Major League Soccer is partnering with Amazon.com Inc.’s (AMZN.O) streaming service Twitch in a deeper dive into the world of competitive video gaming.
The one-year partnership with Twitch will give the league’s esports events, starting with next month’s eMLS Cup, more prominent placement on the site, and allow MLS better access to data about fans, said Chris Schlosser, senior vice president of MLS Digital.
MLS launched its esports league, called eMLS, last year, featuring pro gamers clad in team uniforms competing using the FIFA soccer franchise from Electronic Arts Inc. In year two, the league seeks to broaden its appeal with traditional soccer fans and attract more fans from the video-game community.
“FIFA is one of the main generators of the fans that we have,” said Schlosser, who declined to provide financial terms of the Twitch deal. “If you look at it historically -- radio built baseball, television built the NFL and NBA, and the internet is building soccer.”
That makes Twitch a logical place for MLS to interact with fans. The league has the youngest fan base of the major U.S. sports leagues and “the most gaming-centric,” according to Schlosser. Twitch streams let fans see various data feeds, chat with one another and interact with moderators on the same screen, all of which appeals to younger audiences.
The league is also considering expanding the partnership to include nongaming content, Schlosser said, which might include highlights or other video content from its 24 teams.
That would mirror the National Basketball Association, which streams its esports league via the platform, and also has an agreement to broadcast some of its development league games. Earlier this month, the G League had its most-viewed game on Twitch, a stream that reached 251,000 unique viewers.
Every eMLS broadcast to date has attracted more viewers than the previous ones, according to the league, including 62,000 concurrent viewers for its most recent event in Dallas.
This year’s eMLS Cup will take place on March 30, in conjunction with the popular gaming conference PAX East in Boston. In addition to Twitch, the event will be streamed on Twitter and the MLS website.