Industry-leading Esports Companies Form Partnership to Create Largest Collegiate Offering in North America

NACE Starleague

PHILADELPHIA (July 7, 2021) – CSL Esports, a Playfly Sports company, today announced a multi-company partnership with The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), a 501(c)(3) and North America’s largest association of varsity esports programs, 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.

“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.”

Among participating 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). Among current NACE members are esports leaders such as Boise State University (BSU), University of Missouri (MU), University of Kansas (KU), and Georgia State University (GSU). 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.   

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.

“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.”

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 Esports programs and will be supported by sponsorship and media through Playfly Sports, the emerging leader in college multimedia rights and sports advertising sales. As Playfly Sports continues its growth, CSL Esports stands as one of Playfly’s key focuses and divisions. With a reimagined look at the sports industry, Playfly continues to invest in esports as one of the next frontiers within the sports ecosystem in the hopes of bringing together its touchpoints across all levels of sport fandom and elevate the business of esports.

About CSL Esports

CSL Esports provides turnkey solutions for schools and students to compete and learn valuable skills in the rapidly expanding esports industry. Since 2009 CSL Esports has been the operator of North America’s largest collegiate esports business and has provided over $1 million in direct scholarships.  CSL Esports works with scholastic partners at all levels including colleges & universities, state and local high school districts, athletic and activities associations, departments of education, and parks & recreation in this new endeavor.

About NACE

The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) is a nonprofit membership association organized by and on behalf of member institutions and is the largest association of college esports in North America. Together, NACE members are developing the structure and tools needed to advance collegiate esports in the varsity space. NACE colleges and universities collaborate to lay the groundwork in areas such as: eligibility, path to graduation, competition and scholarships. NACE represents the majority of varsity programs across North America.

About Nerd Street

Nerd Street is a national network of esports facilities and events dedicated to powering competitive opportunities for gamers. The company promotes greater access to the esports industry, laying a national framework for esports talent development and high-quality gaming tournaments. Through Localhost, its gaming and esports centers across the country, the company provides opportunities for gamers of all ages and skill levels to participate in esports tournaments, camps, team training, private events like birthday parties, and hourly play for a wide variety of video games. Nerd Street has received backing from Five Below, Comcast Spectacor, SeventySix Capital, Elevate Ventures, angel investor George Miller, and Founders Fund. For more information, follow  and

About Mainline

Mainline is an esports tournament software and management company focused on providing customers with their own esports offerings. Based in Houston, TX, Mainline helps colleges and brands manage, monetize and market their esports programs and tournaments. For more information, visit and .

About Playfly Esports

Playfly Sports is the full-service, leading sports marketing and media company that enables brands to engage with sports fans on a local, regional, and national level through scaled linear, digital, and experiential assets. Playfly Sports drives outcome-based solutions into 90-million households via more than 7,800 live U.S. broadcasts of MLB, NBA, and NHL games; and influences sports fans of all ages through the management of high school and college multimedia rights, uniform branding, and high-profile sports sponsorship platforms. The company introduces high school and college students to career development opportunities in esports through CSL Esports, operators of North America’s largest college esports league. Playfly Sports has the unique ability to partner, innovate, and advance the aspirations of athletes, brands, academic institutions, and sports fans across the U.S. Playfly Sports is Powered by Partnership. Visit Playfly Sports online at and follow Playfly Sports on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook: 

The Bottom Line:
We want to help you

Absolutely no pressure. No hard sell. Let's get together and see if we can help you grow your esports programs and tournaments.