The second installment of the eMLS Tournament Special presented by Coca-Cola and PlayStation is just around the corner and after a week of talk, there promises to be another exciting evening of FIFA 20 action on Sunday (7 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes, TSN).
This week's episode will feature two more regional rivalry matchups, with Minnesota United facing Sporting Kansas City before D.C. United and the New England Revolution square off. The two winning teams will then play the final game of the evening, with the winner joining Week 1 champsLAFC in the semifinals on May 17.
Just like the first episode, this weekend's competition will feature appearances from four MLS players; USMNT winger Paul Arriola will be repping D.C., Supporters' Shield-winning 'keeper Tyler Miller will be on the sticks for Minnesota, New England lifer Diego Fagundez will be representing his club and perhaps the most talented FIFA player of the group, Wan Kuzain, will be playing for SKC.
In case you missed it, the eMLS Tournament Special pits 16 teams — represented by one of their players and their eMLS pro gamer — against each other in a five-week FIFA 20 tournament to support relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. Four teams play each week, with each week's winner moving on to the final episode on May 17. Matchups are two-legged series (eMLS vs. eMLS, MLS vs. MLS) decided by an aggregate score of the two legs, with a golden goal tiebreaker between the two MLS players if necessary.
Here's what to look forward to in the second episode:
The MLS player showdown to watch here has to be Miller vs. Wan Kuzain. This is because the so-called "Nicest Rivalry in MLS" may not be so nice after all as Miller threw down the gauntlet in an interview with MLSsoccer.com's Tom Bogert this week.
“Wan Kuzain? I don’t know much about him," Miller said. "I’ve heard he’s a really good FIFA player but I’m really hoping to take advantage of the mental side of this game and see how mentally strong he is. I’ve been through the s--t, I know how strong I am. We’ll see what he’s been through as a young boy.”
The younger Wan Kuzain, though, might just be a tough nut to crack. Not only has he been a regular winner on live streams since the MLS season hiatus started, he recalled on a conference call this week how he played 24/7 as a kid and has been a regular player ever since, even exploring streaming on Twitch in a a similar mold to current and former pro athletes like the NBA's Devin Booker and ex-NFL receiver Chad Ochocinco.
On the other side of the bracket, D.C.'s Arriola faces the Revs' Fagundez. While the Minnesota-SKC matchup has given us a few soundbytes and storylines, Arriola encapsulated what a lot of MLS players are likely feeling heading into the unfamiliar territory of a very public FIFA 20 tournament.
“I don't know how it's going to go, man, to be honest," Arriola told Bogert on Tuesday. "I thought I was alright, but I watched [Francisco] Calvo and [Kendall] Waston go at it Sunday and I was like ‘ooh these guys are really good.' The problem for me is there’s no scouting report! Diego Fagundez could be going at it eight hours a day, just saucing everybody up. Here I am, I don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s going to be some nerves in the beginning, but I’m definitely excited.”
eMLS live stream audiences may be a little less familiar with this group — Sporting KC's Alekzandur is the only player to have made the knockout stage of an eMLS event, when he reached the quarterfinals of eMLS Cup 2018, though he only missed out on the 2020 League Series Two live stream on goal difference and guaranteed himself a spot at eMLS Cup 2020. He will certainly be the favorite against Minnesota's Jay Adams, who has historically struggled in eMLS play and finished second from bottom in both League Series events this year.
On the other side of the bracket, D.C. United's KingCJ0 looks to be the favorite over New England's JKO based on performances so far this year. Despite not making a live stream in 2020, the eMLS newcomer performed well enough to finish 13th overall in the combined standings and earn a bye in the Last Chance Bracket to make eMLS Cup. JKO, meanwhile, finished 23rd overall in the combined standings. The two met in the League Series Two regular season, with KingCJ0 taking a narrow 1-0 win.
Who could win it all?
On paper, it seems Sporting certainly has a good chance to make a run here. They have the most successful eMLS player of the four teams and in Wan Kuzain a vastly experienced FIFA player despite his comparatively young age. Still, we'll see if Miller backs up his talk, and maybe the new format suits Jay Adams and sparks an uptick in form. On the other side, D.C. might seem to be the favorites against New England based on the eMLS side, but as always with this tournament, that's only 50% of the equation, leaving plenty up in the air.