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Former UNC women's soccer players react to inclusion in new FIFA video game

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Growing up, former Tar Heel and current NC Courage midfielder Brianna Pinto’s brothers played the soccer video game EA Sports FIFA. But Pinto refused to play against them because they were too good.

However, despite her brothers' talents, Pinto now has a leg up on them that they can’t match — she’s a player in the game.

EA Sports FC 24, released on Sept. 29, features an expanded role for women's players through the addition of five women's soccer leagues — including the National Women's Soccer League — into the Play Now game mode. Also new is the inclusion of women's players, including multiple former UNC women's soccer alumni, into Ultimate Team: a popular game mode in which users can create a lineup of players from whatever league or team they want.

On Oct. 13 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, EA Sports sent each of the Courage players their own personalized box with a game inside. On the cover of the game, each player got a card with their ratings on it.

“It’s very cool,” Pinto said. “Getting to play with the NC Courage has been special. I’m looking forward to playing with this edition of our team. Getting our own personalized package is really, really neat. I think that’s what every footballer looks forward to just because we’ve grown up with video games.”

Although this is the first year that the NWSL has been included in the game, women’s international teams have been included in Play Now since FIFA 16, released in 2015. Former Tar Heels like Crystal Dunn, Lucy Bronze and Emily Fox had been in previous editions of the game.

Last year, former UNC standouts Alessia Russo and Lotte Wubben-Moy — who played for Manchester United and Arsenal at the time, respectively — appeared on FIFA 23 when EA Sports added the Women's Super League, the domestic women’s soccer league for England.

“It made sense that obviously with EA FC you have all the men’s teams,” Fox said. “I didn’t think I would be in a video game, but I think in terms of women’s soccer, I’m not surprised women’s soccer is in it.”

As a part of the rollout of women’s players into Ultimate Team for FC 24, the game added women’s soccer icon cards, with the highest rated one featuring Mia Hamm, who has a rating of 93. The card even features her stats for when she played at North Carolina in her player bio.

The implementation of women’s players like Hamm, into one of EA FC’s most popular game modes signals the growth of women’s soccer and the progress towards gender equality in the sport.

While the previous inclusion of women’s international teams and domestic clubs into the game was a sign of progress, more people are learning about women’s soccer players than they were in previous games due to Ultimate Team.

YouTube videos, streaming content and other social media posts about the game are being made that introduce women’s players to a large audience and encourage them to use these players in the game, rather than put them on the back burner as they had been in the past.

“I think it just really shows the commitment to funding for women’s sports,” North Carolina midfielder Ally Sentnor said following the team’s 4-0 win against N.C. State on Sept. 30. “The fanbase is continuing to grow. I mean, our crowd was sold out tonight which was amazing, so I know it’s just going to continue to grow and it’s a great time to be growing up playing women’s soccer.”

The inclusion of more women’s soccer players into FC 24 shows EA Sports' commitment to bringing even more coverage to the sport.

However, Pinto has a small problem — they gave her a 67 shooting rating, her lowest stat category in the game. With women’s players not going anywhere in future editions, she'll have her chance to fix that.

“I wish my shot was a little bit higher," Pinto joked. "But I can work with it. Only up from here.”

@thenoahmonroe

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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