From New York to Denmark, 19-year-old Ehsan Zakeri, also known as “LAMPS,” fought his way through multiple competitions to land himself a spot amongst the globe’s best FIFAe players. Representing Minnesota United in the FIFAe World Cup, Zakeri will be one of 32 competitors battling for the title of best FIFAe player in the world from July 14 – July 17 in Copenhagen.

Growing up in Syosset, Long Island, Zakeri began playing FIFA on his Wii around 8 years old. What began as a basic interest soon turned into something more. “I was just into soccer and played casually on my Xbox,” said Zakeri. “Then I started to play Ultimate Team stuff. But then I got better, and once I started getting better, I started trying to compete.”

How did someone living in New York end up representing a Minnesota team? Zakeri was a free agent before the start of the 2022 season and was scouted by MNUFC to play in the eMLS league. Zakeri was previously signed as a second player for Sporting KC. Luckily for Minnesota, his contract was up, and he was signed on December 3, 2021. Players are evaluated based on their background, how they’ve done in previous FIFA seasons, game play, and how many EA qualifiers they have participated in.  

Minnesota United can safely say Kansas City’s loss was the Loons good fortune, and “LAMPS” sees it as a good opportunity as well. “I had spoken to a couple of other teams,” said Zakeri. “Maddie [Ginsberg, MNUFC] came to me around the last day [of the signing window], and it was just a nice opportunity and I’m grateful for it.” This is the furthest that a Minnesota United eMLS player has ever qualified in EA competitions, and a very exciting show of skill for everyone involved.

In order to get to this stage in the competition, Zakeri had to compete in the FIFA Global Series Playoffs in London and secure himself a ranking of one of the top 32 players in the world. The tournament concluded on July 3, and “LAMPS” emerged victorious, snagging a top 32 spot out of 127 players. Which he did in a series that was a total nailbiter.

Zakeri started the Swiss Elimination bracket with two losses, and had a lot of work to do from there if he wanted to make the next round. “Yeah, on Thursday we had the Swiss stages, and you had to get to three wins before you got to three losses,” said Zakeri. “So starting out on two [losses], you had to win three in a row to make the knockouts.”

After his three-game winning streak, “LAMPS” landed himself a spot amongst the top 64. Those remaining players were split into four groups of 16. Only eight in each group would qualify for the World Cup, with a double-elimination bracket being the means of culling the herd. In his bracket, “LAMPS” was ranked 16th. Even more impressive, Zakeri toppled the number one seed, with a 1-1 draw in game one, and a 3-2 dub in game two. 

In round two, Zakeri won in a close race. Two draws forced him into penalty kicks, which he won 4-2, securing a spot in the top 32. “It was kind of crazy, because I won in penalties and it was just like… I don’t know, insane emotions,” said Zakeri. “I was celebrating with the other North American guys behind me, and it was a crazy feeling because I worked for it for the whole year. Believing and like exciting as well.”

Zakeri’s favorite thing about FIFA is short and to the point, “competing,” he said. That is all he is focused on now heading into Denmark. “I don’t know if I’ll go sight-seeing; I’ll probably just stay in the zone,” Zakeri said. And the thing he is most excited about for his trip? “Just playing,” he said. “Playing and hopefully winning the World Cup.” MNUFC and Loons fans alike hope he can do the same, and will be cheering him on from across the Atlantic.

The FIFAe World Cup will be held from July 14 – July 17, and fans can watch the competition online at https://www.twitch.tv/FIFAe.