ASGAll-Star games are, and should always be, the fans’ game.  In Major League Baseball, the fans vote in the sixteen starting position players (plus the designated hitter in the American League) in addition to the final player on each team.  In the National Football League, fans’ votes account for one-third of the final tally.  In the National Basketball Association, fans are responsible for voting in the ten starters.  In the National Hockey League, fans’ votes are used to name six of the twelve starters.  And finally, in Major League Soccer, fans vote for all eleven starters on the MLS squad.

In the past, fans typically voted for All-Star games in two ways: by punching holes in a paper ballot, and/or clicking a mouse.  However, in conjunction with EA Sports, MLS came up with a new interactive way for fans to vote for the MLS team’s eleventh starter with the AT&T MLS All-Star “In the Game” Challenge.

[1]  Using EA Sports’ FIFA Soccer 13, gamers could “vote” for any of the eligible forwards by using the player in the game to score a goal.  The player who scored the most goals was named to the final spot on this year’s MLS All-Star squad.  In the first year of video-game voting, the Montreal Impact’s Marco Di Vaio won the “In the Game” vote with 73,838 goals.[2]  In total, more than 488,000 goals were scored in the challenge.

In recent years, FIFA has become one of the most popular sports game franchises in the country.  Using the gaming system to add a new element to all-star game voting is an innovative and exciting cross promotion between the league and the game.  “It’s deliberate that we have multiple ways for fans to engage in voting,” Will Kuhns, MLS Senior Director of Communications, said. “While it can be viewed as complex, it can also be viewed as layered and reaching a broader audience.”[3]  In the future, MLS hopes to add defenders and goalkeepers to the challenge.  “This is the first year we’re doing this, so we wanted to take baby steps first,” said David Pekush, senior global product marketing manager for Electronic Arts. “This year only players who are forwards can get votes, but in the future we can add defenders or goalkeepers. We thought scoring would be the most fun and simple way to communicate, so we only chose forwards this year.”[4]

Something so simple could certainly cross over to other sports as well.  For the MLB home run derby, a new “fan vote” could be based on how many home runs are hit in MLB 2K.  In the NFL, how many touchdowns a quarterback throws, a wide receiver catches, or a running back runs in Madden could be used to allocate a Pro Bowl roster spot.  The opportunities are endless to create a more interactive all-star voting experience and continue to make all-star games the fans’ game.

[1] Fan Voting Opens for 2013 AT&T MLS All-Star Game, including innovative FIFA 13 Integration. June 10, 2013.  http://www.mlssoccer.com/all-star/2013/news/article/2013/06/06/fan-xi-voting-open-online-ballot-and-text-2013-att-mls-all-star-game.

[2] Karell, Dan.  Di Vaio Picked for MLS All-Star Game in FIFA 13 Contest.  July 11, 2013.  http://www.soccerbyives.net/2013/07/picked-game-contest.html.

[3] Zellner, Xander.  Video Game Allows Players to Select MLS All-Star.  July 8, 2013.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mls/2013/07/08/fifa-13-video-game-mls-all-star-selection/2500807/.

[4] Zellner, Xander.  Video Game Allows Players to Select MLS All-Star.  July 8, 2013.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mls/2013/07/08/fifa-13-video-game-mls-all-star-selection/2500807/.

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