No live soccer? No problem. With MLS — like almost every other sports league on earth — on an indefinite pause amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the leading futbol circuit in the United States and Canada is partnering with Fox Sports to broadcast the “eMLS Tournament Special,” a video game competition that will debut on Fox’s cable networks later this month.
The five-episode eMLS Tournament Special begins Sunday, April 19 on FS1 and the Spanish-language Fox Deportes. In line with current social-distancing guidelines, it will be produced entirely remotely, with participants competing from home.
Former MLS, Premier League and U.S. men’s national team standout Stuart Holden, who normally provides color commentary on Fox’s nationally televised MLS matches, will host the series, which will feature real MLS athletes playing EA Sports’ wildly popular FIFA 20 video game alongside eMLS players from the same club.
The Chicago Fire take on FC Cincinnati in the April 19 opener. The second game of the doubleheader features a digital version of the league’s hottest rivalry, the intracity Los Angeles “Trafico” between LA Galaxy and LAFC, with Mexican national team icon Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez representing the Galaxy in that one.
Other players scheduled to participate include Chicharito’s former Manchester United teammate Nani (Orlando City), current USMNT members Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (New York City FC) and Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), and Costa Rican World Cup veterans Francisco Calvo (Chicago Fire) and Kendall Waston (FC Cincinnati).
The tourney will benefit MLS Unites, a “league-wide platform designed to educate communities, entertain fans and elevate heroic efforts taking place” during the pandemic, MLS said in a press release. The league and Fox Sports will make an undisclosed donation on behalf of the winning club to organizations dedicated to feeding the needy in the U.S. and Canada after every episode.
Matches will be decided via a two-leg, total goals format. The MLS players will play in the openers, then hand the controllers to the video game pros for the decisive second legs. The winners of the first four episodes will advance to the May 17 final.
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