When movie stars hit the big time, they get a star on the walk of fame. When soccer players gain world renown, EA puts them on the cover of their FIFA video games. Since the gamemaker first began to offer officially licensed FIFA games, starting with FIFA 95, international futbol superstars like David Beckham,
Thierry Henry, Ronaldinho, Wayne Rooney, and Lionel Messi have graced the cover, amongst others. Some, like Messi, have been featured multiple times. In fact, Messi will be featured on the upcoming FIFA 15 video game, due out September 23rd for Xbox One, PS4, and PC, making his third appearance on the video game cover. But the franchise has long prided itself on displaying multiple players and especially on creating regional covers. And the latest iteration in the FIFA video game franchise will feature U.S. player Clint Dempsey alongside Lionel Messi for games released in North America.
This isn’t the first time a U.S. player has made the cover – Roy Lassiter graced the USA release of FIFA: Road to World Cup 98, and several other U.S. players have been featured since then. So what makes the inclusion of Clint Dempsey on the FIFA 15 cover so special? Perhaps it has something to do with the soccer fever that seems to have gripped Americans since the U.S. team, against all odds, trounced Ghana and kept pace with Portugal in order to make it out of the “group of death” and into the World Cup tournament sudden death rounds. Of course, they followed it up by losing to Belgium, but they made it further than anyone truly anticipated. And team captain Dempsey, with goals in both the Ghana and Portugal games, contributed greatly to that success. He also gained a place in history as the first U.S. player to score goals in three World Cup tournaments, so if any American player is going to gain a coveted spot on the FIFA video game cover, Clint Dempsey certainly seems to be a shoe-in.
The big deal, really, is that Americans are finally starting to take notice of the most popular sport in the world. We’ve got our baseball, basketball, and American football, of course. Even hockey seems to be more popular than soccer. And yet, over the last several years, certain events have brought soccer into the spotlight in America. It didn’t hurt that internationally renowned footballer David Beckham decided to end his magnificent career playing for the L.A. Galaxy. But the fact that the U.S. team made such a splash in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup tournament brought in a whole new fan base as millions watched games and took to social media in support of their team. U.S. soccer finally seems to have had an impact on the world, and more importantly, on the American public.
As for Dempsey, who has spent the last ten years playing pro soccer (most recently for the Seattle Sounders FC) and has competed in three World Cup Tournaments, he has stated that he’s excited to be included on the cover alongside some of the best players in the world, especially since he grew up playing the game. Gamers may be more interested in updated graphics and game mechanics or spending their FIFAUTCoins to create an unstoppable legends team, but the inclusion of Dempsey on the FIFA 15 cover signals a shift in sensibilities where U.S. soccer is concerned. The international team has proven to be a contender on the international stage. And Americans finally seem to be taking note of the most popular international sport.