Hasib Zulfic is back for a second season as STL’s eMLS player
St. Louis CITY SC has yet to play their first match but the competition on the pitch has already begun — the virtual pitch that is. CITY enters the 2022 eMLS season after re-signing eSports athlete Hasib Zulfic to represent the team. Though it’s only his second year as CITY’s eMLS player, the 20-year-old is no stranger to the game nor the town he is repping.
eMLS is Major League Soccer’s competitive EA SPORTS™ FIFA League. Since it was launched in January of 2018, the league has been a groundbreaking platform sitting at the intersection of gaming and soccer culture. Zulfic is one of the 27 professional EA SPORTS™ FIFA players representing an MLS Club this season, all of whom will be competing for their share of the record-setting $75,000 season prize pool.
“eMLS is the virtual version of Major League Soccer,” Zulfic explained. “Each club in the league picks a player to represent them before the season starts and there are a few tournaments throughout the year where that player represents its club on that tournament level.”
Zulfic started playing FIFA in 2008 and began competing at the age of 16. After qualifying for a tournament in São Paulo, Brazil, the talented teenager caught the attention of the Columbus Crew in 2018. He went on to represent the Ohio-based club for about a year and a half where he finished in the Top 3 of the 2018 eSports World Convention Sao Paulo PS4 Qualifiers in the North America Region. To Zulfic, there was nothing better than doing what he loved for a living. That is, until he realized he could do it for the city he loved – his hometown of St. Louis.
“I spoke to a few of my friends, and even back when I was with Columbus, a lot of them were saying, ‘Man, we need St. Louis to get a MLS team so you could do eMLS with them.’”
Zulfic was born in Zenica, Bosnia & Herzegovina, but moved to the United States a year later. By age 5, he and his family had settled in St. Louis where the Bayless High School grad grew up playing soccer for several youth clubs including the St. Louis Dragons (a club founded by St. Louis CITY Academy Assistant Coach Elvir Kafedzic).
“If I hadn't played at that club, I wouldn't have even started watching football and I wouldn't have started playing FIFA, which led me to eMLS. It wouldn't have happened if I hadn't started playing. I come from a soccer background, and my parents, and especially my dad, we love soccer. And it was such a great feeling seeing the city finally get the club, I think it was very long overdue and we're very, very happy that we're finally getting a team.”
After winning one of CITY’s scouting tournaments in 2020, the club identified Zulfic as its first-ever eMLS player to represent the team on the eSports circuit. Upon joining CITY, he was ranked in FIFA Ultimate Team Champions – a Top 10 player in the America’s Region and a Top 100 Worldwide Player.
“It's a big opportunity because I'm from here and I grew up here. I am really excited to compete and represent the club and represent the city. The feeling is indescribable, honestly, because there are so many opportunities. I had one with Columbus, but it just didn't feel the same. This is where I grew up, this is my city and my friends live here, and it's such a great feeling, honestly. Most of my family and friends live here, so it's such a nice connection between Americanized Bosnians and everything else that happens here.”
After a completely virtual 2021 eMLS season, which received over 9.8 million views on Twitch across its six broadcasts, Zulfic has been looking forward to competing for CITY in person this year. However, MLS recently announced that League Series 1 and League Series 2 are moving to an online format to ensure the safety of players and fans. Zulfic and the 26 other players will compete in streamed qualifiers on Tuesday, January 11, and Wednesday, January 12 for League Series 1. The top eight players in points from qualifiers will advance to the League Series 1 quarterfinal on Saturday, January 15, with the semifinals and final to be held on Sunday, January 16. The same format will be set for League Series 2, beginning with the streamed qualifiers on Tuesday, January 25.
The league is hoping for a return to in-person competition for the eMLS Cup, in which the Top 12 eMLS players will compete to be crowned the 2022 season champion. The tournament, set for March 13 in Austin, Texas, serves as an official league qualifier for the FIFA eWorld Cup.
Zulfic would prefer to be in person, but he’s not too worried after practicing for the last couple of months in the same location he will be competing. He knows people from around the globe will be watching him virtually and that he won’t be able to see them, but he’s accepted the changes and remains optimistic.
“It’s kind of hard to overcome the level of nerves that’ll always be there, but I think gradually over time it gets better and you have to accept it. At the end of the day, it comes down to patience and a little bit of luck.”
Regardless of where he competes, Zulfic knows how STL CITY can win a championship before even taking the pitch in their inaugural season — and he’s the guy who can make that happen.
“It would be incredible to bring it all home, of course. When I don’t win — in anything really — it hurts, and the goal is always to win and be the best. It would be incredible to bring our city a trophy, even if it’s a virtual one. The money is a nice asset, of course, there’s no denying that, but getting recognized and getting the city silverware is the priority.”
WATCH STL CITY SC’S HASIB ZULFIC LIVE:
Tuesday, Jan. 11 Qualifying Matches:
- HASIB7 (STL) vs XVERDE (ATX) 5:00 PM CT
- NYC GUSTAVO (NYC) vs HASIB7 (STL) 5:30 PM CT
- HASIB7 (STL) vs DOOLSTA (RBNY) 6:00 PM CT
- IMCF PABS (MIA) vs HASIB7 (STL) 6:30 PM CT
- HASIB7 (STL) vs JOKSAN (NSH) 7:00 PM CT
- CISSE (CIN) vs HASIB7 (STL) 7:30 PM CT
- HASIB7 (STL) vs NTARTAGLIA01 (CLB) 8:00 PM CT
- GODFATHER (LA) vs HASIB7 (STL) 8:30 PM CT
Wednesday, January 12 Qualifying Matches:
- HASIB7 (STL) vs SAVVY PANDA (LAFC) 5:00 PM CT
- JMENDEZ (ORL) vs HASIB7 (STL) 5:30 PM CT
- HASIB7 (STL) vs YOUNGGCARTER (NE) 6:00 PM CT
- KINGCJ0 (DC) vs HASIB7 (STL) 6:30 PM CT
- HASIB7 (STL) vs PAULONETO (ATL) 7:00 PM CT
- GADAMOU10 (HOU) vs HASIB7 (STL) 8:30 PM CT
eMLS schedule updates can be found at mlssoccer.com/emls.