It is well documented that elite athletes require a champion mentality to accompany world-class skill and top-level fitness.
And while in professional Esports, less emphasis is placed physically on elite players, there are certainly a myriad of high-pressure mental demands which separate the best from the rest.
As any casual FIFA player can tell you, it’s a simple enough feat to win three or four online games in a row. It is considerably harder to win ten, fifteen or twenty back-to-back.
West Ham’s three new world-class Esports players – Curtis ‘Paps’ Poole, Jonas ‘Jonna’ Ghebrehiwot and Alfie ‘AC RedLac’ Calder – will be representing the Club in the global circuit this season, but the circuit is open to all, meaning you too could theoretically join them on the grand stage.
Major tournaments – the Qualifiers – begin this weekend, essentially kicking off the competitive FIFA season, which has a cumulative three-million-dollar prize pool on offer.
So with that in mind, let’s take a look at how, with the right combination of luck, skill and mentality, this could be your year – or even the season West Ham win the FIFA eWorld Cup…
Becoming an elite player
To become an elite player, you firstly have to achieve that status by winning at least 27 out of an individual set of 30 ‘FUT Champions’ or ‘Weekend League’ matches before the deadline of 31 December 2020.
Each FUT Champions match places you against the top tier of FIFA’s millions of online players worldwide, and all 30 must be played over the space of two or three days every week – so there is already little margin for error.
To do so also requires a top team, with building the best ‘Ultimate Team’ squad to suit your playing style and compete at the top table a lengthy process for every FIFA player.
Should you reach ‘Verified’ status – achievable by any player – you’re eligible to register for the game’s Global Series online and compete in professional events.
Going online but keeping it local
Traditionally, given the split-second reactions required at top-level gaming, competitive international tournaments have been held in person to reduce the effect of online latency or ‘lag’.
In prior seasons, this has seen professional players jet to cities including Amsterdam, Paris, Atlanta and Bucharest to compete at in-person ‘Champions Cup’ events.
Last season, Paps qualified for three such tournaments, reaching the last 16 in Bucharest, while Jonna reached the group stages in Paris.
These, however, are not traditional times, and so FIFA 21’s biggest change in competitive format in 2020/21 sees the global game shift its focus – at least for now – to online.
Every player worldwide is assigned a region of play, based on their country of residence, which roughly correspond – with a few exceptions – to individual continents.
Within these, players will ultimately compete for smaller cash prizes and, of course, the grandest prize: qualification to the 2021 eWorld Cup.
The Global Series schedule
If you’re good enough to become ‘Verified’, the next step is to record consistent Weekend League victories each month.
These contribute a small amount of ‘Global Series Points’ to your overall global ranking for the game – one point for each win in your best weekend of each month, with the leaderboard automatically updated at fifa.gg.
In the first Weekend League of FIFA 21, Paps achieved maximum points with a flawless 30-0 win-loss record, with RedLac and Jonna both reaching 29-1 later in October as well. All three players have also secured 29-1 in November so far.
The most points and prize money on offer, however, will be at new, online-only Qualifier tournaments, with between three and five per region throughout the season.
Five of these are set to be held in 2020/21 in Europe, the first of which will be played this coming weekend (28 November), when the top 1024 players in the European leaderboard will compete for up to 1500 Global Series points and up to $15,000 in prize money – including Paps, Jonna and AC RedLac.
Over 30 domestic leagues will also run competitions in tandem which offer places at the Regional Playoffs as prizes, with the Premier League’s major tournament – the ePremier League – likely to be staged again in 2020/21.
Last season, the Dutch equivalent, the eDivisie, saw both Jonna (with PEC Zwolle) and Paps (with Ajax) reach the final, with the former beating the latter on penalties to win the competition.
The Regional Play-Offs
The pinnacle of the FIFA 21 Global Series, these regional tournaments are where the best player in each region is decided and qualifiers for the 2021 eWorld Cup – the location and dates for which are yet to be announced – are determined.
Each Regional Playoff will be of a different size, with Europe’s end-of-season event featuring the top 64 PlayStation4 and Xbox One players.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be on offer and the very top performers will qualify for the eWorld Cup – typically held in August of each year, with the 32 best players in the world on each console participating.
Could it be West Ham’s year to lift the World Cup once more?
The journey to global glory for the Irons has already begun.