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MLS Fantasy 2019: Our Wishlist ahead of the new Fantasy Season

The MLS season will shortly be with us, and after a year of investing our time sinking our teeth into MLS and the MLS Fantasy game, we here at Hype Train HQ have drawn together some detailed points about how the Fantasy game could potentially be improved ahead of the 2019 season. We cover potential improvements with the structure of the game, overall navigation, and expanding on areas of the game such as social media and statistical analysis. All Aboard.

What does MLS Fantasy do well and what will we cover?

As first-time players of MLS Fantasy during the 2018 season, we lived and breathed the game from first whistle to last and after a live living within the MLS's game, we have some points below which we think the Fantasy game does very well.

MLS Fantasy: The Good

- Progressive points scoring system that caters for every player across the pitch. Attacking and defensive bonus points provide an overall balance that is hard to beat when comparing other Fantasy games.

- Despite the Fantasy site taking some navigation, there is a clear and sleek graphical design that is implemented.

- Mini-league set-up is dead easy and Head to Head leagues actually use a positive and negative difference based on the points you earn on a weekly basis, rather than focusing on your overall score in case of two players having equal points.

- The Schedule, which is primarily used to tracking MLS Fantasy points, provides a brilliant rundown of each players' performance in each individual game.

- The format of picking a new team each week works well for MLS given how the schedule for each team rapidly changes. What it takes away in player loyalty, it adds in shrewd tactical knowledge of players from across the league. This provides for higher weekly scores which can create big margins of victory and defeat on a weekly basis.

Where would we start when attempting to improving the game?

With MLS Fantasy, the main point of concern that we would have if controlling the game is ease of use for players, and providing enough depth to indulge you when considering your options on a weekly basis.

We'd begin by greatly expanding on the Stats Center the league offers before tackling navigation and some design elements of the game that can frustrate casual players.

With MLS expanding, we'd also like to see a higher level of integration between the main MLS site and its Fantasy game, and would endorse the social media (mainly on Twitter) expand, with the hope of growing the player count come Week 1.

1) Expanding the Statistics Center

The only place to start for us when looking to our Wishlist for the 2019 season is the usage of the Stats Center on the website. The stats page should provide comprehensive coverage of statistics from the game and the league in general, but currently we do not believe this is offered.

What stats can you currently search for?

You can search by position (All, Goalkeeper, Defender, Midfielder and Forward) for the following categories:

- Games (played)

- Total Selected

- Average Fantasy Points

- Cost per Fantasy Point

- Points Last Week

- Total Fantasy Points

What additions or amendments can be made?

For us as journalists, we found that our coverage of player comparison was very limited because you have such a small pool of stats to search for. There is no easy way to find out league statistics unless you go to the MLS website, which actually has a comprehensive Stats page on their website.

The first recommendation is to then potentially integrate the Stats page from the MLS site into the Fantasy game. On the main site you can actually search for top scorers lists, assist makers, clean sheets, and discipline among other league stats.

Is it time to lean on what Fantasy Premier League does well?

We've been highly critical of many elements of FPL for a few years', despite the games appeal to keep drawing us back in, but one feature the game does brilliantly is its Statistics page.

You can search by position (All, GK, DEF, MID & FOR) for the following:

- Total Score

- Round Score

- Price

- Teams selected by % (overall ownership)

- Goals Scored

- Assists

- Clean Sheets

- Goals Conceded

- Own Goals

- Penalties Saved

- Penalties Missed

- Yellow Cards

- Red Cards

- Saves

- Bonus Points

- Bonus Points System (BPS System)

- Influence

- Creativity

- Threat

- ICT Index

- Form

- Times in Dream Team

- Value (form)

- Value (season)

- Points per match

- Transfers In

- Transfers Out

- Transfers In (round)

- Transfers Out (round)

- Price rise

- Price fall

- Price rise (round)

- Price fall (round)

What should MLS Fantasy implement as their own?

To expand on their Statistics Center coverage, the game will should implement searching/filtering by Team, Positions, and could potentially feature a dropdown which distinguishes the efforts of Designated Players and non-DP players for comparisons sake.

- Games (played)

- Total Selected

- Average Fantasy Points

- Cost per Fantasy Point

- Points Last Week

If this could be added to the Stats Center, here's a list of the searchable stats that we would include:

- Total Score

- Points Last Week

- Price

- Total Selected (overall ownership)

- Goals Scored

- Assists

- Clean Sheets

- Goals Conceded

- Own Goals

- Yellow Cards

- Red Cards

- Saves

- Penalties Earned

- Penalties Saved

- Penalties Missed

- Tackles

- Passes

- Key Passes

- Crosses

- Big Chances Created

- Clearances

- Interceptions

- Recoveries

- Errors leading to a goal

- Own Goals Assist

- Shots

- Number of times fouled

- Attacking Bonus Points

- Defensive Bonus Points

- Overall Bonus Points

- Times in Dream Team

- Form

- Value (form)

- Value (season)

- Points per match

- Transfers In (round)

- Transfers Out (round)

- Price rise (season)

- Price fall (season)

- Price rise (round)

- Price fall (round)

The key difference with points scoring between MLS Fantasy and FPL is that the latter uses a Bonus Points System to create additional points for players, whilst in the former, MLS Fantasy rewards any and all players based on their performance on the field and have uncapped potential for additional attacking and defensive bonus.

This is potentially viable to add to the game as you can search by team, price and position when selecting players for your team on the My Team page.

For us, this is top of our shopping list ahead of the new season. The game utilises a positive and progressive scoring system, so to be able to show that off would be incredible, especially for journalists and keen stats admirers that would love to promote the game's best attribute and create their own material that could draw a new audience to the game.

Are there any other Statistics worth implementing for next season?

The only other stat we would heavily consider would be to have a Season History on each registered user so they can track their season progress. Tracking your overall finishes in MLS Fantasy from season to season would be very much welcome if at all possible.

2) Navigation on the MLS Fantasy Website

The next point that we believe is a potentially big area for improvement is the navigation across the site. Fantasy players were quite keen on the 2017 format of the game, which bared a greater visual resemblance to the FPL format, whilst the 2018 edition had some players leave due to frustration.

Some common concerns we heard a lot of were:

- Long loading times between clicking on a players' individual stats.

- There wasn't enough diversity with the statistics of the game.

- It takes a while to find what what you're looking for, whether that be player stats, learning to set a captain, picking a line-up, and just general time it takes to set your team.

- A lack of tutorial on how to be navigate the MLS Fantasy website.

- Mobile and tablet view under the My Team page was different when viewing your team on a PC.

How can the game's navigation be improved?

With the main concerns set over time and general user friendliness, we have some Wishlist items that we believe might greatly improve some user issues for the 2019 season.

- Integrating the main MLS website with the Fantasy game. The Fantasy game is built as its own entity and could really benefit from some elements such as utilising the Toolbar with MLS clubs and signing in to your MLS account

- Whilst the game grows, a list of basics should be set to help new players out. What we mean by this is very clear instructions about setting a captain, the use and order of subs, changing formation among other basics.

- Overhauling the Stats Center so you don't have to click on to a new tab when loading up player stats. Essentially, you should always stay on one tab and never have multiple open at once.

- When using mobile or the MLS Fantasy app you should get the same view as the website under the My Team. Last season, when you used mobile your team appears in List View, with no option to view your squad as you would on the main web page. For players' that like to print-screen their teams, this was extremely discouraging. If this means reverting back to a system of showing club shirts, so be it.

- On the Leagues page, the first and last name, as well as your chosen team name, should feature. This isn't currently the case.

- Implementing MLS news onto the Fantasy News section of the site, or alternatively making a new page for wider MLS news.

3) Eliminating the Spring & Fall Season Format

On a very basic level, a game should have a beginning and an end. The winner celebrates and claims bragging rights. Losers look back at their mistakes in hope of improving.

If you're not aware of how the MLS Fantasy organised their leagues last season, we'll provide a snapshot of how the 2018 season was organised:

- There were 35 Gameweek's (referred to just as Week's in MLS Fantasy)

- The season was divided into a Spring and a Fall Season

- The Spring Season started Week 1 and ended Week 22

- The Fall Season started Week 23 and culminated Week 35

- When the Spring season finished, everything reset; player positions, mini-leagues, overall Fantasy points tables. The only thing that remained was the points that MLS players acquired.

For us, the Spring and Fall seasons' derailed momentum from the MLS Fantasy game. It goes against the nature of Fantasy sports leagues on the whole as the game isn't inclusive of the overall points amassed by a player, rather the Fall season was viewed as the real winner, if that. The premise of a beginning and an end ultimately fails, so we believe that it may be best to revert back to a single season format. A straight race from beginning to end.

Players would relish this more as you can't really sell a league between work colleagues or mates if you have split campaigns where you and your mates don't really know who wins. Sometimes the rules should be elementary to allow for a wider audience to engage properly with the game.

How can this be bridged with the actual game?

If we had to play devil's advocate and were asked about recommendations or alternatives, what we believe would potentially be more beneficial is having a Price Refresh half-way through the season.

For the newbies out there, MLS Fantasy prices varied massively. One good game and a players price would rise by $0.5 million per week. If a player was in form for 4-5 games, he'd rise in price regardless or not if he scored a hat-trick of own goals in the 6th game.

There was sometimes very little logic, and no explanation about why player prices were erratic when rising and falling, so that is one area that might need clarifying if the model stays for the 2019 season.

By this logic, it wasn't insane to have a player double in price after half a season. Player prices were reset during the Fall Season and we hated setting our first Fall season squad due to player inflation caused by the price rises, so perhaps the best solution is to throw a financial curve-ball midway through the season without compromising the integrity of mini-league and overall point scores.

A Price Refresh would be welcomed to facilitate the pricing model that MLS Fantasy operates, as it would aptly re-prioritise player value throughout the campaign, making the game more representative of actual performances on the field.

4) Changes and Improvements to Graphics and Design

One major element of MLS Fantasy that was redesigned for the 2018 season was an overhaul to its website - with a giant change to its usage of graphics, banners, and colours from recent years. The change was enough to see a portion of players from last year decide against playing the game.

What you currently see when loading up the MLS Fantasy site is its login page. Once navigated you go through to your personal team which has 15 empty boxes to fill out your squad. Above that is a light grey header with a darker strip below it with the menu and site navigation.

We believe that there are improvements that can be had to engage Fantasy players further with the overall league. These are mostly cosmetic additions that might be worth taking into consideration ahead of the new season.

Our suggestion to integrate MLS and Fantasy websites:

As the Fantasy site looks clearly looks an independent build to the main website, it is perhaps time to integrate the headers and banners from the main MLS site.

The strip above is the current layout on the MLS homepage and this should be integrated on to the MLS Fantasy site for next season. Then when you select Fantasy, it should take you to the main MLS Fantasy hub with your own team and its own separate menu with all the tabs that appear in the game.

This one feature addition should massively help bridge the gap for a lot of negative space that is currently used on the MLS Fantasy headers and menus on the website, instead of it being an empty grey shell.

How can MLS cater to content creators like ourselves?:

Premier League clubs in England and Wales do a big media day, with players individual profiles updated annually with fresh kit releases. From a design point of view, players have a photo uploaded to the Premier League website are 500x500 pixels and are a brilliant tool for wider journalists to build and report on the Fantasy Premier League. This is virtually identical in Fantasy Bundesliga.

In MLS, pictures are cropped at the neckline most of the time, which from a designers point of view, limits the potential of third parties like ourselves who would love to show off the players in MLS.

This PNG image of Seattle's Nicolas Lodeiro is only 150x150 pixels, so from a creators point of view there is very little you can do. What MLS should want to be doing is making their product as accessible as possible nad providing higher quality renders and images to work with.

If say we had access to this, we could create some very nice info-graphics for our site and social media that might entice in a new potentially interested MLS fan. Instead, we had to get creative and make graphics that didn't feature the faces of the league's top names. We're just suggesting that it might be something to consider with the theme of growing and improving.

There renders at a higher resolution and quality would do wonders for MLS out reach, though this would mean potentially making subtle changes to their own website.

Are there any other graphical improvements that we would consider?:

MLS is a colourful league with some very nice kits. The league have an arrangement with Adidas to design all of the kits, so why couldn't this be utilised on the Fantasy site?

In FPL and Fantasy Bundesliga, and even previously in MLS Fantasy, your team would be a collection of shirts made up from the clubs of the players you selected and in general terms is how most Fantasy games have operated.

In MLS, you have a player graphic on top of a box with the upcoming fixture and additional information.

One slight amendment is to potentially have the grey upper box represent the colour of the team that the player represents. This would add some degree of colour and diversity to quite a clean look to the layout, which is perhaps against the diversity that MLS represents across the board.

The other change could be to refine this box entirely and feature the new kits of MLS teams, a move which is both familiar to players, and potentially commercially viable if someone takes an interest in the selected kit.

5) Dedicated Social Media Coverage

Moving onto community outreach, we massively enjoyed our time covering and watching MLS last season, and in the spirit of bettering the entire product, we'd love to see the dedicated @MLSFantasy Twitter account grow. Posts and general activity on the platform can be waning at times, so perhaps a dedicated person (contact form is on our website, fellas) or a small group to take control of the platform would be a wise move to grow the game bit by bit

What is done is perfectly fine. There are dedicated podcasts that are criminally under-advertised and good articles that chart the best picks for any given Gameweek.

Nevertheless, the account could do with a stable presence that provides its own unique info-graphics, insight and news regarding transfers and injury news that is tailored to Fantasy players.

Expanding on the range of content, from written pieces, videos and social media interaction, as well as keeping active on a regular basis, should be the way moving forward if the game is to bring its wider fan base in to the game.

6) Other Suggestions for the 2019 Season

We'll leave you by placing a few other musings that might be worthy additions to MLS Fantasy for the coming year.

- Introducing a Hall of Fame page that charts winners of the Fantasy game and the top performing players from years' past.

- Adding an MLS Fantasy Cup into the game with its own unique prizes. Teams would have to qualify based on their overall rank, or would qualify based on their score in a single round of games, before taking on individual teams until a grand final on the final day.

- Changing the overall budget. You can only pick 3 DP's for your team at any given time. They could be marked on their icons as a DP player - this could be more representative of the game. You could then fill out the rest of your squad with a set budget.

- Price rises are aggressive in MLS, so perhaps $0.1m upgrades on a weekly basis might be more profitable, especially if the Spring/Fall format is eliminated.

- An MLS Fantasy home or hub which features latest articles, price rises from the week before, fixtures and those with a bye week at hand, the top players and league in the game among other titbits. This could make the game look organic and alive as the season progresses.

You can read more of our latest news from in the FPL, Premier League, and around the footballing world on our Football page by clicking here, or by clicking the image below.

For more MLS, follow @RealHypeTrain and @HypeTrainMLS on Twitter for the latest social media insight from The Hype Train.

Want to know more about The Hype Train?

The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, live sport, and professional wrestling.

As well as providing FPL articles on our website, we are a founding Contributor to the new Fantasy Football Hub, where you can find more unique articles, including weekly Power Rankings, from The Hype Team. You can support us and read exclusive members only content for just £2 per-month by clicking here.

The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog 2016' by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), with the final presentation held at Old Trafford in Manchester.

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All aboard.


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