TORONTO, Ont.—The 2020 eMLS season officially kicked off on Thursday and Friday with the League Series One event taking place in Philadelphia.
More notably, perhaps, Toronto FC’s Phil Balke was back in professional eMLS action for the first time in about a year.
Balke, who was signed by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment in February 2018 as Toronto FC’s first EA Sports FIFA Professional, returned to the pro scene representing TFC for the first time since being suspended for violations of the soccer video game’s rules and code of conduct in March 2019, and the 25-year-old native of Toronto looked good.
Using a squad that consisted of at least five MLS players, Balke played 12 matches in the opening day, earning seven wins and three draws while losing just two times. He even defeated Nashville SC’s Doolsta 4-2 in his final game of the day, the league’s season one and two champion.
However, even though Balke finished the day 8th out of 25 teams, the Toronto FC esports player would not move onto the Friday’s live-streamed quarter finals, as an automatic bid into the top-8 was guaranteed for the host team’s Jay Ajayi—the former NFL player turned FIFA pro—despite the Philadelphia Union pro going 0-0-12 on the day.
Heartbroken I won’t be competing on stream tomorrow, finished 8th of 25 but 1 point shy of playoffs— Philip Balke (@PhilB94_) January 10, 2020
Can’t let it get that close at LS2, GGs all pic.twitter.com/aHK7nFDb0m
Failing to qualify for Friday meant that Balke did not have a shot at picking up $7,500 USD—rewarded to the winner—but more importantly league points, as the eMLS year is just getting started.
FC Cincinnati’s FiddleGT, who Balke fell to (0-3) on Thursday, would eventually go on to win his franchise’s first ever eMLS tournament title, defeating New York RedBulls’ George Adamou in a dominant 3-1 final.
League Series One is the first of three eMLS tournaments that will take place in 2020, followed by League Series Two in February and eMLS Cup in March.