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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The esports industry figured out how to create crossover stars and form partnerships with major leagues. Some organizations are even diving into content. Yet, no one has been able to create the industry's equivalent of Little League Baseball.

The problem: No matter a player's skill level, marketability is just as essential for turning pro. Without it, great players can be overlooked. When great players are overlooked, the industry loses.

  • Put it this way: The Patriots never find Tom Brady without NCAA football. Can you imagine the NFL without Tom Brady?
  • "This is the only competition where that's true," Shawn Smith, CEO of Harena Data tells Axios. "Players have quit esports altogether because of that."

The big picture: The same infrastructure esports is trying to create already exists in traditional sports. The industry just hasn't figured out how to copy it yet.

  • "We need some analog of Little League Baseball. It's really a broader initiative," Cloud9 gaming's president Dan Fiden tells Axios. "In traditional sports, that infrastructure gets folded into schools. In a perfect world, ours might too."

Driving the news: That infrastructure is coming and it's happening right now.

  • Cloud9's "Path to Pro" is taking its first steps with the goal of creating esports communities where gamers can team up and play together under actual coaches.
  • Denmark's Ministry of Culture just developed a plan to build out the grassroots infrastructure that includes a panel tackling issues in seven key areas native to esports.
  • Harena Data created the GyoScore beta system where players are able to register their scores and results from different esports for pro scouts to evaluate.

The bottom line: Esports has been able to build immense value without a proper professional path. Once a true pipeline is built, the industry's growth could skyrocket.

Go deeper: Esports eyes high schools, colleges as talent pipeline

Go deeper

Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19

Photo: Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

State of play: Joint Staff spokesperson Col. Dave Butler said in a statement that Milley — who is fully vaccinated and has received a booster shot — is experiencing "very minor symptoms" and is "working remotely and isolating himself."

Momentum builds to ban lawmakers from trading stocks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Some progressive Democrats and MAGA Republicans are uniting on a proposal to ban sitting lawmakers from trading individual stocks, although it's unlikely that leadership will bring the bill up for a vote.

Why it matters: Members of Congress have great power to move stock prices, and great financial incentives to do so.

Updated 5 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: The Weather Prediction Center said in a storm summary Monday that winter storm warnings are still in effect for portions of the Central Appalachians, Ohio Valley, interior Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, while other portions of the Central Appalachians and coastal New England are under high wind warnings.