As an American fan of the beautiful game, the most exciting international matches have always been when the US women’s national teams are playing. For my entire life, the success that the US women’s team has been able to achieve is far more impressive than anything I have ever seen the men’s team accomplish. This is exactly why when EA announced that they were adding women’s teams to FIFA my excitement for the series shot through the roof. Unfortunately, the final product was lacking and disappointing.
With FIFA 16, EA finally added women’s national teams to the game, but they made the huge mistake of only letting teams of the same gender play each other. This made it incredibly difficult to play another player as a women’s team online as you could only match with players who were also playing as female teams. While this annoyed me greatly, I accepted that this was the first year with female teams, and my love for the series and rumors that female clubs would be added in FIFA 17 left me to be hopeful that EA make the necessary changes.
Unfortunately, once again I was let down and unable to understand why EA would continue to do this. Ever since FIFA 16, EA has defended this decision by arguing that in real life FIFA prohibits men’s and women’s teams from playing each other, but this is an incredibly weak argument. In a video game where the same player can exist not only on both teams but can also be actively playing for both teams, this argument seems ridiculous.
The other common argument that is often seen on the internet is that women and men ratings are not comparable so they can’t play each other, but again I find this argument lacking. EA has managed to find a way to balance their rating system across the many leagues the series includes, so why can they not do this for women’s teams?
The real issue I have with EA’s decision not to allow men’s and women’s teams play each other, though, is that I feel it would ultimately improve the overall FIFA experience. Assuming that eventually, EA would start to add women’s club teams in addition to the international teams, far more teams and leagues would be available for players to choose from. This would also help to improve the Ultimate Team game mode as it would add even more cards for players to choose from. These additional cards could help to diversify high-level Ultimate Team squads through some interesting nationality and league combinations.
It also doesn’t inspire confidence in EA’s direction in regards to women’s football. They made a huge deal about bringing the women on board, and it was generally seen as a positive step. Yet with little progress given to the development of leagues or proper structure within these, casual players have no hook for investment. EA’s provided a substantial platform for women’s football but it needs to champion it as content, lest fans lost interest and see it as a pointless add-on. This has already started to occur among some of the series fans – it’s a trend EA needs to cut quickly.
Hopefully with the women’s side of the game receiving more and more coverage each year and opportunities for top-tier female players to play in other countries increasing, EA will begin to feel the pressure needed to make this change to the FIFA franchise. Until then though I can only dream about the possibilities an Alex Morgan and Alexandre Lacazette striking pair could provide.