The world's largest gaming tournament is coming to The NINETY.
This year's U.S. FIFA Interactive World Cup Host Country Qualifier will be held this month in the Seattle Sounders' Pioneer Square event space, with eight challengers competing for a spot among the 32 finalists. That group will square off in New York City in March for a chance to win $20,000 and a trip to the FIFA Ballon d'Or award ceremony next year.
As a part of the partnership, the Sounders selected one wild card participant. Working together with SonarFeed, the spot was awarded to the podcast's annual FIFA fundraiser winner.
Who claimed the bounty? None other than Mount Tahoma High School junior Skye Rozon.
"I was just taking each game one at a time," said Rozon. "When I won, I was shocked because I didn't think I'd make it that far."
Rozon's no FIFA rookie, but he was surprised to do so well in this year's annual fundraiser. Last year he lost in the first round.
With a solid bracket of 64 players, Erin Riley, one of the tournament's organizers, was more than pleased to announce the addition of the grand prize.
"I got goosebumps when I was told about it," Riley said. "Having the Sounders reach out with a fantastic prize...something like this helps to even further legitimize the tournament and help us show we're doing good work for our community. We had a big spike in sign-ups right away."
In its fourth year, the fundraiser brought in over $11,500 and there were plenty of ways to be involved beyond playing the popular video game. In addition to the tournament, Riley and his group organized an auction with autographed gear, game-worn jerseys and more. "The number of individual donors skyrocketed this year. It started out as a way to get us together to play video games and raise some money for charity, and it's grown into this amazing event with our community."
For Skye Razon and his mother, Dulce, the tournament was a chance to spend time with fellow supporters and collaborate on a project to benefit the Lamar Neagle Foundation.
"I was supporting my mom, and she was supporting Lamar and his foundation," Skye said.
As if that those aren't good enough reasons to attend, the outing also includes plenty of time to rub shoulders with some Sounders FC players.
This year's event featured Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, but he was joined by several teammates who donated items and even sat down for a few games himself. While Skye didn't compete with a first team player, he did get to compete against Sounders Academy player Tobi Jnohope.
Now, Skye's focusing on the upcoming qualifier, but says he's sticking to his normal routine while he brushes up on his skills.
"It's unbelievable to know that if I win this tournament, I go to New York," he said. "That's definitely on my mind. It's exciting to know people will be at The NINETY watching me play FIFA."