The four-round event kicks off this Friday with Joey Chestnut, Matt Stonie, and other MLE competitors.

By Mike Pomranz
April 15, 2020
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Champion Eaters Compete In Nathan's Annual Hot Dog Eating Contest
Hot dogs are displayed on stage at the 2010 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
| Credit: Michael Nagle / Stringer/Getty Images

Due to the way COVID-19 spreads, sporting events—and the crowds these matches attract—were one of the first things to be put on hold indefinitely. Sure, sports are not “essential,” but it’s hard to understate just how big of a deal the global lack of athletics is. Sports has its own section in the news. It’s like if the world suddenly stopped having weather!

So, needless to say, leagues are looking for ways to fill this void: NASCAR has been running virtual races, and NBA players battled it out in a video game tournament on ESPN. But these diversions are far from replicating the real thing—which is where Major League Eating sees an opening.

Yes, MLE—America’s best-known competitive eating league if only because it's behind the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest—has announced it will be the “first major league sport back” during this coronavirus crisis with the new BetOnline Quarantine Challenge (sponsored, as the name implies, by the online betting company).

This “bracket-style elimination eating tournament”—set to begin on April 17—“will feature eight of the world’s top eaters facing off via video from their homes,” MLE explains. Slated to appear are the MLE’s two biggest stars—perennial hot dog champ Joey Chestnut (who recently revealed he was still training through the pandemic) and YouTube phenomenon Matt Stonie—as well as Darron Breeden, Badlands Booker, top-ranked female Miki Sudo, Gideon Oji, Michelle Lesco, and Nick Wehry.

Each round will feature a different food, with the first to finish advancing. The event will kick off with two pounds of sliced bologna, followed by the dual challenge of a family pack of Oreos and a half gallon of milk. The semifinals will feature 10 pounds of baked beans, and the finals will be decided by who can finish 10 individual cups of ramen noodles fastest. The winner will walk away with $5,000 out of a total prize pool of $11,500. Additionally, MLE and BetOnline.ag say they will donate another $10,000 to Feeding America.

“Competitive eating is most powerful when conducted on-stage in front of a large audience, but it is also one of the few sports that professionals can perform from the confines of their own home,” MLE Chairman George Shea explained. “While there has been substantial discussion about which professional sport would be the first to return—with baseball, basketball, golf and MMA all floating recent potential return plans—competitive eating is first to come back. It is a powerful statement of American resilience.”

The first round is slated to start this Friday at 7 p.m. EST “on various platforms including MLE’s YouTube channel.”