On March 12, thousands of fans tuned into the eMLS cup, a FIFA tournament that took place live at the Moody Theater during the arts and technology conference South by Southwest (SXSW). Top FIFA players battled it out in front of 1,500 live attendees for a chance at the $20,000 top prize.
Kacey “Kacee” Anderson, a Twitch streamer with over 40,000 followers and the eMLS’s first woman player and content creator, attended the cup as its lead correspondent. She spoke to Passionfruit about her experience with the eMLS leading up to the event.
In case you don’t know, one of the most popular sports franchise games out there is FIFA, a soccer simulator that allows you to pick your dream roster and send them out onto the field. The latest iteration, FIFA 23, has been a rousing success with over 10 million players within its launch week. With its popularity, multiple esports leagues have popped up, allowing those gifted at scoring virtual goals a shot at proving they are the best.
“When you are watching FIFA, it’s such an easy game to get into,” Anderson told Passionfruit. “When you turn into a FIFA game, it looks like soccer. So if you’ve ever watched a soccer game, which most humans have at least seen being played once, you kind of understand the game pretty much instantly.”
For six seasons, Anderson worked in marketing for the Chicago Fire, one of the teams in Major League Soccer (MLS), North America’s premier soccer league. When the pandemic hit, she started streaming FIFA in her free time, building up an audience to watch her play.
Eventually, she switched over to content creation full-time and reached out to the MLS, who jumped into the esports space in 2018 with their own league, the eMLS. Anderson is the first woman to be signed to an eMLS club and is now one of the league’s top content creators.
“We created this brand new position, which is the eMLS lead correspondent,” Anderson said. “So I’m behind the scenes making videos, TikTok, showing up on broadcasts, doing my own live streams, and reacting to content.”
How does the eMLS work?
The eMLS is broken into two conferences: League Series One and Two. Each of the 26 teams picks a roster player who will compete in a series of games, playing against each other team at least once. The top eight players from each conference compete in a knockout format to determine the winner.
Then it’s time for the eMLS cup, the live-streamed finale of the eMLS season which took place in 2023 on March 12 at SXSW. The top 11 players from across both conferences battled it out in front of 1,500 live attendees for a chance at the $20,000 top prize. 2023’s winner was St. Louis City’s Niklas “NR7” Raseck.
“I think if you live in North America, you should be talking about MLS,” Anderson said.
Want to be a FIFA Pro?
But how exactly does someone get to be a pro-FIFA player? According to Anderson, it’s about understanding the game, but being an interesting content creator doesn’t hurt.
Each club has its own way of picking players. Some do extensive scouting, looking through the top ranks and leaderboards. Others look for players local to their cities, utilizing them for content and integration with the main MLS roster.
“It depends on the individual club’s goals, whether that’s the engagement or really being the most competitive that it could possibly be,” Anderson said.
But the most important thing you need to be is good at FIFA. Controlling a roster of 11 players and assembling their real-world counterparts by collecting cards, that can be earned by play or by spending real money, is the best way to victory. If you’ll be competing at the top level, you’ll need to be able to put up or shut up.
“The best players are the ones that can stay consistent from year to year, and really adapt to the individual patches, individual game updates that happen on a regular basis,” Anderson said. “Getting out to games, making content, using those individual MLS player cards, and making that connection with the league because they will potentially reach out.”