The United Soccer League (USL), which is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to launch a 32-team Rocket League tournament to give the fans missing their teams something to get excited about.
The tournament, which will be called the USL eCup, will see 32 teams from the USL Championship and USL League One compete in a World Cup-style format with groups, a knockout stage and final.
It will kick off on 31st March and run until 24th April.
The teams will be represented by soccer players, supporters, and team ambassadors - making this very much an exhibition tournament, and top tier Rocket League event, with many of the participants unlikely to have played the game before.
All the matches will be streamed on the USL’s brand new Twitch channel with Ryan Madden, the USL vice president of communications and public relations, seeing this as an opportunity to engage “the average soccer fan that perhaps hasn’t consumed esports before.”
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The USL has long been looking to build a greater presence in esports, and with the soccer season suspended, until at least the 10th May, the opportunity to organize an event that involved all of the clubs was too good.
The tournament will have the blessing of Psyonix, the developers of Rocket League, who also happen to be a founding partner of the San Diego Loyal SC, a USL Championship Club.
The league hopes that this can kickstart their esport ambitions and become a revenue stream but stress that the immediate objective is something much more wholesome with Madden saying:
“Our sole mission for this tournament is to provide lightness and levity for USL supporters across the country. People have enough to worry about right now, so we just wanted to create an environment where supporters and fans could come together again, compete, and share a few laughs."
The USL is ranked as a Division II league and sits below the MLS in the American soccer pyramid.
Traditional sports are not the only ones that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Rocket League World Championship, the pinnacle of the Rocket League season, was cancelled with the prize pool being funnelled back into the online-only Regional Championship.