MLS Fantasyland: Intro to MLS Fantasy Manager 2013

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As the billion-dollar fantasy sports industry continues to increase in popularity and mainstream media visibility, many American soccer fans are now joining in MLS fantasy leagues more than ever. The Bent Musket will get you up to speed on how to participate, and dominate, your fantasy league with this new weekly column.

While sitting around in some random "green room" in some random city in this country, I was scrolling through my timeline and was beginning to notice a trend: the MLS Fantasy Manager game was up and running for 2013, and it seemed like EVERYBODY was buzzing about it.

So what? Well, for starters, I'm an absolute fantasy nut. I, like many red-blooded Americans, and not just men mind you (one of my nightclubs has a fantasy football league with three girls) play in a variety of leagues in several sports. I've played MLS Fantasy Manager more than a couple of years, and have even managed to hold some decent rankings. I love that my favorite league has thrown itself into the madness and fun that is fantasy sports, and for some reason, it seems like excitement is at an all-time high in 2013.

Which brings to me to what I'm going to do with this column in 2013: I saw a huge interest in the game, but hardly ANYONE talking about it after the season started, save for a few tweets of "YES! He's on my fantasy team".

Therefore, in an effort to not only grow the MLS Fantasy Manager game, but to also spread knowledge and ideas about how to not only play it, but to excel at it, I've decided to create MLS Fantasyland as an ongoing weekly column that is designed to do several things:

- Provide new players with basic understanding of the rules, as well as basic team creation philosophies.

- Track player movement, form, and value within the fantasy game itself

- Offer players interesting tidbits and "advice" when preparing for each week's lineup

- Create an overall more interesting and dedicated MLS Fantasy community.

While I hardly consider myself an expert when it comes to fantasy games, it certainly needs to be pointed out that there aren't too many advice columns out there and I really wanted to add something a little different this year. I hope it will not only help some players in their quest for fake glory, but perhaps bring the fantasy community a little closer together.

All week long I will be doing preview pieces to get you prepared to send your first team out on the field this weekend for MLS First Kick. Today we start with the game's basics, and get you up to speed on the rules.

MLS FANTASY SOCCER MANAGER RULES

Every league has its own rules, and this is no different. While soccer can be a little confusing for novices at times, the fantasy game is not.

TEAM COMPOSITION. First and foremost, you can only enter ONE team. While you may enter multiple leagues at once, your team remains the same, regardless of competition. Each team will consist of

  • 2 Goalkeepers
  • 5 Defenders
  • 5 Midfielders
  • 3 Forwards
Important Note: During the regular season, you may only have THREE players from a certain team. Rules change once you reach the playoffs, but we will touch on that when we get there.

SCORING. The most important of all, is your understanding of the scoring system, and how you decide to compose your team based on these rules. They are as follows:
Action Points
For playing in a game 1
For playing at least 60 minutes in a game (includes playing points mentioned above) 2
For each goal scored by your goalkeeper or defenders 6
For each goal scored by your midfielders or forwards 5
For each assist * 3
For your goalkeeper conceding 0 goals (must also play at least 60 minutes) 4
For your defenders conceding 0 goals (must also play at least 60 minutes) 4
For your midfielders conceding 0 goals (must also play at least 60 minutes) 1
For every penalty miss -2
For every penalty save 5
For every 2 goals conceded by your goalkeeper or defenders -1
For every yellow card -1
For every red card (includes any yellow card points) -3
For every 3 saves 1


While those performance scores are relatively easy to understand to most soccer fans, these further bonus points for "contributions" may be a little harder to follow:

1 point for every 3 crosses (A cross is defined where the ball is played to their own player in the penalty area)
1 point for every 3 key passes (A key pass is one that leads to a shot at goal)
1 point for every big chance created (A big chance is one where the analyst determines the player should score)

-1 point for every big chance missed

1 point for every 6 clearances, blocks or interceptions
1 point for every 6 recovered balls
-1 point for every error leading to a goal

So as you can see, there's certainly more than one way to go after it in your fantasy leagues, and it is incredibly important to make sure you have the basic understanding of the scoring system.

FORMATIONS AND SUBS. When you select your starting XI, the formation will automatically be set for you (because you are only allowed so many players at a certain position, it allows the game to control the formation you employ).

New this year is the ability to "substitute" players in the middle of a scoring week, which will delight many MLS Fantasy veterans:

Brand new to the 2013 game, manager substitutions allow you more flexibility to make alterations during a round. After all matches on a single day have finished and before the next matches start, you can:

  • Replace any player who has not played, with one from your bench whose team is yet to play.
  • Change your captain (if he did not play), with a player from your squad whose team is yet to play.

Substitutions and captain changes cannot be cancelled once confirmed.

An unlimited number of manager substitutions can be made, however, it is not possible to make manager substitutions after games on the last day of the round, as all fixtures will have been completed.

If a manager substitution or captain change is made then no automatic substitutions or vice captain changes will take place on your team that round.

Now, if you don't happen to notice your lineup during the weekend, or if you couldn't get to the site to make your changes, no worries, the game will automatically make changes for you for your highest priority sub should one of your players not play in their match.

NAMING A CAPTAIN. Captains are a pretty important and strategic thing in MLS Fantasy, as your captain's earned points will be DOUBLED. You are also required to name a vice-captain, for instances where your captain doesn't play. This is an important piece to your lineup puzzle, as naming the right captain on the right weeks can earn you MASSIVE rewards.

TRANSFERS. Making changes to your roster is always encouraged, as the landscape in MLS seems to change every week, and that certainly affects your fantasy team. Most weeks, you are allowed 2 "free" transfers that won't deduct any of your hard earned fantasy points to complete the moves. You're allowed to fiddle with your team as much as you'd like during the first week so that you can tweak and perfect your opening day roster.

You're also given what is called a "transfer wildcard" that waives any penalties for multiple moves in any given week. Want to completely overhaul an under-achieving roster? The wild card can help you with that. You're given TWO wild cards in 2013.

PLAYER VALUES. This, by far, is of the utmost importance when building your team. In MLS Fantasy Manager, you're given a wage budget of $100 million to create your squad. Each player has their own "value" that counts against the cap. Superstars like Chris Wondolowski and Landon Donovan will cost a pretty penny for their services, and it's very important to try to find the right blend of cheap/expensive players.

Therein lies the biggest challenge of MLS Fantasy Manager: creating a team that not only achieves on the field but fits the budget. There's several ways to build your team, and that's the fun part. You can build around a few stars and fill the rest of your team with journeymen and rookies, or you can try to build an all-balanced squad, spending equal amounts on each position.

Whatever your fancy, player values are what drives the game. What makes things even more interesting is that player values CHANGE. If your player hits a solid run of form, and his popularity in the transfer market increases, you'll see his value increase. Buying/selling at the right time is a vital part in any manager's season. If you sell a player for a profit, make sure to note the "seller's fee" which is essentially a 50% tax on the profits that goes back to the game.

JOINING A LEAGUE. Once you're finished composing your team, you can feel free to join in leagues with your friends, or create one yourself. When trying to join a friend's league, or a bigger public league, you'll be asked to enter the "league code" which is often times posted by the league commissioner. For instance, the code to the official New England Rebellion league is 6972-1444.

In addition to the traditional "classic scoring" leagues that we've grown accustomed to, there is also an option to play in head-to-head scoring leagues as well. This type of league will feel much more familiar to veterans of fantasy leagues in other sports. Essentially, instead of a total-points league accumulated over an entire season, you play one other opponent each week, in a head-to-head matchup with the same scoring rules. Score more points than your opponent's team, and you're awarded the three points for a win!

That about wraps up my introduction piece on MLS Fantasy Manager. Tomorrow we jump right in and break down the goalkeepers and defenders in our first draft prep piece!

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