the eMLS Tournament Special from April 19 to May 17, 2020. Image: Major League Soccer

The matches will be hosted by Fox Sports commentators Stu Holden, Rachel Bonnetta, and Rodolfo Landeros, with analysis from Mike LaBelle.

Major League Soccer joins Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, Formula One and NASCAR as sports that have taken their stars and competition online with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic shuttering virtually all public interaction.

MLB this week kicked off a players’ tournament featuring representatives of all 30 baseball clubs playing Sony’s MLB The Show 20. Saturday night, the Phoenix Suns’ DeAndre Ayton defeated teammate Devin Booker to win the inaugural NBA 2K Players Tournament, broadcast live on ESPN.

F1 just held its third Virtual Grand Prix, featuring real-life drivers and esports pros in the field, to replace events that have been canceled so far. And NASCAR, in partnership with iRacing, is in the middle of a Pro Invitational Series that Fox Sports is also broadcasting. Competition there has been so tough that one driver ragequit after a wreck — and lost his real-life sponsor over it.

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