The latest edition of EA Sports' globally successful soccer franchise, FIFA 15, hits retail store shelves today. Widely regarded as the best soccer simulator on the market, FIFA sold roughly 14M copies last year, far outstripping the only game that can be considered its competition, Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer.

Even then, one can only use "competition" in the loosest sense of the word. This isn't a situation like the one we witnessed between Madden and the now-defunct NFL 2K series, where 2K Games—while arguably boasting a better product—was edged out of the market due to licensing issues. EA Sports is honestly just better at making soccer video games than its chief rival. Last year's side-by-side comparison between FIFA 14 and PES 2014 was unkind to Konami, as many preferred FIFA's graphics, gameplay, and exclusive features over Pro Evolution's offerings. Flagging sales numbers for PES were even more indicative of this growing disparity. This year, PES 2015 won't be released until November 13, a date that gives EA Sports almost two full months to gain an edge among users. Konami's willingness to cede such a head start to EA seems like a white flag. 

Within its own ranks, FIFA also has a distinct edge over EA's other sports products such as Madden or NBA Live. The former is often a target for criticism due to its lack of innovation from year-to-year, and NBA Live has seen its power dwindle in the past decade due to development issues, the cancelation of NBA Live 13, and critical acclaim for the NBA 2K seriesFIFA suffers from no such issues.

Thanks to its best-in-class label, as well as soccer's fledgling status in the United States, FIFA has the opportunity to make an impact among gamers and sports fans in the States. It can be a trend-setter. According to Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah, the franchise is already making this impact. Noah, who was on-hand last Friday at the New York nightclub 42West to discuss FIFA 15 with Roger Bennett and Michael Davies of the Men in Blazers podcast, spoke with Complex about his respect for the title. Growing up in Paris, Noah has a long-time appreciation for the sport and recognizes FIFA's impact on gamers who might not have had the same cultural education. 

"I think that growing up and being able to watch soccer all the time makes me more comfortable when I play the game," Noah said. "But I think the same can be said for somebody who never grew up around soccer. Now they can play FIFA and have a better understanding of what's going on."

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith agrees. Born and raised in the United States, Smith only had a casual interest in soccer. He credits FIFA for creating more enthusiasm for the sport. 

"It's definitely made me a bigger fan," Smith said. "Before, I would always watch the World Cup and be a fan that way, but now that I'm playing it, I get a chance to get to know players from teams other than America. It's interesting to learn about guys from Paris and other places in Europe. You become a fan of them as well." 

But it's one thing to play a video game. Watching an actual sport with any sort of regularity is a completely different problem for a pro organization like Major League Soccer. Could FIFA really lure enough fans in for soccer to become a pastime in the United States? Could it ever overtake, say, the NBA?

"I don't see why it couldn't," Smith said. "I think FIFA is a way for kids to get themselves involved [with soccer]. I think it's definitely going to help the fan base and make [soccer] a bigger deal in America."

Noah isn't quite as certain. Despite his praise of FIFA, he knows that United States soccer still has certain obstacles to overcome before it starts catching on IRL. 

"I feel like the problem with U.S. soccer is that there has to be a way for guys to become more technical," Noah said. "Physically, the Americans are just as good, but technically I feel like they're still a level below."

And it's not just how they play, but how they're perceived and appreciated by U.S. audiences, as well as up-and-coming athletes across the country. 

"You look at the sports in the U.S., and basketball is such a big part of the culture, football is such a big part of the culture, and baseball is such a big part of the culture," Noah said. "It's going to take one of these running backs to say, 'You know what? I want to play soccer instead.' ... Once we get that global superstar for the U.S., I think it'll be interesting to see what happens with soccer." 

The birth of an American soccer star might not be so far away. Just two weeks ago, four-star wide receiver prospect Drake Davis, a recruit for top football programs such as Alabama and Florida State, announced his intentions to pursue soccer in lieu of continuing with his football career. 

FIFA likely doesn't deserve the credit for Davis' decision, particularly during a time when concussions and moral issues surrounding the NFL make it a less and less palatable employer by the day, but it does deserve credit for creating a greater awareness in the game. Its influence on a young gamer-slash-athlete can be almost subliminal. If a kid grew up playing more FIFA than Madden, then it doesn't seem outrageous to say that his or her desire to play the game could extend to the pitch as well. 

For now, Madden handily outsells FIFA in North America. Last year, Madden sold 4.1 million copies across the continent while FIFA 14 managed just 2.12 million (however, it is worth noting that FIFA crushed Madden in global sales). But it bears repeating that Madden games are notoriously repetitive. Meanwhile, FIFA has gained a reputation for its increasing quality and innovation.

"Overall, you could just tell that the graphics are a lot better," Noah said. "You look at the fans, even while the game is going on, and it's just a different reaction, a different vibe." Even as an NBA athlete, Noah says that FIFA is his top choice for gaming.

Similarly, Smith and his teammates love to play the game. 

"We have FIFA battles during training camp," he said. "All the guys get into it. It's just a way to take a break from American football. There's a bunch of guys who compete for the top spot."

Do we all need a break from football? In the coming years, this is a question that American sports fans will be hard-pressed to answer. The increasing repugnance of the NCAA and the NFL make it easy to envision football's downfall as the multi-billion dollar machine that it has become in our country. Our admiration for the game lessens when we see Jameis Winston win the Heisman and catch an accusation of sexual assault. Head injuries and their related deaths inspire a sick feeling after we connect the dots between our fascination with the game and an athlete's willingness to the play through the pain. There are a lot of reasons why the MLS, with its relative purity and safety, could become more popular simply by default. We want to enjoy competition and athleticism, but we don't want to feel bad about it. 

However, changing our interests and habits—no matter how morally questionable—is a lengthy process. Soccer won't become a new pastime overnight, nor will the NFL cease to exist probably ever. But there is a shift taking place. And although it might not fully develop for another 10 or 15 years, FIFA's burgeoning success provides a small lens through which we can view soccer's widening reach. If we have learned anything from the expensive NFL and NBA television contracts, it's that owning the living room means owning the American audience. 

Gus Turner is a News Editor for ComplexHe tweets here.