US Youth Soccer Rocket League
20 Oct, 2021By: Mary Helen Sprecher
An Interview with Nick Bellows, US Youth Soccer’s Associate Manager, Marketing and Mike Fletcher, Chief Marketing Officer
US Youth Soccer recently announced a new esports event, the Rise of Champions Rocket League tournament, with preliminary games starting October 25. (For those not in the know, Rocket League is a sport-based video game, with some fantasy elements (it's rocket-powered soccer with cars instead of players – but with the same goal: move the ball down the field and score).
SDM sat down with Nick Bellows, US Youth Soccer’s Associate Manager, Marketing, and Mike Fletcher, Chief Marketing Officer, to learn about the new competition.
Sports Destination Management: Is this the first esports event for US Youth Soccer?
Nick Bellows: This is US Youth Soccer’s second esports event, but it is our first Rocket League event. We held a FIFA esports community event in 2020 during the pandemic, a time in which many people were unable to attend in-person events.
SDM: What made you decide on Rocket League, rather than returning to the FIFA game?
Bellows: Our last esports event used the FIFA video game, so we wanted to try a different video game title that was similar to soccer and also family-friendly. Rocket League is also a free-to-play game and supports many different devices and platforms. This allows our program to be more inclusive for our members and non-members alike.
SDM: What are you expecting, in terms of registration?
Bellows: Our last FIFA esports community event hosted over 150 players, so we anticipate the numbers to be similar for this event.
SDM: What specific age groups do you anticipate showing an interest?
Bellows: Since we are a youth organization, the age group showing the most interest is the 13-17 age group. Due to various rules and guidelines, we have asked that participating players be 13 years and older in order to participate.
SDM: What will the season look like?
Bellows: The first matches for participating teams started October 25th, and will run almost weekly until mid-December, 2021. We currently have plans for regional championship finals, and a national championship finals. Teams will be asked to play one match per week, with the top teams advancing to a regional championship and then those top teams will then advance to the national championship. With just a single match per week, and with dynamic scheduling, we believe this is a reasonable time commitment for many of our players. The estimated weekly time requirement for our players would only be about 15 to 20 minutes.
SDM: What prizes will be offered?
Bellows: Currently the prize package value ranges from $300 to $150 per team for top four winners of the regional finals and the top four winners national finals. Prize packages are a mixture of gaming peripherals, gift cards and/or cash prizing. We will also have various giveaways and contests throughout the event season.
SDM: You are offering registration free, which has to be really appealing to athletes (and parents). What made you decide on that model?
Bellows: Decisions on registration fees are impacted by operational costs, sponsor or partner support, and the rules established by the video game publishers themselves. We are fortunate that we have the support of our partner Battlefy, who will deliver a fully moderated and publisher connected event. Inclusion is a big part of our programming, so we’re excited to be able to deliver a free-to-play event that allows almost anyone with an internet connection and a gaming platform or device to participate and engage with USYS.
SDM: More colleges are offering esports scholarships. Does US Youth Soccer have any relationships with any particular platforms that do recruitment for colleges in esports?
Fletcher: Yes, we are currently partnered with Next College Student Athlete. NCSA provides information and opportunities for both traditional sports athletes and non-traditional sports athletes such as esports.
SDM: What else would you like to point out about the program?
Fletcher: We are looking forward to offering more esports programming in the future. We believe that kids can be engaged in traditional and non-traditional sports while living an active lifestyle. We hope that our esports players will have fun playing with their friends in our event while also learning about other benefits US Youth Soccer provides as an organization. The USYS Family is made up of many different people; players, parents, referees, administrators, fans, volunteers, etc. We’re happy to add esports fans and players to the USYS Family as well. Keep an eye out for more esports programing coming spring 2022. Check out our website for future updates!