updated 8/19/2004 4:55:24 PM ET 2004-08-19T20:55:24

Microsoft Corp.'s XBox video game system will team up with software maker Electronic Arts Inc. to stage an online Interactive World Cup tournament later this year, the companies announced Thursday.

The project is part of XBox's sponsorship for soccer's 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Michel Cassius, director of XBox Marketing Europe, declined to discuss the cost of XBox's sponsorship and designation as the official video game console of the 2006 World Cup.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

To compete in the tournament, players will need an XBox system and EA's FIFA 2005 game software, which will begin selling in stores in October and include an online component for XBox for the first time. EA's FIFA game for XBox competitor PlayStation 2, made by Sony Corp., already contains a multiplayer capability.

Cassius and Clive Downie, EA's Europe marketing director, would not say how many participants they expect for the tournament, which will run from October to December with the championship to be staged during world governing body FIFA's annual World Player of the Year Gala in Zurich, Switzerland.

The tournament will begin with participants able to play from home, with winners advancing to eight regional finals on six continents, Cassius and Downie said. One of the regional finals will be staged in New York, but neither man would disclose the other locations.

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