Electronic Arts continues forward with its competitive gaming business, and the publisher has partnered with Collegiate StarLeague (CSL) to host and facilitate Challenger Events within the Madden Championship Series (MCS)The competition will give student gamers across North America the opportunity to represent their school and compete for two $5,000 scholarships. The event will be hosted on CStarleague.com and the winners will advance to the inaugural Midwest Campus Clash at Columbia College in Missouri on April 8, 2017.

Duran Parsi, CEO of the CSL, told [a]listdaily that this is entirely new ground for the company.

“CSL has traditionally hosted leagues for PC gamers, so console sports players are a new thing for us,” Parsi said. “We’re thrilled to open the CSL experience to a new set of gamers. We have gotten a fair bit of interest in Madden, so we’re excited to finally get started. We believe that Madden is going to be a huge staple for us in the future because of how popular the game is, especially amongst college students.”

Registration is currently open and league play will begin February 11, 2017. Madden NFL 17 will be played on Draft Champions mode on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4. After a three-to-four-week regular season, which will pit players divided into groups playing a round-robin format, the top players at the end of the regular season will advance to a single elimination playoff bracket. The championship will happen live in Columbia, Missouri on April 8 and the top four competitors per console will be flown out to the finals to compete live to crown a collegiate champion.

“Collegiate tournaments have been at the heart of the competitive Madden scene for over a decade,” Matt Marcou, Madden NFL competitive gaming commissioner said in a statement. “We’re proud to work with the Collegiate StarLeague in our ongoing effort to make stars of all of our players.”

As the official collegiate partner for Madden, CSL will award collegiate players points towards the Madden Championship.

“Our goal is to fit within the Madden eSports ecosystem, and we hope to grow that relationship over time,” Parsi said. “We’ll be awarding Challenger points to the top players, which can help players qualify for the MCS. It’s really important to build an integrated system that ties in all aspects of competitive play, so hopefully, we can continue doing this into the future. It would be great to see collegiate players on the MCS stage competing with other pros, and so on.”

Parsi believes this console gaming demographic is unique and will open the door for new sponsors and brand partners. He said, “Madden players are very different from PC gamers, so we’re opening the door to a whole new group of gamers who have different interests than our traditional audience.”

Parsi also hopes Madden turns into a year-long league to mirror a system like real athletics use within the NCAA.

“Having a longer structure allows for better competitive integrity and gives players a chance to play more games,” Parsi said. “We hope to move towards this type of system, but at the same time, we’re open to taking things as they come. Madden is going to be different than our other games, so we’re not married to any particular format moving forward. This first league will be a great learning experience for us, and our main goal is to do a great job, ensure players have fun, and then make adjustments and improvements to the structure next year—always striving to be better.”

Ultimately, the goal is to increase this over time and to make the league more prestigious as CSL builds the collegiate Madden brand. “It would be great to one day be able to offer full scholarships to the best collegiate Madden players,” Parsi said.

Theresa Gaffney, editor-in-chief of CStarleague.com, told [a]listdaily that during a campus tour last fall, one of the biggest notes they took away from eSports clubs was that CSL players really wanted a console title to compete in.

“This is going to be a great way for us to gauge the response and then create some ambitious plans to expand the Madden circuit and then branch off to other popular console eSports titles that are underserved in the collegiate circuit,” Gaffney said. “My personal hope would be a fighting game.”

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