The English Football Association (FA) will be launch its first esports national team, known as the eLions, to compete in the upcoming FIFA eNations Cup in April.
The FA, alongside the Germany-based esports company ESL, will be hosting qualifiers to pick the players that will compete under the FA banner in the eNations Cup and beyond. Online qualifiers will precede the live finals, which will be held in London on March 14.
The tournament is open to all FIFA 19 players — both on PS4 and Xbox One — that are based in England and over 16 years of age.
“This presents an exciting opportunity for Three Lions fans to help form a new chapter in England’s history and add a 29th side to our current stable of national teams,” said FA chief commercial and football development officer Mark Bullingham in a statement.
According to the governing body, this expansion to esports was imperative for the FA as a “modern, innovative organisation that strives to engage and inspire all generations of football fans.”
The FIFA eNations Cup is an invite-only exhibition event for member associations and will pit 16 national teams of the very best eFootball nations against each other in the FIFA 19 Ultimate Team (FUT) game mode. The event will also be one of eight majors tournaments in the EA SPORTS FIFA 19 Global Series that will culminate in the FIFA eWorld Cup in August this year.
Both male and female eFootball players of all ages are able to qualify to the tournament through their member associations, but the eventual winners of any gender will only virtually represent the England men’s senior team.
The FA said that they will continue to liaise with FIFA to extend the opportunity to be represented in the esports leagues to its women’s national teams.
“FIFA 19 is played by hundreds of millions of players daily with many selecting our male and female players so we have a great chance to engage with these as part of our efforts to continue to grow the game in England,” said Bullingham.
“After the successful introduction of the FIFA eClub World Cup in recent years and the new team mode, we are looking forward to integrating this nation vs nation competition into our eFootball portfolio,” added FIFA’s chief digital transformation and innovation officer Luis Vicente.