The Coleumn: MLS should have its own series of video games


November 2, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; The Banc de California video board and scoreboard before the MLS Cup Championship between Philadelphia Union and LAFC. Photo by Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports.

This Saturday, LAFC hosts the Philadelphia Union in the 2022 MLS Cup. Both teams are vying for their first Philip F. Anschutz Trophy and the stakes couldn’t be higher as they are the top two teams in the league. Personally, I have no idea who to support, even if one team has Andre Blake and the other doesn’t.

I’ve been following this league since about 2013 and I get more involved as the seasons go by. As I got older, participated in a few seasons of club football and played a few video games on my Xbox 360, I noticed that there is only one series of video games where you can play with superstars of MLS, from David Beckham to David Villa. — the same series that gives you the opportunity to play with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

This must change.

Before going any further, let me make it clear that I have nothing against the FIFA video game series or FIFA in general. If anything, I don’t even play the games often despite owning at least six different editions dating back to 2002.

First I want to give some background about the league. MLS began play in 1996 with 10 teams, all but one of which still exist today. Since 2005, the league has expanded to cities from Seattle, Washington to Austin, Texas. Along the way, the league has grown in popularity as more fans attend games at football-specific stadiums each year and more homegrown players have been developed, making the team United States Men’s National Championship exciting to watch.

The popularity of video games – especially esports – has grown exponentially over the same period. Whether it’s the rise of the NBA 2K series, the dominance of the Madden NFL series, or the popularity of Rocket League and Call of Duty, more and more people are choosing to play video games instead. than doing sports. Esports is on the rise as much as pickleball, and its big events draw more viewers than the Super Bowl. Combine the two trends with eMLS, the MLS esports league created in 2018, and you get the need for an exclusive game.

Player ratings are equally important as they help young players determine who the best players are. The highest rated MLS players in FIFA 23 are LAFC defender Giorgio Chiellini and Toronto FC winger Lorenzo Insigne, who both have an overall rating of 84. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar, who recently won the Landon Donovan MVP Award after scoring 23 goals, shares the exact same 77 overall rating with Blake, the league’s three-time goaltender of the year.

While MLS stars aren’t the best in the world and the league isn’t the best in the business, ratings like these for top players in sports like basketball and American football would have consequences. disastrous. If MLS players had their own series of video games (still produced by EA), then their overall ratings would be in the 90s, which is far more satisfying than the ones Madden NFL released in late July.

The biggest downside would be MLS’s association with FIFA through CONCACAF. Because MLS has teams in Canada and the United States, FIFA considers the league the premier association in both countries. If MLS were to create its own independent video game of the FIFA series, I predict that FIFA would lose a significant portion of its gaming revenue, as more fans in North America would purchase the MLS-exclusive game rather than the global game. of FIFA.

The other notable downside is that until stars like Harry Kane, Neymar, Luis Suárez or Kylian Mbappé sign with an MLS club (if that ever happens), players cannot play with them. It’s partly down to licensing, but it has more to do with focusing on a particular league. As much as the players in the United States and Canada would like to play with the best in MLS, they prefer to play with the best athletes in the world who represent the wealthiest clubs such as FC Barcelona or Chelsea.

The best compromise is for the FIFA series to follow the path of the NHL video game series and name them after top flight leagues like the Premier League, La Liga, Serie A and Bundesliga. Even if MLS doesn’t have its name on the title, it can at least be included in the game and give people the opportunity to play with the best players in MLS.

November 2, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; A Flex Tools LAFC advertisement with the words “Driven to Win” at Banc of California Stadium. Photo by Kirby Lee – USA TODAY Sports.

Despite these drawbacks, MLS could also stand out from the crowd by adding historic and national teams to the mix – An idea I picked up from the NBA 2K series. Players could have the opportunity to play under former stars such as Beckham and Wayne Rooney if former MLS Cup-winning teams (i.e. the 2008 Columbus Crew) and regular-season behemoths ( i.e. New England Revolution 2021) were included.

I’m not just talking about the US and Canadian national teams. I would include the Mexican, Brazilian, French and English national teams to name a few. MLS players who already play for these national teams would automatically be assigned to the club while top-flight players (depending on licensing) would become anonymous players with high ratings.

Especially with the growth of the league over the last decade and the fact that the United States is one of three countries to host the 2026 World Cup, the time has come for MLS to have its own series of video games. It may seem like a crazy idea now given the popularity of the FIFA series, but if it works, the MLS video game series would be discussed on the same level as the NBA 2K and Madden NFL series.

About Shelly Evans

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