With the 2019 eMLS Cup just around the corner, MLS clubs are making their final signings before official competition kicks off in January.
The 2019 season begins with the inaugural eMLS League Series presented by PlayStation: eMLS League Series One in January and eMLS League Series Two in February. Those two League Series events will determine seeding for the second annual eMLS Cup, where players also receive points to qualify for the EA Sports FIFA Global Series Playoffs.
eMLS players from 22 clubs – Atlanta United, D.C. United and FC Cincinnati join the 19 original clubs in 2019 – will vie for the eMLS Cup title currently held by the Houston Dynamo's Memo Trevino ("Kid M3Mito"), hoping an eWorld Cup berth is also in the cards.
Last year six eMLS players qualified for the EA Sports FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs and Sporting Kansas City's Alex Betancourt ("SKC Alekzandur") performed well enough to advance to the 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup in London as one of the world's top 32 players.
Here's a running list of who's signed so far:
D.C. United: Renato Zanelli (Renatogz05)
Officially unveiled on December 21, Zanelli is D.C. United's first eMLS signing in club history.
Born in Peru, the 22-year-old Odenton, Md. native plays under the name "Renatogz05" and will be making his eMLS debut in 2019.
Seattle Sounders: Nick Mars (TheMarsBars11)
The 24-year-old Mars was signed after winning the first-ever open esports tournament organized by the club in December. A Sounders fan and season ticketholder from Tacoma, he grew up playing youth soccer in the area, including facing off against Jordan Morris.
“I’ve been a Sounders fan since I was born, so it’s a dream come true to represent Sounders FC in eMLS,” Mars told the club site.
Mars takes the mantle from fellow Sounders fan Jason Flick (Flickiify), who represented the club in 2018.
Portland Timbers: Edgar Guerrero (xthiagosilva_o)
A Timbers fan living in McMinnville, Ore., Guerrero was re-signed by the club on December 7 after a 2018 competitive season which saw him advance from the group stage at the inaugural eMLS Cup, going 4-0-0 against the Timbers' Cascadia rivals.
Prior to joining the Timbers, Guerrero captained the esports team at Mexico’s Club América, where he won numerous national and continental titles.
Minnesota United: Jay Adams (JayAdams) & Alex Tsobanakis (Tsobi7)
Minnesota United will have a two-person team representing the club in eMLS in 2019: Jay Adams, who was a fixture on the club's Twitch channel, makes his return and he will be joined by newcomer Alex Tsobanakis, who recently finished first of 64 participants in an MNUFC eSports tournament.
"I'm really looking forward to the season, I love the club – I've been supporting since I was seven – and I want to be part of this as it grows bigger," Tsobanakis said.
Minnesota natives Andrew Gallo (TheLastCaptainX) and Elias Baca (Pacify X), who represented the club in 2018 with Adams, will not be returning.
Columbus Crew SC: Graham Ellix (skamzz), Nenad Stojkovic & Hasib Zulfic (Hasib_7)
On December 19 Crew SC announced they were bringing back all three eMLS competitors for 2019.
The 30-year-old Stojkovic, who played NCAA Division I soccer at Cleveland State, is a former FIFA eWorld Cup champion (2010) and quarterfinalist (2011). In 2018 he qualified for the EA Global Playoff Series in Amsterdam last year.
The UK-born Ellix, who has been a pro since 2008 and is based out of Cincinnati, is another of the world's top-ranked players and he represented Crew SC at the 2018 eMLS Cup.
The highly touted, Bosnian-born Zulfic (pictured above), who resides in St. Louis, Mo., was the most recent addition to the team in April and ranks Top 10 in the Americas region and Top 100 worldwide.
Houston Dynamo: Memo Trevino (Kid M3Mito)
There were few who were surprised when the Dynamo announced that Trevino, who won the inaugural eMLS Cup at PAX East in 2018, would be returning for 2019.
He was one of six eMLS players to qualify for the FIFA 18 Global Series Playoffs and he has already qualified to play in the FUT Champions Cup in 2019.
Philadelphia Union: Cormac Dooley (Doolsta) & Jeffrey Acevedo (JisForJeff)
Acevedo (pictured above), a 20 year old from Yonkers, NY, will join "Doolsta" as the second member of the Union's 2019 eMLS team after winning a competition for college students organized by the club.
Acevedo played collegiate soccer at NCAA Division II Concordia College for two years before his career was cut short by a groin injury.
Dooley, an 18-year-old gamer raised in Ireland and based in West Chester, Pa., had his contract extended in October after a season which saw him advance to the 2018 eMLS Cup quarterfinals. He was also featured in a Fox Sports documentary "Esports Rising Athletes."
When he's not on the sticks, Dooley plays midfield for club team Liverpool Celtic and for West Chester East High School.
FC Cincinnati: Gordon Thornsberry (FCCFiddle)
The 21-year-old Oxford, Ohio native was unveiled on November 19 as the expansion team's first eMLS signing. Thornsberry represented French giants Paris-St. Germain on their esports platforms and joined Cincinnati on a free transfer.
Last year, Thornsberry finished one win shy of the 2018 FIFA eWorld Cup and he was the second-highest finishing American in the entire 2018 FIFA Global Series, qualifying for all three playoff events in Barcelona, Manchester and Amsterdam.
Atlanta United: Hugo Hernandez (ratedhugo)
Atlanta United announced their first-ever eMLS signing on November 15, penning Chattanooga, Tennessee native Hugo Hernandez to a contract.
The 25 year old caught the club’s eye after reaching the finals and the semifinals in the two qualifiers for the eMLS All-Star Challenge held in Atlanta prior to the 2018 All-Star Game. He followed that up with a strong showing during MLS’s FIFA 19 launch event in Atlanta in September.
A pro since January 2017, ratedhugo has built a following of 17,000 strong on Twitch.
Montreal Impact: Lyes Ould-Ramoul (LyesMTL)
On November 16 the Montreal Impact extended the contract of Algerian-born Lyes Ould-Ramoul through November 2019.
The business intelligence Master’s student at HEC Montreal reached the final of the first ever eMLS Cup in 2018 and participated in the EA Sports Global Series Playoffs.
NYCFC: Chris Holly (didychrislito)
Back on September 28, NYCFC were the first to move and re-sign the Haitian-born New Yorker, who made it to the Global Series Playoffs in FIFA 18, only just missing out on a spot at the FIFA eWorldCup.
"FIFA 18 didn’t end in the way that I wanted it to," Holly said. "But now that the new game is here, I’m looking forward to getting back on the grind. With the club’s support, I know I can improve my game and challenge for titles in FIFA 19.”