Madden NFL players will soon have the chance to directly represent their favorite pro football teams in the biggest Madden tournament yet.
Electronic Arts and the NFL are partnering for the Madden NFL Club Championship, which will directly involve each of the pro football league’s 32 teams. Each team will be represented by a single Madden NFL player in the finals beginning Jan. 26.
Competing players will have to qualify by first selecting a pro team to represent. Players will then compete online in official matches to determine their standing versus other players hoping to represent the same team. Each team will then select the player with the best online performance and leaderboard rank to be their representative in the championship.
The Club Championship will feature over $400,000 in available winnings, along with two Super Bowl tickets for the winning competitor. The event is one part of the broader Madden NFL Championship Series, which will collectively distribute over $1 million in prizes to players.
The direct involvement of NFL teams in esports has dramatically increased over the past year. Last year’s Madden NFL circuit featured the direct involvement of only eight teams, with the vast majority of franchises not participating. The jump from eight to 32 represents a significant shift in attitude.
Some of the NFL’s owners have also pursued esports interests outside of the Madden NFL franchise. Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, has become an early proponent of and investor in Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch League. Kraft has even made media appearances with Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick in support of the upcoming professional league for Overwatch.
Traditional sports leagues and teams have shown broad interest in esports, with investment coming from such notable sports figures as Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal, and the NBA increasing its involvement in esports competitions based around the NBA 2K series of games.
While games like Madden NFL and NBA 2K don’t yet have the reach in esports that more traditional esports titles like League of Legends and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive do, increasing involvement and promotion from official league partners may help sports games to gain a greater foothold in the growing marketplace.