The recent addition of esports to the menu of competitive sports options offered by Arizona high schools has gone well. So well that the title offerings for players have expanded.
When the first esports competition took place about this time last year, Brophy Prep swept both the Rocket League and League of Legends to become the state’s first AIA state champion.
Now, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) is introducing two additions to those title offerings, FIFA 21 and Madden NFL 21. Those games incorporate real professional soccer and football players on their actual teams.
“Esports has proven to be a popular outlet in the year-plus we have offered it,” explained AIA Executive Director David Hines. “Adding some of the most popular sports games to the library of offerings is going to excite everyone. The availability of being able to play these games in any number of safe environments, due to the pandemic, is something we hope many students will take advantage of.”
The esports experience allows players to compete in a hybrid of settings, from a computer lab at the school, to playing at home on a gaming console or PC/laptop.
The FIFA and Madden leagues will debut in the spring season, which begins March 1. Three-player teams will play three one-on-one matches, with the winner decided in a best-of-three format. There is no limit on how many teams a school can field.
FIFA matches will be played on Tuesdays and Madden matches on Thursday, with the top teams at the end of the season advancing to the playoffs for a chance to win a state championship.
The AIA announced the addition of esports to the prep sports calendar in August of 2018, and organizers tried to get the program up and running for a debut on the 2019 spring sports calendar. However, the task of making all the technical arrangements and hardware requirements proved to be a formidable undertaking, and organizers decided to delay the launch to give every school a chance to make the necessary arrangements to be able to compete.
So, in the final week of January, 2020, Brophy christened the new experiment with its first championship.
The Arizona program has partnered with PlayVS, the industry-leading amateur esports platform, and is supported by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Schools can get more information and register a team(s) by going to the AIA website and logging onto the official esports page. Registration is open until Feb. 26.
(Photo: Jason Krell/AZPreps365)