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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — As the founder of the local professional esports franchise, the KC Pioneers, L.J. Browne wears a lot of hats.

The 19-year-old Blue Valley North graduate originally planned on playing college football, but he decided to leave school to turn pro. Not as an NFL player but as the founder and chief gaming officer for the surging esports Pioneers.

“This company was started in a college dorm, and right now we are sponsored by Door Dash,” Browne said. “We’re also partnering with Under Armour, so it’s getting pretty big right now.”

The Pioneers compete in Rocket League, Madden and Halo. If you’re not familiar, Rocket League is like three-on-three soccer with trucks instead of players. With massive audiences watching on platforms like Twitch and YouTube, Rocket League is a big deal.

“At the moment, we have the No. 8-11 Rocket League team in the world,” Browne said. “And we have the No. 5 team in North America, which is a pretty big deal because Rocket League is one of the biggest esports in the world right now.”

With pro players, scholarships, college competitions, arenas and play-by-play announcers, esports is rapidly winning over the next generation of sports fans.

“The viewership is currently exceeding a regular season Royals game or a regular season Sporting KC game, so we’re up there with those top dogs,” Browne said.