FIFA video game is bringing more fans to soccer than does real soccer
All the marketing the MLS creates isn’t as effective as a video game
If Major League Soccer (MLS) only knew ten years ago what it knows now, perhaps soccer in the US would be much more popular. Despite all the marketing efforts, campaigns, sponsorships and branding, it appears as though driving fans to the sport can be attributed by something else. A video game is putting fans in the soccer stands.
Specifically, video games licensed by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) soccer organization are proving to be the best source of increased popularity in soccer. So much so that MLS now measures fandom more by how much the games are played than how much attendance there is or how much league and team merchandise is bought.
The official eMLS eSports league is the competitive FIFA series for MLS. It is now in its second season and, according to MLS Director of Properties James Ruth, many fans have asserted that they are now involved in soccer strictly because of FIFA and eMLS.
Ruth asserts, “Sixty-five percent of avid MLS fans highlight FIFA as a driver of their interest in soccer. Gaming is actually more important to us than people playing soccer itself.”
The fan base of MLS is the youngest of all major professional sports in North America, according to several surveys. This means, given that gamers are also primarily in a younger age bracket, that MLS fans are twice as likely to be fans of video games than is the average sports fan, and the trend toward more MLS acceptance continues. Ruth adds, “Two years ago, FIFA esports in the U.S. had maybe one or two players that could compete on the global scale. We now have seven players that are ranked in the top 100.”