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Ex-player Ricketts adds esports gaming role to Whitecaps duties

Tosaint Ricketts Tosaint Ricketts - The Canadian Press

An avid video gamer, former Canadian international Tosaint Ricketts grew up playing "Metal Gear Solid," "Call of Duty," and "Fortnite" among other titles.

"I never really loved playing sports games growing up because I'd always actually go outside and play sports," the former forward explained. "So I wouldn't want to, for example, play soccer all day or train all day then come home and pick up the controller and play soccer again. I thought it was just a little bit overkill. So I usually trended more towards playing first-person-type shooter."

Times have changed.

Now retired as a player, Ricketts is working in the Vancouver Whitecaps' front office as a liaison with the club and player engagement department. And the 36-year-old is honing his EA Sports FC 24 video game skills, adding the role of Whitecaps official esports gamer to his front-office job.

Ricketts becomes the first former MLS player to compete in eMLS, according to the Whitecaps.

Major League Soccer stages several esports events each year, culminating in the eMLS Cup which serves as an official league qualifier for the FIFA eWorld Cup.

St. Louis City SC’s Niklas (NR7) Raseck won the eMLS Cup in March in Austin, Texas, defeating defending champion Paulo (Paulo Neto) Roberto Xavier de Brito Neto of Atlanta United in a two-leg aggregate match (4-4, 5-2). Raseck also won US$20,000, the highest payout of 2023's record US$100,000 prize pool.

The 2023 eMLS season also featured two League Series events in New York in January and February. The league has yet to announce the 2024 dates.

Ricketts' gaming handle will be EIGHTYSVN, a play on his jersey No. 87. In keeping with that theme, the Whitecaps made the announcement at 8:07 a.m. Vancouver time Tuesday.

Ricketts, who succeeds Gordon (Fiddle) Thornsberry as the Whitecaps esports gamer, already has an extensive and impressive resume.

The Edmonton native, who played four seasons with the Whitecaps from 2018 to '22 after three years with Toronto FC, won 61 caps for Canada with 17 goals and four assists.

He announced his retirement in January, calling time on a 14-year playing career that took him around the world.

Ricketts also played for clubs in Finland, Israel, Lithuania, Norway, Romania, and Turkey, scoring 93 goals in 388 professional appearances for club and country.

He won the Canadian Championship three times, twice with Toronto (2017, 2018) and once with Vancouver (2022)., He also won the 2017 MLS Cup Supporters’ Shield with Toronto and the Lithuanian Super Cup (2019) with FK Suduva Marijampole.

Along the way, he finished his bachelor's degree in sports management and finished his MBA earlier this year, thanks to some hard work and MLS's relationship with Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), which allows MLS players and staff to earn their college degrees online.

His front-office role with the Whitecaps involves marketing, which includes esports. And, given his interest in gaming, that set the stage for adding esports to his job title.

He has just started playing the new version of the EA soccer game, previously known as the EA Sports FIFA franchise, and spends a couple of hours a night honing his skills.

"Keeping very busy," said Ricketts, who used to be in the game during his playing career.

His partner Dariana, whom he met in Romania, has been supportive of the new role and the hours it is taking up, he said. She has been with him every step of his soccer journey.

Ricketts is a busy man, already doing a lot of public speaking, from schools to local firefighters with the 2026 World Cup and what it means to Vancouver as a host city a popular topic.

He hopes to integrate Whitecaps players into the team's esports plan, with a club tournament deciding a winner who could perhaps partner with Ricketts in matches.

"We have some cool, cool things up our sleeve," he said. "Hopefully it will bring more awareness to the esports space but also build the reputation of the Whitecaps as well."


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2023