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On March 15, an update for the FIFA23 video game will upload NWSL teams and players into the franchise for the first time ever. This year’s title was released with women’s clubs from England’s WSL and France’s d1 Arkema, and now the NWSL will have all 12 of its teams represented.
As women’s sports continue to grow, and with women’s football leading the way globally in many areas, these steps are overdue and necessary. Seeing women athletes as a part of a major video game franchise adds legitimacy to the game, which will no longer be ignoring a massive piece of the sport.
It’s also important to the teams and leagues. One of the major reasons for the boom of domestic women’s football has been access. The NWSL signed a deal with CBS, the WSL is on Sky Sports in England and Paramount+/CBS Sports Network in the States. Leagues in France, Italy and Germany can be accessed through online streaming hub ata football. The women’s Champions League is free to watch on DAZN’s dedicated YouTube channel.
This access has ramped up awareness and popularity of women’s teams and players. Typically, World Cups were the best and only path toward becoming a household name. With better television and streaming access, more fans are aware of more players. Now even more players will have their names known in households across the globe through their inclusion in FIFA 23.
While this is good, EA Sports still needs to take the next step toward fully including women’s players and leagues. Though women’s teams and players are finally being included, they’re only available in various kickoff and tournament modes, not career mode. This is a similar half-step to how NBA2K slowly incorporated the WNBA in its storied video game series in 2020. (Fast-forward three years and the league’s inclusion into the game is beefed up significantly.)
Career mode is important for better understanding and analysis of players. It’s where a player takes control of a club as its manager, scouts, recruits and builds their team as they progress through seasons. It’s also a way for fans to live out their dreams a la fantasy sports. Without career mode, a significant, and intricate portion of the game isn’t available for fans of women’s players and clubs.
Hopefully the inclusion of the NWSL spurs EA to continue elevating the women’s game in the franchise. If so, EA Sports FC (FIFA the video game is getting a renaming) will not only include women’s leagues (hopefully adding Lifa MX Femenil in Mexico, Liga F in Spain, Frauen Bundesliga in Germany and Serie A Women in Italy, and if they’re really about it, the Damallsvenskan in Sweden), but allow them to be used in all game modes.
How else am I supposed to live in my preferred reality where Catarina Macario plays for Chelsea?