Gaming powerhouse Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) and Major League Soccer (MLS) have extended their partnership. EA Sports and MLS have had a licensing and sponsorship agreement since 2012, though the league has signed a licensing deal in 1999 and appeared in EA’s best selling game, FIFA since 2000.
The deal comes at a critical moment, as the California-based gaming company and FIFA recently decided not to renew their 30-year partnership after next year. EA Sports will drop the FIFA name from its famous esports game in 2023 and will continue producing it as EA Sports F.C.
The gaming company has over 300 licensed IP partners in EA Sports F.C., including 700+ teams and 19,000 athletes. In addition to MLS, the company has licensing deals with the English Premier League (EPL), Bundesliga and Serie A, and it signed a multiyear title sponsorship with LaLiga earlier in August. The new version will not include the World Cup and other FIFA branded events.
According to research by EA, soccer is the fastest growing sport in the United States, and 34% of the Americans who played FIFA became pro soccer fans. “As the world’s game continues to grow in North America, so does our opportunity to curate soccer experiences representative of a rapidly evolving fan base,” David Jackson, VP of brand for EA Sports FIFA, said in a statement.
Jackson said MLS’ youngest and most diverse fan populations in North American sports will become increasingly important. “We believe this partnership affords us a great opportunity to do that, whilst also continuing to deliver the most innovative and expansive soccer experiences available anywhere in the world.”
All 29 teams of MLS will be featured in FIFA 23, the last game of EA’s previous partnership with FIFA. For eMLS—Major League Soccer’s competitive eSports league—EA will serve as an official partner of eMLS League Series 1 and 2 and of eMLS Cup. eMLS has grown from 19 MLS clubs in 2018 to 27 clubs that participated in the 2022 season.
“We look forward to working with EA for many years to come on creative ways to further increase our fanbase through interactivity during this incredible time of growth for MLS,” Rachel Hoagland, MLS’ senior vice president of consumer products, said in a statement.
EA Sport’s last FIFA game, developed by EA Vancouver and EA Romania, will be available worldwide on Sept. 30 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PC, Stadia, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Early access begins on Sept. 27, 2022. A number of teams and leagues that have never been featured in the series until now will debut, including teams from women’s soccer.
EA Sports’ Ultimate Team series, including its FIFA, NHL and NFL branded games, brought in $1.62 billion in revenue in 2021, which represented 29% of company’s revenue. In fiscal year 2022, EA posted net revenue of approximately $7.2 billion. Last month the company posted $1.725 billion in revenue for Q1 2023 with the launch of FIFA 2023 in August.