The New York Red Bulls signed Mike LaBelle as the club’s first esports player Sunday, two days after the league announced the formation of the eMLS.
The eMLS will feature the best FIFA 18 players from the United States and Canada competing to win the eMLS Cup for their respective clubs. Nineteen of the current 23 MLS franchises will participate in the inaugural season of the competition.
LaBelle is the second esports signing in MLS, following Christopher Holly, who signed with cross-town rival New York City FC last April.
LaBelle is already a Red Bull athlete, and has more than 700,000 followers on Twitch and 285,000 on YouTube. He is known for his game tutorials, and will be creating team-specific content for Red Bulls fans. LaBelle has won seven national titles in EA Sports FIFA and has represented the United States at the FIFA Interactive World Cup and World Cyber Games.
“We are excited to have Mike, one of the biggest personalities in eSports, join our team,” Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpre said in a statement. “Mike’s experience and reputation in the eSports world make him the ideal choice to lead our club into this new space. We look forward to him representing the Red Bulls in eMLS competitions.”
Each MLS club will recruit a player from its region, with the 2018 competition scheduled to take place in April during the PAX East gaming convention in Boston.
“This step forward into competitive gaming is a key component in our partnership with EA Sports to promote deeper engagement and connections between MLS supporters and millions of FIFA players around the world,” MLS Business Ventures president and managing director Gary Stevenson said on Friday.
The eMLS is following the lead of several European FIFA esports competitions, including the Dutch E-Divisie, the German Virtual Bundesliga, the French e-Ligue 1, and the Italian IGL. The eMLS will also serve as the qualifying tournament for the U.S. and Canadian participants for the Global Series Playoffs, where the FIFA eWorld Cup participants will be decided.
The eMLS is also following in the footsteps of NB2K, which is scheduled to launch its inaugural esports season in May. The NBA2K teams are at the beginning stages of player tryouts.
–Field Level Media