19 MLS clubs have joined the burgeoning gaming space, announcing their representative for the recently announced EA Sports FIFA 18 gaming league, eMLS, and in FIFA tournaments around the world.
The 19 MLS clubs committed to participating in eMLS in 2018 are: 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.
The first eMLS Cup will take place this April at PAX East in Boston, with the winner earning an automatic berth in the EA Sports FIFA 18 Global Series Playoff and a chance to become the FIFA 18 World Champion at the FIFA eWorld Cup 18 in August.
Here's a closer look at the newest entries and some of the league's other gamers:
Cormac Dooley, Philadelphia Union
Philadelphia Union have signed Cormac Dooley, aka Doolsta, as the club’s official representative for eMLS Cup after the 17-year-old gamer won the grand prize in the Union Esports Open presented by Independence Blue Cross, powered by N3rd Street Gamers.
Born in Paoili, Pennsylvania, raised primarily in Ireland and now a resident of West Chester, Doolsta is an veteran FIFA player, with 13 years of experience playing with Manchester United and France. He plays a possession-oriented style on the pitch and can claim a personal-best 86th monthly ranking in FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) Champs Americas for November.
John Oliveira, New England Revolution
New England will be represented at eMLS Cup by local product John Oliveira, known by his gamertag JKO1707, the club's first official eMLS competitor.
Oliveira earned his contract by excelling in the Revs' open tournament last month, and recently competed in the FIFA Interactive World Cup (FIWC) Regional Qualifier in Los Angeles. He advanced out of the group and finished one win shy of qualifying for the World Finals in London, but finished the tournament ranked among the top eight in EA SPORTSTM FIFA 17 in the Americas region.
A native of Brazil who grew up on Martha's Vineyard, JKO1707 brings more than 13 years of FIFA experience and started his 2017 competitive campaign by topping his group and finishing in the top six overall at the 2017 Miami Regional, followed by another top-six finish at the Vancouver Regional.
Erfan Hosseini, Vancouver Whitecaps
Vancouver announced Iranian-born Erfan Hosseini as the ‘Caps first official eMLS representative. The 17-year-old will be the youngest competitor at the inaugural eMLS Cup, held in Boston, Massachusetts this April at PAX East, one of the largest gaming events in the world.
Hosseini, who goes by "Skill Shack," was the winner of the Whitecaps FC live FIFA 17 Tournament last August at the Sport Chek store at Metrotown in Burnaby, BC. He was also recommended by renowned FIFA eSports analyst and commentator ChuBoi.
Memo Treviño, Houston Dynamo
The Houston Dynamo have signed Houston native Guillermo “Memo” Treviño as the first professional esports athlete in club history.
Treviño, whose gamer tag is HOU Kid M3Mito, finished February ranked in the top 15 in the Americas region and among the top 50 worldwide; and he recently qualified for the upcoming FUT Champions Cup tournament to be held later this spring. Last fall, he placed third in the XBOX division of the 2017 Americas Regional Final to qualify for the Ultimate Team Championship Series Finals in Berlin.
“We’re excited to be a part of this forward-thinking initiative in an effort to continue to grow our brand. We’re proud to have a Houston native representing our club and to have signed Memo as our first eMLS competitor,” said Dynamo president Chris Canetti in a statement. “It was important to identify an excellent player who knows how to win, and a bonus to find someone from within our community.”
Alan "AlanAvi" Avila, FC Dallas
A member of FCD's vaunted youth system from 2010 to 2014 who moved on to play college soccer at University of Texas-Permian Basin, Avila was a promising midfielder who saw his on-field career dashed by multiple serious knee injuries. So he pivoted to gaming.
“I started playing FIFA more because it was the closest I could get to the feeling of actually playing real soccer,” the Midland, Texas native told FCDallas.com. “After being seriously injured in both knees, I knew I had to find an alternative to playing soccer. FIFA was the best option. It made me feel the love and passion I had for the game even though I was injured.”
Avila won Xbox Manchester City Cup in 2017 and went 40-0 in FUT Champions in January 2018. He is currently an EA influencer and has attended FUT Live FIFA 18. He has a popular YouTube channel (YouTube.com/AlanAvi) where he plays competitively, opens Top 100 reward packs and Vlogs.
Connor Buckley, Colorado Rapids
Originally from Tempe, Arizona, Buckley, 23, took up playing soccer at a young age, eventually earning a scholarship to play at Menlo College, a private, four-year institution in Silicon Valley. But despite his impressive performances on the field, it was in digital arena where Buckley found his calling. In 2017, he was captain of “Team Twitch” at the inaugural Kappa Cup in London, England. In addition, Buckley was voted the Red Bull Games FIFA Streamer of the Year in 2017.
Edhem Jukovic, Chicago Fire
The 24-year-old is a regular Top-100 global finisher in monthly FUT Champions competition, peaking at No. 20 earlier this year.
In addition to his competitive accomplishments, Jukovic, who goes by the gamer tag of HekTic_JukeZ, also is well-regarded within the FIFA gaming community for his in-depth formation guides and for his attractive style of play. He has amassed a combined online follower base of more than 60,000 users across Twitter, YouTube and Twitch, with his YouTube channel earning nearly 1 million lifetime views. The Fire and JukeZ will collaborate on FIFA-related content throughout the 2018 season.
Alex Betancourt, Sporting Kansas City
Since entering FIFA’s competitive gaming scene in 2016, the 19-year-old Betancourt has earned multiple accolades as one of the continent’s best players. In January, Betancourt was one of two players from North and South America to compete at the FIFA 18 FUT Champions Cup Barcelona after earning a top-64 finish in the world rankings during the month of November 2017.
Before Betancourt travels to Boston in April, Sporting KC fans will have the opportunity to test their FIFA 18 skills against him in a Beat the Pro Tournament later this month at No Other Pub in the Kansas City Power & Light District. More details about the tournament will be confirmed in the near future.
Edgar Guerrero, Portland Timbers
The Rose City club’s first eMLS competitor, Guerrero, whose gamer tag is xthiagosilva_o, is a Timbers fan currently living in McMinnville, Oregon.
Guerrero signed with Club América in June 2017 as an esports competitor, and across 18 esports seasons, Guerrero has won various titles, including four first-division titles, two Copa Pro titles, two SuperCopa Pro titles as well as a Mexican Cup championship title and two Continental Cup titles playing FIFA. He currently ranks among the top 20 in the United States and top 35 in the Americas in FIFA 18.
Jason Flick, Seattle Sounders
Get to know our guy, Flickiify! pic.twitter.com/1FTAXKVPBz— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) February 28, 2018
Jason "Flickify" Flick is a Seattle native who has been playing FIFA for more than a decade and rooting for the Seattle Sounders since they were founded as an MLS team. He will be putting his gaming skills on display for fans in The NINETY gathering space prior to the Sounders home opener against LAFC on March 4 (5 pm ET | ESPN, MLS LIVE in Canada).
Lyes Ould-Ramoul, Montreal Impact
The Impact have come to terms with EA Sports FIFA 18 eSports player Lyes Ould-Ramoul, better known by his online pseudonym LyesMTL, to represent the Bleu-blanc-noir at PAX East.
A young finance student at HEC Montréal, LyesMTL was born in Algeria but arrived in Montreal when he was still a child, and already has an impressive track record: He finished fourth during the 2015 FIFA eWorld Cup and ranked first in FUT Champions in North America for January 2018 on PlayStation 4. He also qualified for the regional final in 2017.
Graham “Skamzz” Ellix, Columbus Crew SC
Crew SC announced the signing of its first eSports competitors on Feb. 23, but with a twist: Ellix and Stojkovic will play each other in the "Crew SC Gamer Playoff Event" to determine who will represent the Black & Gold at the inaugural eMLS Cup, set to take place at PAX East in Boston this April.
The event will took place on March 5 with Ellix defeating Stojkovic in extra time of the the third match. Read more about the match here.
Abraham Valbuena, Orlando City SC
Meet Orlando City's first eMLS athlete, Abe Valbuena! He'll compete for the cup at PAX East this April. pic.twitter.com/hxkPXcpmLE— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) February 22, 2018
The Florida-based Valbuena started playing FIFA against his two brothers 15 years ago and began playing competitively in 2016. He qualified for the FIFA Ultimate Team Champions in 2017 and competed as one of the 32 best players in North America.
“I’m excited to represent Orlando City. When I first heard that the club was joining eMLS I was excited to represent a Florida team,” said Valbuena, a native of Venezuela who lives in Miami, in an OCSC release. “I’m really excited to represent this club and to do my best.”
Phil Balke, Toronto FC
A former soccer player himself, Balke hopes to follow Toronto’s 2017 MLS Cup victory with a title of his own.
The 23-year-old Toronto resident and York University student only got into competitive gaming last year but finished in the top five in North America to qualify for his first live event, a FIFA Ultimate Team Championship Series regional final in Miami. After other successful performances, he made it to London as one of 32 finalists at the FIFA Interactive World Cup, saying he “surprised everyone” during his run.
Balke came to Canada with his family from Iraq when he was 9 and played semi-pro soccer for the Woodbridge Strikers of League 1 Ontario.
Alan Ortega, San Jose Earthquakes
Signed by the Quakes on Jan. 25, Ortega is a Stockton, California native who partnered with Twitch in 2017 to become a full time professional gamer. In November of last year, he won the silver medal in the FIFA Twitch Cup.
Ortega has more than 39,000 followers on Twitch, and has used his platform to raise money for charitable efforts close to him. In 2016, he raised upwards of $1,500 with a live stream to help his former student from an after-school program whose mother passed away from cancer. In December 2017, he played FIFA for 30 continuous hours to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, raising more than $4,000 for the organization.
Minnesota United FC
Elias Baca was announced as the Minnesota United entrant into 2018 eMLS Cup. He beat out fellow Loons gamers Jay Adams and Andrew Gallo in a series of tournaments and head-to-head matches for the slot.
“I’m honored to be representing Minnesota United in the first ever eMLS Cup, and I would also like to thank everyone in the front office who has been working hard to make this happen,” said Baca on Minnesota's website. “I want to thank my teammates Jay and Drew for being supportive, and last but not least all the fans who support our eSports team. This is a great opportunity for the team and for the league to expand, and I’m super excited to be part of it!”
Giuseppe Guastella, LA Galaxy
The Galaxy signed Giuseppe Guastella as the club's first eSports athlete, Guastella, a five-time FIFA Interactive World Championship (FIWC) finalist and FIFA Americas champion, is a product of San Pedro, California, and will play under the gamer tag xGGGodfatherx.
“We are thrilled to sign a player of Giuseppe’s caliber,” said LA Galaxy President Chris Klein. “He has proven himself to be a top eSports player and his success makes him an excellent choice to be the first-ever eSports athlete to represent the LA Galaxy. We are extremely excited to have Giuseppe join our team and look forward to playing for our club.”
Giuseppe “xGGGodfatherx” Guastella is one of the world’s top FIFA competitive players. The American started playing FIFA as an eight-year-old and entered the competitive FIFA scene in 2009. Since then, the 32-year-old has produced a prolific competitive career, including winning the 2009 FIFA Interactive World North American Championship and a top four finish at the 2012 FIWC in Dubai.
Additionally, he won the North American championship at the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game and was crowned FUT Champion in Vancouver. “It’s a great honor to be the first FIFA eSport player to represent the best club in the MLS,” said Guastella.
Mike LaBelle, New York Red Bulls
Already a Red Bull athlete, LaBelle is one of the premier content creators in eSports with over 70,000 followers on Twitch and 285,000 on YouTube, and is a top-ranked player worldwide on both Xbox and Playstation. LaBelle is known for his game tutorials where he shares his tips for FIFA success with fans, and he will be creating team-specific content for Red Bulls fans.
A Houston native, LaBelle played college soccer at McMurry University; he has won seven national titles in EA Sports FIFA and represented the United States at the FIFA Interactive World Cup and World Cyber Games, among others. He has also worked as a gaming analyst for Copa90 and Kick TV, and films and produces his own content.
Christopher Holly, NYCFC
The first eSports signing in MLS, Holly joined NYCFC back in April.
The Hempstead, New York resident was born in the US and grew up in Haiti. He has been playing FIFA for 12 years, getting his start on a PS2 and playing for roughly 25 hours a week.