Brian Jaldin of Arlington, Virginia fought off stiff competition in the 2016 FIFA Interactive World Cup Host Country Qualifier to earn passage to the Grand Final after rising to the top of the eight-player field on Saturday at the event hosted by Seattle Sounders. 

Played exclusively on the Xbox One at the Sounders’ event space called THE NINETY, Jaldin and his seven competitors faced off in an instant knockout tournament of EA SPORTS™ FIFA 16 to determine who would represent USA as the Host Country at the FIWC Grand Final. The competition determined the last name to join the 31 previously confirmed Grand Finalists and officially concluded the qualification phase of the 2016 edition of the world’s largest gaming tournament. 

The day kicked off with the tournament draw conducted by officials from Seattle Sounders and EA SPORTS to establish the quarter-final match-ups. Jaldin was paired with Jose Mejia of Moorpark, California, and the eventual winner slipped past the 20-year-old with a slim 1-0 win. 

Darren John of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania made the cross-country journey to Seattle and edged out a tight 3-2 victory over Luciano Thaboune from Canal Winchester, Ohio. Hans Velazquez, another California native, took down Darian Bowles of Duncan, Oklahoma, the Santa Ana man running out a 2-0 winner.

The final quarter-final saw the youngest player in the tournament and local favourite Skye Rozon take on the day’s third Californian competitor, Hugo Martinez. Rozon, who hails from nearby Tacoma, was over powered, however, by Dana Point’s Martinez, who beat the 17-year-old 4-0.

With four players remaining the semi-finals saw Jaldin take on John, while the Velazquez went up against Martinez in a battle for Golden State supremacy. Jaldin once again scraped by narrowly with a 1-0 win and Martinez edged Velazquez 2-1 in a hard fought affair.

Playing as Real Madrid, Jaldin went up against Martinez’s Argentina in the final. While Jaldin’s first two games were close encounters, the final was anything but as La Albiceleste were outmatched by Los Blancos. Jaldin held a comfortable 4-0 lead at half-time and although Martinez pulled back a goal in the second half, it was nothing more than consolation as Jaldin was crowed champion with his dominant 4-1 display.

Deuce drops by
Sounders’ star striker Clint Dempsey was on hand to take in the event, and the three-time FIFA World Cup™ veteran for the Stars and Stripes duly delivered the last ticket to the Grand Final to Jaldin as USA’s Host Country Qualifying Champion.

“It means a lot to me,” Jaldin said after claiming the last spot at the Grand Final. “I always wanted to qualify for the FIFA Interactive World Cup and play with competitive players.

“I was really nervous when I was coming here to Seattle because it was a tournament of eight players and obviously and only one gets to the Final in New York." 

After the Grand Final ticket was officially handed over, as an added prize for Jaldin, he and Dempsey teamed up for one last game before the event concluded. Dempsey later reflected on his time at Saturday’s event and discussed the surreal experience of playing himself in FIFA 16.

“This is another way that you can express your passion for the game,” Dempsey said. “We both love the game, whether you are playing on the console, you are playing in the streets or playing professional - it is all about the passion for the game. It was pretty cool to be a part of this experience.

“The first time being on the game and playing yourself was crazy. But at the same time it is depressing because you see what your stats are and try to work harder, to make sure you are performing better on the field. It is cool to be able to play with your kids and they see you on the game. It is pretty awesome.”

The FIWC 2016 Grand Final takes place from 20-22 March in New York City. At the Grand Final, 32 players from all over the world will compete for the chance to win $20,000 along with an exclusive trip to next year’s FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala.