The Organizer’s Guide to Esports: A Conversation with Rob Marino, Founder of the Next Level Soccer Academy

By Jamie Hancock
April 7, 2020
2 min

How to keep your community connected, competitive, and engaged through gaming—a step by step guide.


As COVID-19 continues to put spring seasons on hold, esports are emerging as one of the most popular ways to keep players and coaches engaged. Setting up a tournament may feel overwhelming if you’re not familiar with gaming, so we chatted with Rob Marino—a friend of LeagueApps and the founder of New Jersey’s Next Level Soccer Academy—to put together this step by step guide. 


“We were looking for another way to keep the kids engaged in something soccer-themed, [and] build upon the sense of community we try to foster across the organization at all levels,” he said. “We also wanted to feed into the kids’ competitive sides, since they were indefinitely without the weekly competition they’ve grown accustomed to. And lastly, we needed to be mindful of social distancing. So, the idea for our e-sports FIFA 20 tournament was born.”Rob Marino


STEP 1: Make sure your participants have consoles

Every player needs a console, like a PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch. Marino noted that there’s no cross-compatibility for FIFA 20 across these systems, so they created separate tournaments for each platform. This is something to keep in mind. 


STEP 2: Create divisions and brackets

You can do this for your esports tournament the same way you’d do this for an in-person competition. (Here’s how to do it using LeagueApps.) “We felt the fairest approach was to create three divisions—one for our non-high school aged teams, one for our high school-aged teams, and one for parents, coaches, and alumni,” he says. “I assigned each registrant a number beginning with one to randomly generate first round match-ups.”


STEP 3: Launch registration 

After launching registration (which is easy to do using LeagueApps), you’ll want to promote your tournament. Marino sent an email blast to the entire club  and posted about it on his website, which now includes a “virtual hub.” Tip: during this stay-at-home period, this can be a great way to put all of your online training and programming in a single, easy-to-access place. Once registration was complete, they unveiled the brackets and matchups. 


STEP 4: Establish competition rules (with an advisor)

If you’re new to the world of esports, it can be helpful to have an expert on hand to help you create competition rules and resolve issues or disputes during games. “My son became my advisor so that if an issue arose, I had someone who understood the lingo and how these games operate.”


STEP 5: Pick your streaming platform 

Marino decided to use Twitch, the most popular platform for streaming esports games. He liked that the chat box encouraged conversation—“it was fun to see the banter back and forth between spectators and participants,” he says. Here’s how to stream on Twitch using a console or your computer. 


STEP 6: Build excitement

To get everyone pumped up, Marino decided to have an early-round match between two of the club’s coaches. “We streamed the match and promoted them on social media to create buzz in advance of the tournament,” he says.


Not ready to set up an esports tournament yet? Check out our esports primer for everything you need to know about the most popular games and how to play them.