The first edition of the eMLS Tournament Special is almost here, and while we've had plenty of chances to watch the eMLS players do their thing this year, there's a new twist from what you've seen in previous eMLS events: MLS players will be joining the them.
If you missed the announcement, the eMLS Tournament Special presented by Coca-Cola and PlayStation pairs up eMLS professionals with actual MLS players from their own team. Four teams are paired off and play two-legged series: eMLS players vs. eMLS player and MLS player vs. MLS player. The team with the highest aggregate score on each side moves on to the final, which is contested in the same format. That means the MLS players have just as much of a say in the result as the eMLS players, creating new chances for teams to win some glory on the console.
Both eMLS and MLS players will be playing with the real rosters of the teams they represent.
This will happen for five episodes, starting Sunday (7 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes) and running every Sunday through May 17, with a total of 16 MLS teams participating and the winners of the first four episodes competing in one final tournament to decide the eMLS Tournament Special champion.
What should we expect from the first episode? What should we watch for? Here's a little primer:
Who's playing on Sunday?
El Trafico is the obvious highlight of Sunday's slate, and just like the on-field version, there's no shortage of drama on the console side. LAFC's RemiMartinn and the Galaxy's Godfather tangled in a tight League Series Two quarterfinal, which featured plenty of emotion and even a little trash talk. And that's to say nothing of the MLS player matchup, with LAFC's Adama Diomande facing none other than Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, the Galaxy's star forward and one of the league's biggest offseason signings.
Chicago and FCC will face off in the other semifinal, which will feature an all-Tico battle on the MLS player side as Francisco Calvo faces Kendall Waston in what should be an entertaining, and hopefully banter-filled, game between two national teammates. Then, eMLS Cup favorite Fiddle of FCC faces Chicago's BITW7. While there is certainly a clear favorite on the eMLS side remember: it only counts for half the result.
What's the lowdown on the eMLS players?
If this were being decided solely on the eMLS player side, Fiddle would be the obvious favorite. He claimed the title at the first two eMLS events of the year, League Series One and Two, and sits atop the eMLS leaderboard heading into eMLS Cup.
WATCH: FC Cincinnati's Fiddle wins back-to-back titles at eMLS League Series Two
Still, there are a handful of players right on Fiddle's heels this year, perhaps none more so than RemiMartinn, who has been one of the most talented and exciting additions to the eMLS field in 2020. The two were opponents in a hard-fought, emotional League Series Two semifinal that was only decided on penalties.
Godfather is no slouch either — he's a longtime veteran of the competitive FIFA scene, a regular in the knockout stages of eMLS events and the 2019 eMLS Cup runner-up. Chicago's BITW7 is a step behind the other three in terms of being consistently competitive, but after finishing fourth in the League Series Two regular season and making the knockout round he has established himself as a player to watch.
Can these MLS players play?
It's been well-documented that just like many of us, the soccer pros also like to kick back with a game of FIFA. While the hours might not be there for them to reach the level of the pro gamers they'll be teaming up with, it's not hard to imagine a good number have a strong grasp on the game.
Waston, for example, even admitted with a smile a couple years ago he was playing FIFA as part of his run-up to facing Brazil in the 2018 World Cup.
You may have seen Diomande on LAFC gaming channels from time-to-time as well, and you can be sure — even if they're not broadcasting their talents to the in that just like competitors in any field — Chicharito, Calvo, and all these guys have been putting in work to make sure they rep their teams as well as possible on Sunday.
When does my team play?
If your team isn't playing this weekend, you can check the following schedule: