×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

What Is the Madden Championship Series?

Ever since its first release in 1988, EA’s Madden franchise has been a mainstay of the gaming world. For many players, it’s often their first introduction to competitive gaming, even if it’s only between siblings vying for little more than bragging rights. Despite the franchise’s popularity, however, it’s only in the last few years that EA and the NFL have taken steps to give the game the full-on esports treatment. This year’s Madden Championship Series (MCS), timed to coincide with the release of “Madden 19” earlier this month, represents the most expansive ecosystem for competitive Madden yet, with four major events and more than $1.25 million in prize money up for grabs over the course of the next nine months.

It’s important not to make strict comparisons between competitive Madden to more traditional esports, like “League of Legends” or “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” While neither the NFL nor EA would, of course, object to having massive viewership for competitive Madden, the purpose of the Madden League is as much about providing new avenues for brand engagement as it is attracting spectators to a new media product.

“Competitive gaming and esports are one of the most exciting ways to engage a larger, younger and digitally savvy NFL audience,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement announcing last year’s iteration of the MCS. “Collaborating with EA to create the Madden NFL Club Championship presents a unique opportunity to capture the excitement of NFL action and the passion of our fans with competition that anyone can participate in.”

Popular on Variety

That “anyone can participate” qualifier is key. True to the game’s living room roots, the Madden Championship Series takes a relatively grassroots approach to its ecosystem, making it easy for anyone (in theory at least) to earn their way into the game’s highest tier of play. Like NFL Films’ slate of non-competitive content, the MCS is really just another way to enjoy the game of football and engage with the brand that “owns” it.

One of the most distinctive features of the MCS, however, is that it employs multiple formats throughout the season. Esports, traditionally, demand standardization across tournaments in order to ensure that the experience is as consistent as possible for players and spectators alike – you won’t see the League of Legends Championship Series switching between Summoner’s Rift and Twisted Treeline, for example. But Madden is up to something a little different, in part because there’s no standard about what competitive Madden is yet. Accordingly, each of the year’s major events has modest differences in format and game mode, likely because the MCS wants to appeal to as many types of players as possible.

It’s a bit complicated, but let’s break it down. The 2018 – 2019 MCS, which runs roughly alongside the NFL proper, is comprised of four majors. Throughout the year, in addition to cash prizes, players will accrue Madden Championship Series Points. The six players with the most points will receive a seed to compete at the year-end Madden Bowl, where they’ll join the winners and runners-up of each of the preceding Majors.

Madden Classic

Qualifiers: Aug. 21 to September

Offline Finals: Oct. 11 to 13

Perhaps the most straightforward tournament in the MCS ecosystem, all games for Madden Classic are played using the franchise’s long-standing Head-to-Head mode, which is what you might use if you were playing a friendly pickup game with friends. True to these roots, instead of online qualifiers, Madden Classic major requires players to attend one of four satellite tournaments – in Jacksonville, FL, Dulles, VA, Santa Ana, CA, and Carrollton, TX – to compete in person in a 256-person bracket. The top two players from each will qualify for the live finals, which will take place in Las Vegas in October. There, players will compete for a pot of $165,000 and two direct seeds to the Madden Bowl next spring.

Madden Club Championship

Online Qualifiers: Aug. 7 to Oct. 23

Offline Finals: Jan. 30 to Feb. 1

Arguably the most interesting of the season’s events, the Madden Club Championship is where most of the prize money is concentrated – and most of the bragging rights. Not only do players compete for cash and MCS points, but also the right to represent their favorite NFL team. Throughout the fall, players will compete in an online ladder and subsequent elimination tournament, narrowing the field of competitors from thousands to a few hundred. Then, in December and January, each team in the NFL will host a local event, held at their stadium or a local cultural hotspot, to determine who will earn the right to hoist each franchise’s banner. Finally, thirty-two players representing thirty-two teams will head to Redwood City, CA, to compete in an offline finals at EA’s headquarters – a season of the NFL in microcosm.

Madden Challenge

Online Qualifiers: Nov. 19 to Feb. 25

Offline Finals: March 15 to 17

In the Madden Challenge, players will compete using the Madden Ultimate Challenge game mode, the most lucrative (for EA at least) in Madden. MUC uses a Hearthstone-like card collecting system, more-or-less forcing players to shell out for card packs filled with elite NFL players if they want to be serious, competitive players. The top players in the game’s online ladder will qualify for an online elimination tournament designed to narrow the field from 256 to 16. The remaining players will then gather at EA’s headquarters for another offline finals, this time for $190,000.

Madden Bowl

Last Chance Qualifier: March 11 to April 15

Offline Finals: April 20

Competitive Madden’s own version of the Super Bowl will take place next April, not long after the inevitable, collective Super Bowl hangover wears off. The 16-competitor field is comprised of direct invitations given to winners and runners-up from previous events, a last chance qualifier, and the top six MCS point earners. The Madden Bowl will bring the 2018-2019 MCS to a close, with players taking home their share of $200,000 while they wait for the next season to begin.

More Gaming

  • Green Day Beat Saber music pack

    Beat Saber Gets Green Day Music Pack, 360-Degree Levels

    Coinciding with Green Day’s performance at the Game Awards, Facebook announced late Thursday that the popular virtual reality game Beat Saber is getting a Green Day music pack. The 6-song pack is slated to go live at midnight, and players will simultaneously get access to Beat Saber’s long-awaited 360-degree gameplay. The Green Day music pack [...]

  • Ghost of Tsushima Trailer

    'Ghost of Tsushima' New Trailer Drops at The Game Awards

    A new full trailer for developer Sucker Punch’s “Ghost of Tsushima” is finally here. The latest substantial footage of the samurai game dropped at The Game Awards Thursday night, marking the first real look at the PS4 exclusive since Sony released a short teaser during its State of Play earlier this week. “Ghost of Tsushima” [...]

  • Ultimate Rivals The Rink - Apple

    Apple Arcade Launches NHL Game That Lets You Put Athletes From Other Sports on the Ice

    Now you can see NBA superstar LeBron James facing off against NHL great Wayne Gretzky in a fast-paced hockey game. In an innovative fantasy mashup for sports gaming fans, Apple Arcade is launching “Ultimate Rivals: The Rink,” a hockey game that lets you pit NHL players against athletes from other sports. The game is available [...]

  • Xbox Series X: Next-Gen Console Revealed

    Microsoft Reveals Next-Gen Console, Xbox Series X, at The Game Awards

    The next-generation Xbox console is officially called the Xbox Series X, and will be released over next year’s holiday season, Microsoft revealed during Thursday night’s The Game Awards. Head of Xbox Phil Spencer took the stage at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater to make the big reveal about the project previously known as Project Scarlett, and [...]

  • The Game Awards

    How to Watch the 2019 Game Awards

    The Game Awards will be taking place on Thursday night and, fittingly, there are plenty of ways to stream the event online. The whole show will be streaming live starting at 5:30 p.m. PT/8:30 p.m. ET from Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater on The Game Awards’ YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Twitch pages. Additionally, for the first [...]

  • Riot Games

    Riot Games to Pay $10 Million to Settle Gender-Discrimination Lawsuit

    Riot Games, developer of “League of Legends,” will fork over at least $10 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of women employees alleging the company’s “bro culture” resulted in systemic gender discrimination. Terms of the settlement in the case, reached in August, were revealed in court documents filed last week in California [...]

  • Dreamscape_Dragon vr

    Dreamscape Gets ‘DreamWorks Dragons Flight Academy’ VR Experience (EXCLUSIVE)

    Location-based virtual reality (VR) startup Dreamscape has teamed up with DreamWorks Animation to launch a new “How to Train Your Dragons” experience at its flagship Westfield Century City VR center in Los Angeles later this month. The 11-minute “DreamWorks Dragons Flight Academy” experience allows up to 8 participants to hone their dragon-flying skills together, and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content