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eMLS players give back in "stream-a-thons"

EDITOR'S NOTE: The inaugural eMLS Cup will take place April 5-8, 2018, live at PAX East in Boston and streamed on Twitch. Learn more

Digital streaming platform Twitch has given gamers a voice, a pathway to make a career out of doing what they love, and a way to interact with millions who share their interests and passions.

The company has also emerged as a key contributor to charitable causes, raising more than $75 million for over 100 different charities since their launch with the help of top platform influencers, partners, and their fans.

As Twitch continues to grow into a mainstream platform – there are more than one million watching streamers at any given time – it increases the ability of streamers to help those in need. Streamers raised $25 million in 2016 alone, with the majority of that coming in the second half of the year.

While charity tournaments for popular games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds featuring high-profile gamers draw headlines and major donations, streamers are rapidly upping the ante on their own, partnering with charities like the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to perform stream-a-thons.

These marathon gaming sessions rely on grassroots support from the streaming community; fans watch, donate, and share the stream, while other prominent streamers often drop by for a cameo appearance and some signal-boosting of their own.

The results are often incredible.

Fortnite streaming superstar and Twitch partner Ninja recently raised more than $113,000 in just over eight hours to help support suicide prevention and awareness, while the 1,000 Dreams Fund is currently in the midst of a month-long streaming project to help raise funding to grant women interested in pursuing professional gaming the tools they need to succeed.

On the FIFA 18 front, MLS has been making an impact for years. Chicago Fire-affiliated gamer Edwin Castro, better known as Castro_1021, has been making a stream-a-thon splash since 2015. Over Memorial Day weekend that year, he played FIFA for 50 hours straight, raising more than $80,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and MacMillan Cancer Support. As his star has risen into one of the top influencers on Twitch and YouTube, he has continued doing similar work in more recent years. For his work, Castro was awarded his very own FIFA Ultimate Team Community Hero card by EA SPORTS — a cool 95 overall-rated striker with every skill you could want.

Elsewhere, San Jose Earthquakes first-ever eSports signing Alan Ortega has built his growing community around charitable causes, raising money on his own to help a family in need in 2016 before partnering with Twitch a year later and helping raise more than $4,000 in a 30-hour FIFA-fest this past December.

Just like the other gamers on this list, the rise in popularity of the platforms Ortega uses to reach his audience means the possibilities of giving back to his community grows larger and more profound.

Soccer and giving have always gone hand in hand, and with the overlapping communities of MLS fans, eSports fans, and an ever-growing collection of platforms committed to socially-conscious endeavors, the possibilities are endless.