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The eMLS 2023 season is here. New Portland Timbers competitor Bruno “CptBruno” Albino will be picking up the sticks for this year’s campaign to take on some of the best EA SPORTS FIFA 23 players in North America. Below is a primer into how to follow along.

How to watch

League Series 1 takes place Jan. 24-25 with the Online Qualifiers beginning at 3pm PT each day on the Timbers Twitch channel.

Group Stage play on Saturday, Jan. 28 continues on the Timbers Twitch channel beginning at 9:30am PT.

The Knockout Rounds begin at 12pm PT on Sunday, Jan. 29 and will be played simultaneously across MLS, MLS2, MLS3 and MLS4 on Twitch with squad streaming available.

The Season

The eMLS season is broken up into three main events:

  • eMLS League Series 1 | Jan. 24-25, 28-29 | NYC
  • eMLS League Series 2 | Feb. 7-8, 11-12 | NYC
  • eMLS Last Chance Bracket and eMLS Cup | Mar. 11-12 | SXSW

League Series 1 and 2 to eMLS Cup

Both League Series 1 and 2 are split into two distinct sections that serve both as qualifiers for individual tournament trophies as well as seeding into March’s eMLS Cup.

They work as follows:

All 26 different players play against every other competitor once for a total of 25 games. This, in effect, serves as the regular season.

Thirteen games of online, remote qualifiers will be played in eMLS League Series 1 and 12 games of online, remote qualifiers are played in eMLS League Series Two. A win is worth three points, a draw is worth one point, and a loss is worth zero points. There is no extra time in qualifier games.

The Qualifier schedule takes place across four days: Jan. 24-25 as well as Feb. 7-8. The top 11 players from the overall Qualifier standings qualify for the eMLS Cup Playoff Bracket on Sunday, Mar. 12 at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas. The remaining 15 players also travel to Austin for a one-day, single-elimination Last Chance Bracket to play for the 12th and final eMLS Cup tournament spot.

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However, each League Series competition also serves as standalone tournaments with their own cash prize pool and grand final. Following the online qualifiers, the competition for both League Series events switches to an in-person LAN tournament in New York City.

The top four competitors from each of the League Series Online Qualifiers – the Jan. 24-25 and Feb. 7-8 matches, respectively – receive a bye into the respective Sunday knockout competition. The remaining players are split into two groups of six and two groups of five to play a round robin group stage format on Saturday to battle it out for the remaining knockout spots. The top two finishers of each group join the four who received byes to fill out a 12-player, single elimination bracket for Sunday.

On Sunday, the first stage of the League Series knockout rounds are a single-leg format followed by two-legged match-ups for the quarterfinals, semifinals and grand final.

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Gameplay Rosters

eMLS competitors can choose from any player card in the FIFA Ultimate Team library but must play with a minimum of four current MLS players and one MLS Hero/Retired Legend card on the field at any given time. This season, goalkeepers will be included in the five player MLS minimum.

This means that Portland’s Evander could line up alongside Lionel Messi and Pelé all in Timbers green to face off against Kylian Mbappe and Ronaldo.

What’s at stake?

Along with the bragging rights of being the best player in North America, there is a $100,000 prize pool – a new eMLS record amount – spread out across the tournaments. In short, any player that makes it to the live eMLS knockout round event broadcast receives a portion of each of the tournament’s respective prize pools.

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Additionally, eMLS is appointed by EA as a Power 5 League – alongside ePremier League, Virtual Bundesliga, eLa Liga Santander and eLigue 1 – which means eMLS players have a great pathway through the FIFA Global Series to the FIFA eWorld Cup.

The top two finishers at eMLS Cup receive direct seats to the EA Global Series Playoffs, while the third and fourth finishers earn seats at the EA Global Series Play-ins—all four are prime positions to qualify for the FIFA eWorld Cup.

Who's playing?

Brazilian Bruno "CptBruno" Albino was announced as Portland's second-ever eMLS competitor in November.

The Sao Paulo native is a two-time Copa Connect Champion and finished first in the ESL South America 2021 season while competing for accomplished Brazilian esports team, SPQR. He is currently attending Clarke University in Iowa on an esports scholarship and was ranked 20th in North America for the 2022 FIFA Ultimate Team season. Most recently, Albino won the North American Collegiate League (NACL) Fall FIFA 23 Championship.

The full compliment of eMLS players is among the most competitive in the six years of the competition. The reigning eMLS Cup champion is Atlanta United's Paulo Neto – another Brazilian export as well as product of SPQR – while the rest of the league includes Nashville SC's Joksan and Sporting Kansas City's Maxe – both of whom represent international esports team Complexity Gaming alongside FC Dallas' Alan Avi. The LA Galaxy partnered with FaZe Clan to field VillaMore3 and previous eMLS Cup champs playing this year include New York Red Bulls' Doolsta (who won it with Philadelphia in 2019) and Seattle's GAdamou10 (who won it in 2020 with NYRB).

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