Kacey "Kacee" Anderson, eMLS correspondent. Kacey “Kacee” Anderson, eMLS correspondent. (ChicagoFireFC.com.)

The eMLS season is underway, with League Series 1 wrapping up last week and League Series 2 beginning Tuesday and Wednesday with remote qualifiers. From there, there will be a group stage on Feb. 11 and final series bracket matches on Feb. 12 in New York City, then the eMLS Cup in Austin on March 12 during SXSW. The broadcast coverage of that features eMLS host Faizal Khamisa, play-by-play announcer Dan Gaskin, commentator Mike Labelle, sideline reporter Susannah Collins, and, new for this year, eMLS league correspondent Kacey “Kacee” Anderson. Anderson, one of the top FIFA streamers in North America, recently spoke to AA about her path to that job, saying she wound up in it after starting in a non-gaming role with the Chicago Fire.

“I’ve always been a gamer. I have two younger brothers and growing up, we did that, we did sports and also games, my entire life. And I was working for the Chicago Fire and there was pretty much an opening where not many people were either knowledgeable or particularly interested in that part of it, and they were like ‘Do you want to help out?'”

“And I was actually running small FIFA tournaments at the Fire Pitch, which is one of our local facilities for recreational soccer on the North Side of Chicago. So I was already doing it from a casual level. And then they brought me in and I slowly just started taking over everything in terms of competitive gaming for eMLS. So I’ve done it from the corporate and marketing side, and then I eventually transitioned into pretty much making it my entire job, which is FIFA content creation and working alongside eMLS. I love football, I love gaming, so it was kind of a no-brainer.”

Anderson (seen above in a photo from her time with the Fire) told AA there was some uncertainty for her in going from gaming as a small part of her job to the majority of her job, but it was a leap worth taking.

“Honestly, it was terrifying at first. When you tell someone in the beginning what exactly I do as my job, sometimes they don’t really understand it. And going into that kind of unknown, obviously I knew I was passionate about it and I knew there was an avenue for it, so I had to just trust my gut. And my mom was supporting me as well, so it was nice to have that. I kind of jumped in head-first, and all the pieces really fell into place. And I got really, really lucky with it.”

She said she was also eager to be an early female streamer in the soccer world, and hopes she’ll open doors for other women.

“Not a lot of women are in the scene doing it either. I was excited to be that person that’s kind of paving the way for women. So now is the time to do it, because someone else could have stepped in and done it before me, and then I wouldn’t have been the first. So I was like ‘I have to take the time to really make that change and take the risk.’ And it’s worked out for me. It’s been good.”

However, Anderson said being a woman in the gaming space comes with its own issues. But she said there are pros to that as well.

“I’ll be honest with you, it has its ups and downs. Gaming and sports can be a very, very hostile place for a woman, if we’re being honest. From the aspect of me being the first, I’ve gotten so many messages from other women and even young girls being like ‘I see you doing this, and you give me the confidence to pick up a controller.’ Even going on Twitch and showing my face, showing that I’m a girl, you give me the confidence to do that. And from that aspect alone, I 100 percent am so happy and so grateful that I’m the one paving the way.”

That doesn’t mean she doesn’t take abuse, though.

“On the flip side, there are still days where I get that one extra ‘Get back in the kitchen’ comment or a ‘You don’t know anything about football’ comment where it kind of stings a little bit. But overall, I’m able to look at all the positives and look past all those sexist people, which are always going to be out there, so I just have to get over it. But I’m able to do that because I love everything that I’m doing and I’m truly, truly passionate about it.”

And she said gaming is a good equalization of the playing field in some ways, as she’s done well taking on men there.

“Honestly, it doesn’t matter that I’m a woman; I beat a lot of guys every single day of the week in FIFA. And that’s the nice thing about gaming, it truly doesn’t matter what your gender is, it matters how good you are on the sticks. And I hope that more women continue to be added into the scene, into gaming, specifically FIFA. Because there’s not enough right now, and I would like to see more.”

Anderson said the shift to an eMLS role felt natural for her given her past work there.

“I really wanted to stay involved with the league, because I’m very passionate about it, I was involved for a long time. I had a conversation with them before the season, and I was like ‘Let’s think of something we can do together,’ because I’m super knowledgeable about the league and friends with a lot of the players, and just really in tune. And I’m really good at that casual content, whether it’s Instagram, TikTok, coverage on broadcast. I can bring a more fun behind-the-scenes type look and feel to it. So we kind of put together that role, which never existed, which is the eMLS season correspondent. And it’s pretty much consisting of covering it on social media, and then I’ll be at all the events, doing interviews, behind the scenes, fun stuff getting the personality of the guys. A lot of times, people only see the very competitive gameplay aspect, but the guys are amazing, and it’s great being able to see their personality in my videos.”

She said there’s a difference between social media content and broadcast content, and she recognizes what works well in each arena.

“They definitely go hand in hand, but I do think that you have to approach it with a different mentality. I have a voice on social media which is very much unique to me. It’s fun, interactive, a little geeky. But then on broadcasts, it is very professional. I am myself, but I feel like you just have to bring that extra elevated aspect, a little more corporate. Which I’m okay with, and I’m able to wear both of those hats. But my bread and butter is everything I have on my own channels, where I can pretty much be my unique self.”

Anderson said she thinks eMLS is worth checking out, and it can be a great alternative way to express fandom.

“It’s really fun. Because, say your team is not good on the actual soccer pitch, you can easily become a massive fan of this eMLS player. Your team may not be raising trophies at the MLS Cup, but your eMLS player can be raising the League Series 1 trophy, the League Series 2 trophy, the eMLS Cup trophy. So it’s another aspect of being a fan. You may not have a Miami Josef Martínez kit, but you might have a Don Borello Miami kit, and you are equally a Miami fan, whether it’s eMLS or regular MLS.”

She said there’s an advantage too versus other popular games, as FIFA streams look like the soccer matches fans are used to.

“And I think that a lot of fans maybe don’t even know it exists, but it’s a really fun and interactive experience, and easy to follow as well, because it looks like a football game. You may watch a League of Legends game and be ‘What in the world is going on?’, but in FIFA, it’s football, it’s soccer, so you know exactly what’s going on as soon as you turn it on, and you get excited for goals. It’s just a fun experience; whether you’re five years old or 52 years old, you know exactly what’s happening. It’s a lot of fun.”

Anderson said it’s impressive to see how gaming streams have taken off in the past few years, and she thinks that will continue.

“I think it’s changed massively. Obviously COVID has changed the world, but I think that was really a breakoff period for gaming and for broadcasts. That’s actually when I started streaming on my own on Twitch, at the beginning of COVID; I just had so much free time that I started doing it then. It’s given a lot of opportunities for people to be playing at home and broadcast that to millions of people. But that’s on a bigger scale of competitive gaming as well. We’re going to have these broadcasts and people from all over the world are able to tune in, it doesn’t matter if you’re stuck at home or at work. You don’t have to buy a ticket and go to a game, get in your car, you can be sitting on your couch and watching it. It’s easy, and I think it’s just going to continue to increase in viewership as the years go on.”

[Photo from ChicagoFireFC.com]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.