Major League Soccer (MLS) fans will now be able to collect and trade digital cards representing league players and use them to play fantasy soccer games run by the firm Sorare. The MLS Players Association and OneTeam Partners, the athletes’ licensing rights firm, announced Tuesday they had signed a licensing agreement with the blockchain-enabled collectibles platform. The U.S. deal comes fresh on the heels of an auction for Italian soccer club Juventus that fetched 59 ether (ETH), or $13,470, for the team’s star player, Cristiano Ronaldo. According to the release, the agreement will bring over 700 MLS players onto Sorare’s platform, which currently includes players from the South Korean K League and teams including Juventus, Napoli and Lyon. The announcement comes a little over a week before MLS players hit the field again for a special tournament at Disney World in Florida. The MLS season was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the special tournament, dubbed “MLS Is Back,” kicks off July 8.

Sorare generates unique digital trading cards on the Ethereum blockchain which represent players and can be traded by users. The user plays as the manager of the team and upon joining is given a random set of five cards, which they can use to build a team and participate in weekly league competitions. Users also have the option to buy tokens for other players to improve their team and – depending on how the soccer players perform in real life – they may receive rewards in more trading cards or ETH.

“We are excited to be a part of giving fans the opportunity to engage with their favorite players in a new digital landscape,” said Dan Jones, COO of the MLS Players Association, in the emailed statement.

According to Sorare CEO Nicolas Julia, the firm’s platform currently has about 3,500 monthly active users and recorded over $350,000 in sales for June. “Sorare has been growing consistently despite the lack of football during the crisis,” Julia said.

Overall, blockchain-enabled gaming also seems to have gained in popularity as screen times went up around the world during the coronavirus pandemic. Data collected by blockchain gaming database NonFungible shows Sorare’s platform has recently climbed to the top spot in weekly transaction volume. In terms of all-time volume, CryptoKitties and Decentraland are the top-ranked games.

⬆️ The Upside: We think this is a good move by the MLS. It will enable MLS teams to generate incremental revenue which is well needed given the current COVID-19 pandemic. Plus there has been a growing interest for blockchain based solutions. With that in mind, we expect to see more sports leagues follow the footsteps of the MLS in the coming months. If you are interested in blockchain market, you can check out our latest analysis: Sports blockchain market.

Picture: MLS stadium