SPORTS

From video game to all-star contest: Gamers choose MLS all-star forward

07/10/2013 07:15 EDT | Updated 09/09/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - One Major League Soccer player will be thanking video gamers when he gets to the league's all-star game July 31 in Kansas City.

A fan vote has already selected 10 MLS all-stars for the contest against A.S. Roma at Sporting Park. The 11th player will be announced Thursday, courtesy of the AT&T All-Star "In the Game" Challenge.

The player will come from the remaining forwards on the all-star ballot, to be determined by who scores the most goals in the made-in-Canada "FIFA Soccer 13" game on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 from noon July 3 to noon July 10.

The winner will be announced Thursday.

The video game component of the all-star selection is the first in any pro sports league, according to Electronic Arts.

"There's no question it could be used in other sports," said David Pekush, senior marketing manager at Electronic Arts.

"It's just such a great way to connect the fans — 365 days a year to their favourite player and to their favourite teams. I think it's a natural progression for us," he added.

EA already had the technology in place to track the goals scored, by virtue of its servers which connect online to FIFA gamers.

Canadian team players on the video game challenge are Marco Di Vaio of the Montreal Impact, Robert Earnshaw of Toronto FC and Camilo Sanvezzo of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The video game choice — with each goal counting as one vote no matter then game mode — will round out the Fan XI. The other 10 were chosen by fan voting online at MLSsoccer.com, via text message and Twitter.

Forwards already chosen by the fans are Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls and Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes.

The fans also voted in Canadian international midfielder Will Johnson of the Portland Timbers.

MLS commissioner Don Garber will make two additional selections while coach Peter Vermes fleshes out the game-day squad.

MLS and EA collaborated on the all-star video game contest.

This year was a test run but Pekush says EA is "all in for next year to do this again and we're hoping that the MLS feels the same way."

Electronic Arts is no stranger to partnering with soccer leagues.

EA Sports is a founding partner of the Vancouver Whitecaps and the club's official video game partner.

"We're all pretty proud of that," said Pekush.

With the FIFA game made in suburban Burnaby, the two are neighbours as well as business partners.

EA Sports is also the official sports technology partner of the English Premier League.

"We're using our data with the Premier League to help them understand who's the most popular team and who are the most popular players," Pekush said.

Pekush calls EA Sports "a great snapshot into fandom."

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