TORONTO, Canada—Winning the final event of the year would be a dream come true for Toronto FC’s professional EA Sports FIFA player Phil “PhilB94” Balke, however, conquering the 12-player field this weekend will be anything but an easy task for the No. 5 ranked gamer in the league.
PhilB94’s season all comes down to the 2021 eMLS Cup presented by Coca-Cola, which will take place March 20-21. After a strong year, the TFC pro (14-6-6) qualified for the coveted final competition of the year by finishing 5th out of 27 teams in the regular season and will face off against FC Dallas’ AlanAvi (11-8-7) in a single-elimination Round of 16 showdown Saturday afternoon.
Head-to-head this season, PhilB94 and AlanAvi have faced off one time—a 1-1 draw back on Jan. 12 during League Series One. AlanAvi, qualified for the eMLS Cup by emerging victorious through the 16-player Last Chance Qualifier bracket this week and will look to carry that momentum over into Satuday.
The winner will take on eMLS giant New York City FC’s Didychrislito later that evening—the champion of the first two tournaments of the year.
The eMLS Cup will be played exclusively on PlayStation®4 (PS4) and the 12 eMLS players will be competing for a league record $40,000 eMLS prize pool. In addition to cash prizing and a trophy, the top three eMLS Cup competitors will qualify directly to the EA SPORTS FIFA 21 Global Series North America Playoffs.
After three years of representing Toronto FC, PhilB94 has yet to make it to an eMLS event final despite performing well in other global events. He’s consistently been able to qualify for the knockout stages—including a run to the eMLS Cup semifinals a year ago—but hasn’t quite been able to get over that hump. Could this weekend finally be his breakthrough?
“That’s something Shane (Talbot) and I always talk about,” PhilB94 told Waking the Red earlier in the year. “We’re always top-8, finishing semifinals in the eMLS Cup, coming up short of winning the actual thing. And I’ve honestly dedicated a lot the last couple of years to playing, and I just want to win something—especially, it would mean a lot to win the eMLS Cup. When I first signed, I said I wanted to bring the eMLS Cup back to Toronto.”
According to the league’s press release, every two out of three MLS fans reported in a recent survey they regularly play EA SPORTS FIFA and more than 75 per cent of MLS fans noted the video game franchise is very important to the enjoyment of the sport. In February, eMLS League Series 2 averaged 45,000 concurrent viewers over the two-day broadcast, which established a new record for the league and a 24 percent uptick in viewership from the same event in 2020.
“eMLS Cup is the culmination of an unbelievable esports season enabling fans to support their favorite Clubs in unique ways, while providing some of the best EA SPORTS FIFA players in the world with a safe and competitive environment,” said Camilo Durana, MLS Senior Vice President of Properties and Events in a press release. “Our commitment to esports, along with the incredible support of our sponsors, has helped us to better serve fans, reach new audiences and showcase the unique role eMLS has in the North American fan experience.”
If you’re interested, you can stream the match for free live on Twitch, beginning at 3:20 p.m. EST on Saturday when PhilB94 takes on AlanAvi.
Saturday, March 20 (Opening Rounds)
3:20 - Phil “PhilB” Balke (TOR) vs AlanAvi
7:00 - QF 1 - George “Adamou” Adamou (NYRB) vs Kid M3mito OR Doolsta
8:00 - QF 2 - Christopher “Didychrislito” Holly (NYCFC) vs PhilB OR AlanAvi
Sunday, March 21 (Quarterfinals – Final)
3:20 - QF 3 - Mohamed “KingCJ” Diop (DCU) vs Cisseszn OR Godfather
4:00 - QF 4 - John “xbLeU” Garcia (AFC) vs Alekzandur OR Fiddle
5:00 - SF 1 - Winner QF 1 vs Winner QF 3
6:00 - SF 2 - Winner QF 2 vs Winner QF 4
7:00 - eMLS Cup Final - Winner SF 1 vs Winner SF 2
In celebration of eMLS Cup, eMLS debuted a limited-edition eMLS Cup jersey earlier this week, developed in collaboration with adidas, which is now available for purchase on www.mlsstore.com.
Limited edition @eMLS Cup jersey just in time for this weekend!— Major League Soccer (@MLS) March 15, 2021
Proceeds from this jersey will be donated to the Special Olympics.
Net proceeds from jersey sales will benefit Special Olympics.