The FIFA Interactive World Cup Final may not give the NCAA Tournament a run for its money next weekend as far as mainstream popularity goes, but the annual contest that pits the world's best video game soccer players against one another is growing each year, just like college basketball's four-week long grand finale.
On Sunday March 20, 32 of the best FIFA16 players in the world will gather for the opening draw, followed by two days of Xbox One and PlayStation 4 competition to crown the best fake-footballer in the land. The 32 combatants stand out after rigorous contests whittled it down from millions.
"The FIFA Interactive World Cup 2016 season saw 2.3 million people registering for online qualification, Thierry Weil, FIFA's Marketing Director told Metro, "making it the second highest in participation in the tournament history in only half the seasons to previous years."
In New York City, the day after the first and second rounds of NCAA Tournament action wrap up in Brooklyn, Manhattan will be the host for the FIWC Finals.
"The Final Showdown will see the Apollo Theater transformed into a spectacular E-Sports arena," Weil said. "The thrilling two-hour live show, which will also be broadcast live on Fox Sports, will be hosted and analyzed by famous commentators and feature guest appearances from sporting greats. It is certainly not something to miss for FIFA16 players and soccer lovers."
The competition began more than a decade ago in 2004 with just eight finalists competing in Zurich, Switzerland. Since then the event has been held in nine different countries.
Last year's champion was Abdulaziz Alshehri from Saudi Arabia and the contest routinely boasts an international champ from a different corner of the globe. The event when it was held in 2010 set a Guinness Book of Records mark for the largest gaming competition in the world and will award a $20,000 grand prize check to the 2016 victor.
The Final Showdown takes place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22 and will air on FoxSports 1.