Esports Companies Unite to Form Partnership to Create Largest Collegiate Offering In North America

The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) announced a multi-company partnership with CSL Esports, a Playfly Sports company, Nerd Street Gamers (Nerd Street), North America’s largest esports infrastructure company, and Mainline, the leading software company in collegiate esports, to establish NACE Starleague, which will become the largest collegiate esports league in North America with more than 14,500 students from 600 colleges and universities.

“Our partnership will bring together the largest number of North American institutions and students that collegiate esports has ever seen,” said Michael Brooks, Executive Director of NACE.  “Working together with some of the biggest powerhouses in the collegiate esports industry enables us to bring the greatest value to students and administrators while maintaining the institutional voice for students and staff.  That voice is critical for the long term success of esports.  Additionally, students and institutions will all have opportunities at all levels including varsity, junior varsity and club. This, in turn, enables us to grow each space together.”

Among current NACE members are esport leaders such as Boise State University (BSU), University of Missouri (MU), University of Kansas (KU), and Georgia State University (GSU). Among participating CSL schools are some of the biggest names in collegiate athletics, including Louisiana State University (LSU), University of Southern California (USC), Michigan State University (MSU), University of North Carolina (UNC), and University of Maryland (UMD). NACE Starleague plans to collaborate with participating schools to host localized invitationals and build esports practice facilities. Additionally, the formation of NACE Starleague creates numerous potential broadcast opportunities.

“This partnership marks a truly historic milestone for collegiate esports,” said Rob Johnson, CEO, CSL Esports. “Combining the efforts of four major players in collegiate esports is a transformative moment to create more access and opportunities for student athletes and further elevate the sport in ways that were previously not possible. The new NACE Starleague and our partnership will not only advance the competitive experience for student-athletes and provide them with an ideal place to showcase their skills, it will also help colleges and universities navigate the space as program numbers soar across North America.”

NACE Starleague operations will begin in fall 2021 and host multiple tiers of skill levels to be inclusive of all collegiate programs from student-run club to school-sanctioned varsity teams with registration opening in early August for varsity. NACE will help oversee match rules in compliance with game publishers, student-athlete verification, recruitment best practices, and varsity team development.

In addition to supporting NACE Starleague broadcast, live event operations, & ticketing, Nerd Street will be providing college teams with increased access to in-person play, training facilities, and broadcast production. Every NACE Starleague participant, regardless of level of play, will have complimentary access to Nerd Street’s premiere gaming and esports facilities, Localhost, during their match time, and discounted access to Nerd Street collegiate tournaments.

“I’m excited to be a part of a changing tide that unites businesses in our industry to cooperate instead of excluding one another,” said John Fazio, CEO of Nerd Street.  “We hope that this partnership will define success in a way that drives greater collaboration amongst our peers in the industry, and ultimately delivers value to our stakeholders: the gamers.”

NACE Starleague matches will be run on the Mainline tournament platform, the preferred collegiate esports tournament software platform in North America. Mainline’s digital infrastructure will provide team management, student authentication for colleges and universities, deep sponsorship integrations, and up to date privacy and legal compliance.

“Mainline is extremely proud to support NACE Starleague with their efforts to continue to grow collegiate esports through this dynamic partnership,” said Chris Buckner, CEO of Mainline.  “We are excited they have selected us as their preferred software in their efforts to drive continuity and scale for their esports events and competitions.”

The partnership between these esports industry leaders sets the bar to help grow collegiate esports and provide more opportunities. Season broadcasts will also be supported by NACE partner Skillshot Media and CSL Esports partner Waveform Entertainment, as more brands come together to work cooperatively towards the growth of the industry. NACE Starleague and partners are expecting tens of thousands of collegiate players and over 600 schools this fall to solidify the largest collegiate esports offering created to date. The partnership will also work directly with schools for curriculum & facility development.

NACE Starleague will start at free-to-play for CSL programs and will be supported by sponsorship and media through Playfly Sports, the emerging leader in multimedia rights and advertising sales.