Brotherly Competition Fuels eMLS Duo

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“Must be in the thousands,” Cissé said.

“Probably 5,000, I’m not going to lie,” Mohamed said.

For brothers Cissé and Mohamed Diop, much like any set of brothers three years apart, they are competitive in everything they do. And that includes playing video games, particularly in their passion of EA SPORTS™ FIFA.

The difference between them and other brothers? As Cissé, the older brother said, they have played “thousands” of games against each other. Younger brother Mohamed believes it is at least 5,000 games against one another.

Perhaps it is not shocking then that the Diop brothers hold two of the coveted 27 eMLS spots from around the league.

eMLS is Major League Soccer’s eSports competition, in which professional eSports athletes compete using the latest iteration of the EA SPORTS™ FIFA video game series.  Established in 2018, eMLS is the highest-level North American eSports league.

Older brother Cissé (@cisseSZN) represents FC Cincinnati while younger brother Mohamed (@KingCJ0) represents D.C. United. While the Orange and Blue take on the Black-and-Red this Saturday at TQL Stadium for FCC’s home opener, the brothers will do what they have done thousands of times and will compete on the virtual pitch at 3:30 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 3 on FC Cincinnati’s Official Twitch.

Do they ever take a step back and admire that they are a set of brothers competing at the highest level of eSports in North America?

"Very rarely, because there's still so much to be done” Cissé said. “Once you're in the league, there’s so much to be achieved. Sometimes that's something that we should probably do more, and just take a backseat and see what we've done so far. But we were very focused and dedicated on the path ahead, instead of stopping and looking behind.”

“Especially this year being the most competitive roster it's as ever had, literally every single top player in North America is in the league,” Mohamed continued. “The spots are limited, first of all, and it's extremely competitive. It’s hard, just to put it into words. This is hard.”

Their parents and families were hesitant at first on their paths leading down the eSports route.

“Every household, parents don't want their children to sit in front of the screen the whole day playing video games,” Mohamed said. “Obviously as we keep improving, keep going forward, they see that there’s actually something in this … there’s a lot of opportunities to put your name out there.”

The duo is busy off the virtual field as well. Mohamed is a full-time student at Rutgers University, while Cissé, a graduate of Rutgers, is currently studying to earn his licenses to work in the finance industry. During the early parts of the Covid-19 pandemic, the eMLS players would alternate back and forth between studies and gaming all the time at their New Jersey residence.

In 2022, they predominately play anywhere from 10-20 games at nighttime. Despite their brotherly, competitive nature, these games are used to help each other improve.

“We share every secret because we both want to see each other succeed,” said Cissé. “So when we practice, we're very thorough. We are also very honest on our criticisms about each other. That’s the best type of practice.”

The practice has certainly made the brothers into two of the better eMLS players in North America. Last season, Cissé finished top-4 in eMLS League Series One, top-8 in eMLS Cup and had a top-32 PS4 ranking in North America. Mohamed reached the semifinals of 2022 eMLS League Series 1 and finished just outside the top-8 for League Series 2 a few weeks ago.

“[Mohamed has] had a crazy last year, he won the North American spot to go to the World Cup … And this year, just a few weeks ago, he won the second North American Championship. So seeing him get all those accolades kind of pushes me to you know, follow his footsteps. Hopefully, I can do that…

“But I don't I don't like to smother him with compliments. He has to stay grounded.”

The younger brother laughed when his older brother said that, laughing about the compliments his older brother had just given him.

“He doesn’t do that usually, I tried my best to hide the smirk,” Mohamed said.

Fans can follow twitch.tv/fccincinnati to be notified when @CisseSZN and @KingCJ0 take the virtual pitch this Thursday as a preface for Saturday’s FC Cincinnati home opener at TQL Stadium against D.C. United.

“It’s exciting to build hype for the actual game and people can watch how we do it on the virtual pitch,” D.C. United’s eMLS representative Mohamed said. “Hopefully D.C. United wins.”

“We’ll see about that. FC Cincinnati’s got it,” Cissé said.