NACE Starleague Wraps Inaugural Season With Record-Breaking Participation Numbers

Collegiate esports interest continues to rise with more than 13,000 students participating for 2021-22 season.

Berwyn, Pa. (May 9, 2022) – CSL Esports, a Playfly Sports company, and NACE, a non-profit collegiate esports association, announced record-setting participation numbers following the official conclusion of NACE Starleague’s first year in the collegiate esports space. More than 13,000 students from nearly 700 colleges and universities participated during this academic year. That number includes 423 school-sanctioned and supported varsity programs. Those students participated in 13,052 total matches across all games while battling for more than $160,000 in scholarship dollars. 

“The growth of collegiate esports has been remarkable over the last couple seasons,” said Rob Johnson, CEO, CSL Esports. “With significant increases in participation on campuses, more and more schools are putting dedicated resources towards esports efforts. It’s indicative to see that esports participation is quickly surpassing many of the traditional olympic sports at the NCAA level.”

Prior to COVID-19, Collegiate Starleague (CSL’s former league title) saw 11,415 students participate, with 38% of that participation coming through League of Legends competitions. The jump to more than 13,000 students also came with a larger variety of game play, with League of Legends dropping to account for only 11% of teams involved in this spring’s Grand Finals. 

Relative to the reported NCAA 2021 participation numbers, NACE Starleague’s 2021-22 participation ranked among the top of the following Olympic sport benchmarks: 

  • Men’s and women’s tennis: 15,252
  • Men’s lacrosse: 15,180
  • Men’s and women’s golf: 13,548
  • NACE Starleague (Esports): 13,351
  • Men’s and women’s ice hockey + women’s field hockey: 12,803
  • Men’s wrestling: 7,436
  • Men’s and women’s water polo: 2,268 
  • Men’s and women’s gymnastics: 1,893


This year’s NACE Starleague Grand Finals saw two days of competition that included 12 teams from colleges and universities across North America. Competitive titles included: Call of Duty, CS:GO, Overwatch, League of Legends, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, & Rocket League. The Grand Finals championship titles went to the following:

  • League of Legends: University of Maryland
  • CS:GO: Drexel University 
  • Rocket League: Stockton University 
  • Call of Duty: Northwood University
  • Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Bay State College
  • Overwatch: Harrisburg University 


CSL Esports joined forces with The National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE) to establish NACE Starleague, the largest collegiate esports league in North America in 2021. The organization is recognizing impressive growth in season-long sponsors with 22 new partnerships forged this year. From July 2021 through May 2022, NACE Starleague’s Twitch page garnered more than 551 hours streamed with 980,484 unique viewers, plus 1,360,000 live views and more than 7,850,000 minutes watched.  

Among participating schools are some of the biggest names in collegiate athletics, including University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW), Louisiana State University (LSU), University of Southern California (USC), Michigan State University (MSU), University of North Carolina (UNC), University of Maryland (UMD), Boise State University (BSU), University of Kansas (KU), Duke University, Indiana University, Ohio State University, Kentucky, and Virginia Tech.

More information on NACE Starleague to sign up as a student/team or as a sponsor can be found on


About CSL Esports, A Playfly Sports Company

CSL Esports oversees operations, marketing, and business development for NACE Starleague,  North America’s largest collegiate league with nearly 700 colleges and over 13,000 students, as it advances the competitive experience for student-athletes and provides them with an ideal place to showcase their skills. 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 Playfly Sports

Playfly Sports is a full-service sports marketing company operating where sports marketing, media & technology converge. Playfly Sports drives outcome-based solutions for brands reaching approximately 83% of all US sports fans generating over 230bn impressions each year in pro, college, and high school sports. Utilizing the influence and durability of local sports fandom, Playfly Sports exclusive rights in the NBA, NHL, MLB, NCAA, esports, and high school sectors drive value for our local, regional, and national brand partners. Playfly’s insights-infused multimedia and tech platforms drive innovation through scaled linear, digital, in-venue, and experiential marketing and engagement assets. 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 Igniting Brands through the Love of Fans. Visit Playfly Sports online at and follow Playfly Sports on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook: @PlayflySports.

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.