NEW YORK – Bernardo "MrEstrino" Polvo-Romero, a sophomore at Arizona State University, captured the first-ever eCOPA Coca-Cola crown last month following an action-packed finale at Microsoft’s new eSports studio overlooking 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

Polvo-Romero and three other finalists qualified for the Nov. 19 finals after advancing past more than 300 players from 74 U.S. colleges. "MrEstrino" took home a $5,000 scholarship and scored a wildcard berth in the EA Sports FIFA 17 Ultimate Team Regional Finals in March 2017.

Coke eSports partnered with EA Sports to create the first-ever eCOPA Coca-Cola tournament, bringing the name of the grassroots Copa Coca-Cola football (soccer) program to the gaming world. Microsoft/Xbox supplied the gaming hardware and location for the finals, and Battlefy hosted the six-week online qualifying tournament on its proprietary platform.

The finals were streamed online live on Twitch, and a two-hour wrap-up broadcast hosted by teen gaming social influencer Castro and U.S. soccer star and TV personality Jimmy Conrad can be viewed here:

“I couldn’t be happier at the outcome of this showcase, and look forward to working with Alban and the team at Coke to bring eCopa around the world,” said Brent Koning, FIFA commissioner for competitive gaming, EA SPORTS.

EA Sports FIFA is the world’s most popular football game, with more than 3.5 million daily players. Gamers hand-pick their teams, fantasy-league style, from real club rosters. Up to 80 percent of the game’s players, according to Alban Dechelotte, senior entertainment marketing manager at Coca-Cola – either play or have played football.

“Fans of the game share a 360-passion for football – playing, watching and gaming,” he said.

eCOPA Coca-Cola

Coke eSports, which has partnered with Riot Games to create immersive fan experiences for its League of Legends game, hopes to help EA Sports FIFA tap into the fast-growing world of eSports, which uses live-streaming technology and stadium-sized events to engage a global community of gamers and fans.

“The competitive mindset of gamers combined with live-streaming created eSports,” Dechelotte said. “With eSports, gamers are not only playing online against people they don’t know… they’re playing in front of people they don't’ know.

“If you compare eSports to traditional sports, there are more live sporting events than there are broadcasts. More people are attending baseball games, for example, than watching on TV or online. It’s the opposite with gaming. Live events are the pinnacle for eSports, whereas with traditional sports, broadcasts are the pinnacle.”

eCOPA Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola has a longstanding connection to both the sport of football, through its sponsorship of the FIFA World Cup and grassroots programs like Copa Coca-Cola, and competitive gaming.

“Coke is football and Coke is gaming, so it made sense for us to partner with EA Sports FIFA at the beginning of their eSports journey,” said Dechelotte. “We hope to expand eCOPA Coca-Cola in the months and years to come.”

He hopes the tournament will create a path to the pros for amateur gamers, as the brand has done for the League of Legends community.

“Now, the stars are the players featured in the game,” he concluded. “We want to create stars out of the professional FIFA gamers.”