MLS Fantasy 2019: The Basics of Playing MLS Fantasy this Season
Are you new to MLS Fantasy as a game? Are you making the jump from playing Fantasy Premier League and looking for a new game to spark your interest, but don't know the first thing about said league or understand the rules? We've got you covered. If any of the above applies to you, we have provided a rundown of how to play MLS Fantasy ahead of the 2019 season. All aboard.
Understanding the Basics of MLS Fantasy
We're hopefully going to paint a picture here that might resonate with new and exciting MLS Fantasy as the game launches and players across the world pick their squad ahead of the first Gameweek. This has mostly been made for the use of new players that might be asking, 'so, how do I navigate this game?''
The best way to do this is to do a question and answer that new players always ask us if they're new to the game.
What the the absolute basics of playing this game?
You've got a $100.0 million budget and must pick a squad of 15 players.The game has split seasons, a Spring Season (Week's 1-15) and a Fall Season (Week's 16-31).
What happens at the end of the Spring Season?
Player prices and some positions are reset. Based on our experience of this last season, it was the worst period of the season that completely destroyed the flow of the game.
How many transfers do you get to make every week?
When can you make these transfers?
After the last game in any given Week in MLS Fantasy, the game refreshes itself. If the last game is on Sunday evening, the game has a review period where it analyses Fantasy points and on-field stats.
Typically, the game refreshes the My Team and Schedule tab on Monday afternoon (if the last game is on Sunday evening). There is a period of quiet in this instance.
When the game essentially resets you can make unlimited transfers in your team with a revised budget.
What resets in MLS Fantasy on a weekly basis?
Point scores for each player can slightly alter.
Fixtures on the My Team page.
Bye Week's and injuries are updated.
Your squad value is updated.
How does point scoring work?
We've expanded on this point in the next section of this article, but MLS Fantasy can best be described as a progressive points system.
- Every player can earn Bonus Points
- There are no 'chips' in the game. Just a weekly selection of players.
What types of players get the most points?
Attacking midfielders that play behind a central Forward. These players are always involved in games, are typically set-piece takers, that often find themselves rewarded for
Central defenders that can tackle, head and pass. Goals are just added bonuses.
Defensive midfielders that gain a lot of defensive bonus (tackles, blocks, interceptions) and additional passing points.
Who does the points system neglect?
Wingers that aren't heavily involved in the game that make few passes.
Forward's that don't score or are in defensively minded teams.
Full-backs are often overshadowed by central defenders when it comes to bonus points in particular (unless your name is Graham Zusi).
Goalkeeper's on a quiet afternoon (and overall, it's the lowest scoring position in the game).
What about price changes?
In games such as Fantasy Premier League, player prices are set by ownership and the number of transfers for and against the player. In MLS Fantasy, price is set through performance on the pitch and their price snowballs for a few weeks.
Are there any Double Gameweek's?
Yes, and lots of them. MLS teams love a game on Wednesday's and due to having only 31 Week's (and 34 matches to play in that time), expect a fair few doubles for teams like New York FC City FC and other teams that have to ground share.
What does Rolling Lockout mean?
Lockout is the MLS's way of saying deadline.
There is no fixed deadline.
If you put a midfielder in your team that doesn't play until 8pm on a Sunday, you can swap him out or put him on your bench anytime.
As soon as that player's game kicks off, they're locked in to you team.
If you find your player hasn't started or played, the best performing sub comes off the bench.
Why is there no Vice Captain in MLS Fantasy?
With a flexible game, there's no need for one. If you know your captain is starting a game, you don't have to worry about a vice captain.
Does home advantage matter in MLS?
Yes, you'll often find that when setting your team every week, you'll be banking on dead-certain home games as your first port of call. Due to the nature of points scoring, it favours teams on the front foot, so you'll often find Fantasy players looking to stack the deck with home advantage.
I don't know anything about the players at any club. What do I do?
There's a lot of self-help out there, but it you're completely lost, the positional rankings article done by the MLS Fantasy team gives a good indication of the players that will likely be in high demand for the upcoming games.
Research is key - even after a year we're still not completely there with some of the names given the rapidly changing nature of teams in MLS.
What formations are popular in MLS Fantasy?
3-4-3 - the classic Fantasy position caters ell to the attacking philosophy of the game.
3-5-2 - benefits high-scoring midfielders in a week where top Forward's are in difficult games. Perfect for later Week's when your budget allows for more higher priced attacking midfielders
4-4-2 - Allows for. Typically used near the beginning of the season when your budget is tight (4-3-3 also applies to this).
What are some other things to look out for in the game?
Class is permanent in MLS. Designate Players are typically Fantasy magnets and regardless of fixtures, you'll find players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be popular picks against any and all opposition due to their ability to perform in every game.
We found ourselves looking out for team lineups on Twitter to check on player selection. If a player that was in my team wasn't playing, you'd often find yourself going shopping for a replacement in the time leading to kick off (when the player locks in).
The main takeaway is that this game is so far removed from other games like FPL and Sky or The Sun's Dream Team, that you have to take it on its own faults and merits. MLS Fantasy thrives in its scoring system, though it has some serious navigation issues that can frustrate statisticians that are looking for an extra edge due to the lack of fields to search from.
*Miguel Almiron (now at Newcastle in the Premier League) is the only Top 10 player from last season to leave MLS, with the 9 players behind him all still with their clubs ahead of the new campaign.
Exploring the Points Scoring System
The key to performing well is understanding how points are tallied, with MLS Fantasy a progressive game that reward positive play. If you're a seasoned FPL player, the changes are massive in this department, but can be detailed.
MLS Fantasy essentially adds to the base points system in FPL (goals, assists, clean sheets, bonus points) with an expanded catalogue of points-scoring options. In addition to the bigger menu, MLS Fantasy does away with the idea of the Bonus Points System (BPS) that FPL players are used too, with any and all players allowed to earn additional bonus for defensive and attacking contributions.
This all leads to MLS Fantasy have higher averaging scoring Week's than in FPL as the ceiling for your entire team to score big is much, much higher.
Point Scoring in MLS Fantasy:
Playing in a game: 1pt
Playing at least 60 minutes in a game (includes points mentioned above): 2pts
Each goal scored by your goalkeepers or defenders: 6pts
Each goal scored by your midfielders or forwards: 5pts
Each assist: 3pts
Each second assist: 3pts
Goalkeeper clean sheet (must play 60 minutes): 5pts
Defender clean sheet (must play 60 minutes): 5pts
Midfielder clean sheet (must play 60 minutes): 1pt
Penalty miss: -2pts
Penalty save: 5pts
Every penalty earned: 2pts
Own goal: -2pts
Own goal assist: 1pt
Every 2 goals conceded by Goalkeeper's or Defender's: -1pt
Yellow card: -1pt
Red card (includes any yellow card points): -3pts
Every 3 saves: 1pt
Every 35 passes and 85% success or more: 1pt
Every 70 passes and 85% success or more (including above points): 2pts
Every 4 shots: 1pt
Every 4 fouls received: 1pt
How does a player accumulate Bonus Points in MLS Fantasy?
The official MLS Fantasy game does bonus points differently. In the FPL, which sees players rewarded based off of a Bonus Points System (BPS) for tops players in a game, players in MLS don't miss out on bonus and are awarded on the following criteria. Players are eligible to earn both defensive and attacking bonus:
4 clearances = 1 bonus
2 blocks = 1 bonus
4 interceptions = 1 bonus
4 tackles = 1 bonus
6 recovered balls = 1 bonus
Error leading to a goal = -1 bonus
3 crosses = 1 point
3 key passes = 1 point
Every big chance created = 1 point
Levelling Up: Pro Tips for MLS Fantasy Players
Now that the absolute basics are nailed, here are the habits that seasoned MLS Fantasy players use to enhance their positions in their mini-leagues.
Utilising your bench...
If a team has a bye-week, or a $4.0 option that is injured, you'll often find these players in the starting squads of players in top Fantasy teams. Why?
You top point-scorers automatically come off the bench in MLS Fantasy if an inactive player is in a starting birth. With a Rolling Lockout, there is so much flexibility to chop and change your team throughout the course of a Week in Fantasy.
What this means is you'll often find expensive options sitting on player's benches, and that is because if they flop in a game, and you have some funds to change around your team, you have a second bite at the cherry.
If Nicolas Lodeiro only gets 1 point against Cincinnati, for whatever reason, and he's sitting on your bench, if you replace the inactive starting player in your starting lineup with somebody playing in a later fixture, you could spare your blushes from potential disaster.
Benefiting from player price rises...
One lesson learnt last season was how rapidly the value of your team can grow. Players rise by $0.5m if they've had a good week, so let's say Josef Martinez scored a hat-trick against D.C. United to open the season. His price will without doubt go up from $11.0m to $11.5m.
The rule of thumb from last season was that regardless of how well the player performed the following week, Martinez's price would problably rise to $12.0m and $12.5m, even if he failed to score in either of the next two games.
This is because price rises... 'change based on a formula that considers past performance. Every game the player plays is taken into account in the calculation of their price changes, with a sliding scale of weightings.'
This formula works both ways. If you had a player out of form for some time, who has just returned to the team, or was a sub last week and started the next, and he scored a brace, his price would likely decrease due to the snowball effect the price weightings on players.
By the end of the Spring Season at Week 15, you'll most likely find that your team value has risen by $10-25 million (maybe more) if you have any luck with picking some key players each week.
*Take this point with a pinch of salt. We've heard rumblings that there have been some slight modifications to price changes for the upcoming season.*
The impact Double Gameweek's have in MLS Fantasy...
MLS loves a midweek game as teams are more liberal and in control of when their own fixtures are. Last season this led to NYCFC having many midweek games as they had to ground share at Yankee Stadium.
It's a small point of note, but remaining active on a regular basis is the only way to truly challenge at the top of the table. MLS isn't a 'set and forget' game where you can kick back and enjoy the weekend once an FPL deadline passes, and part of this is being inundated with knowledge of key players in crunch Double Gameweek's.
There's always a Plan B...
With 24 teams and a huge spread of premium options, we'd argue that it doesn't matter if you pick up on some obvious picks because the net is massive for points potential in MLS Fantasy. You miss out on a Nicolas Lodeiro haul? Fair enough, but you've usually got Diego Valeri, Ignacio Piatti or Maxi Moralez up there on a good day.
Throughout the season you can play the game how you like and still be better off because of it (well, that was the case for us last year).
Understanding Fantasy player habits...
With the game not measuring its players value based on ownership, we often found that rising the ranks takes some work, though it is a time saving measure. We found ourselves learning about winning habits by viewing high-scoring teams near the top of the rankings table. Espionage is a part of MLS Fantasy and if you're team is doing well, people below you will be monitoring your line-up changes and captaincy consideration.
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