Soccer's global governing body FIFA, gaming software-maker Electronic Arts and Sony Corp's PlayStation announced the start of the FIFA Interactive World Cup 2010 (FIWC10) season on Tuesday.
The sixth edition of the world's largest football gaming tournament allows virtual athletes the unique opportunity of competing in an official FIFA World Cup, FIFA said in a statement.
The champion will be decided at the final in Barcelona, Spain on May 1, 2010, for which players can qualify online or at live qualifier events.
The winner will receive $20,000 and a money can't buy experience of attending the FIFA World Player Gala, where he or she will mingle with the best football players in the world.
More than half a million players vied for a spot in the Grand Final of last year's FIFA Interactive World Cup, said Chuck Blazer, a member of the FIFA Executive Committee.
This makes it the FIFA tournament with the most competitors.
Over the next seven months, players will compete against each other online or at one of the 10 live qualifier events that will be held in Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia, South Africa and Britain.
For the first time, the online qualification will be split into two separate seasons, the first running from October 2 through to December 18 2009, and the second from January 4 to March 31, 2010.
Players interested in participating in either the online qualifiers or one of the live qualifier events will find all information on how to register as well as reports and stories around the tournament on the official website, www.fifa.com/FIWC.
The 31 players to successfully qualify for the grand final will come up against last year's FIWC champion -- Bruce Grannec from France -- who has automatically qualified for the final and will be aiming to become the first player to retain his title.
(Reporting by Paul Casciato, editing by Steve Addison)