NYC FC is the first Major League Soccer club to sign an esports player

The team has signed a FIFA pro.

European soccer clubs engaged a frantic esports land-grab last year as several clubs entered the industry, usually through EA’s soccer simulator FIFA.

With New York City FC, the American soccer scene has caught up. The team signed competitive FIFA player Christopher Holly, a 20-year-old who’s currently rank two in the Americas, earlier today.

It’s no coincidence that NYC FC is the first Major League Soccer club to put an esports player in their jersey. City Football Group, the parent company of NYC FC, also owns Manchester City, which recruited its first esports player last year.

“This is the next stage in our esports strategy at City Football Group,” said Diego Gigliani, SVP of media and innovation for City Football Marketing. “Last year, we signed Kez Brown as Manchester City’s first esports player and now it is great news that Christopher is joining our group.”

Holly, unsurprisingly, was overwhelmed when NYC FC reached out to sign him.

“It’s an honor to represent NYC FC. It’s a chance of a lifetime, I’m really excited. I never thought this would happen so when the club contacted me, I was shocked and now I’m really looking forward to it.”

For soccer clubs, competitive FIFA is a logical first entry into esports. While most esports titles demand a considerable amount of game knowledge to understand the action, FIFA, and other sports simulators, are easily digestible for the average sports fan.

On the same note, most clubs use esports as a promo tool above anything else. In the U.S.—where soccer is growing but lags behind sports like football and basketball—FIFA esports could work when it comes to reaching new audiences.

For the rest of the esports industry, it’s just another sports club putting a gamer in their jersey. But for NYC FC, and other MLS clubs, it could be the gateway to esports engagement.