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MLS Fantasy 2020: Week 1 Fantasy Forecast

Ahead of each Week in MLS Fantasy the Hype Train provides its informative Fantasy Forecast, where members of the Hype Team will duel for MLS supremacy in predicting scores, as well as going head to head in picking a Scout Picks squad for the relevant round of games. In addition, we give our insight into who are the players to watch and those to drop, as well as providing insight into captaincy picks, differential players for the week, and more. Welcome to the Forecast. All aboard.

MLS Fantasy: Week 1 Deadline

For the 2019 MLS Fantasy season there is a 'Rolling Lockout', which means you can make substitutions and transfers until the second a player's game kicks off, which means you can chop and change your lineup as any Week progresses.

How does our Forecasting work?

The Hype Team will compete in a weekly head to head dual of wits. The 3 members of the team will provide weekly insight for the Gameweek ahead, providing score predictions, a Scout Picks squad that follows MLS Fantasy rules, and will provide what insight they can for the fixtures at hand.

  • MLS Fixture Prediction: As pundits, we are testing our football acumen with MLS predictions and will be providing regular updated tables and stats in each edition of the MLS Forecast. A perfect score is worth 3 points whilst a correct result is worth 1 point. An incorrect score is worth nothing.

  • Gameweek Insight: We've left an open space for the team to write that helps with the Gameweek hustle; identifying captaincy picks, transfers, attacking options, clean sheet potential, teams to look our for and avoid, differential players, as well as general analysis and comments.

  • Scout Picks: Picking a squad of 15 for a single Week, within their budget limitations, using the rules of MLS Fantasy - formations, the player limits of 3 players-per-club, and each team must pick a captain.

MLS Fantasy 2020: Week 1 Fixtures (13)

D.C. United 2-0 Colorado Rapids

Montreal Impact 1-1 New England Revolution

Houston Dynamo 2-2 LA Galaxy

San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Toronto

FC Dallas 3-0 Philadelphia Union

Orlando City 2-1 Real Salt Lake

Nashville 1-3 Atlanta United

Vancouver Whitecaps 0-1 Sporting KC

Columbus Crew 1-2 NYCFC

NY Red Bulls 2-0 FC Cincinnati

Seattle Sounders 3-0 Chicago Fire

LAFC 3-1 Inter Miami

Portland Timbers 3-0 Minnesota United

MLS Fantasy 2020: Week 1 Insight

MLS 2020 Predictions:

Eastern Conference Winners: Atlanta United FC

Western Conference Winners: Los Angeles FC

Supporters’ Shield: Los Angeles FC

MLS Cup: Los Angeles FC

Teams to Watch / Avoid:

Historically, as in the last five seasons, the teams that tend not to do very and always struggle to get anywhere near the MLS Cup playoffs include:

  • Colorado Rapids

  • Vancouver Whitecaps

  • Chicago Fire

  • Orlando City

  • FC Cincinnati

New teams to the MLS are either good (Atlanta, LAFC) or most tend to be dwelling in the bottom half of their respective conference tables. I have no idea how Inter Miami FC will do this year, or Nashville, so any teams of these newly established teams always have a question mark as they seem to not be able to adapt to away matches. Here are the MLS children to be wary of banking on points this season:

  • Inter Miami FC

  • Nashville

Here are the Mid-Table teams that tend to be good at home, but doubtable away from home. And yes, LA Galaxy are here because in the last few seasons they have been so-so:

  • Minnesota United

  • FC Dallas

  • Philadelphia Union

  • D.C. United

  • Montreal Impact

  • New England Revolution

  • Houston Dynamo

  • LA Galaxy (based on the last 3 years)

  • San Jose Earthquakes

  • Real Salt Lake

  • Sporting KC

  • Columbus Crew

The traditional elite teams in the MLS in the past few seasons are where you want to focus your initial budget on, as their teams hold the key designated players you would expect to start strong:

  • Los Angeles FC (LAFC)

  • Atlanta United FC

  • Seattle Sounders

  • New York City FC

  • Toronto FC

  • New York Red Bulls

  • Portland Timber

Captaincy Picks:

Essential: Carlos Vela (LAFC)

Alternative: Irrelevant, but usually Josef Martinez (Atlanta)

Differential: Irrelevant, but I would go for Alberth Elis (Houston)

Advice to new MLS Fantasy Players:

The biggest experience curve for MLS Fantasy players to watch is that the home advantage for teams is REAL in the MLS over the course of the season. Unless you are a free-scoring, top of the table team like Atlanta and LAFC, the away teams always have a big question next to their name on the road. A great example in the opening fixtures is Philadelphia away at FC Dallas, the Texan team were very good at home last year whilst Philadelphia were a competitive team most of the season. You may think that Philadelphia could cause an upset, but looking back on scores from the last three seasons it should rather enforce that if there are teams of the same level playing each other then the best course of action is to back the home team every time.

Trust the elite teams and elite designated players. The best players in the league always make the difference. Vela (LAFC), Lodeiro (Seattle), Rossi (LAFC), Martinez (Atlanta), Dos Santos (LA), Pozuelo (Toronto), Valeria (Portland), Chicharito (LA), Morales (NYCFC), Pavon (LA), and Gil (New England Revolution) are examples of players that will be reliable picks over the course of the season you will have your eye on.

I always regard the MLS as the equivalent of the Championship in England, fixtures anywhere can go either way at the snap of a finger. Toronto are a great example, they can win eight games in a row, then go on an eight-game winless streak. The Canadian team started strong but had patches where they pattered off. The key is to trust purple patches where teams are unstoppable, and then being sceptical of a team’s performance if they are off-form, like any fantasy game you would play.

Analysing Changes to MLS Fantasy for 2020:

Thoughts on fixed prices, double gameweek scoring, champions league format, dropping the spring/fall format, etc…

Don’t play this game if you like the new rules. I am 100% on the fence as to the new changes and giving it a go. I am literally counting the weeks before I decide on whether these changes make for a better game long term. I will be honest until then, but as of right now I am not even on the fence, I am on the side of ‘what the hell are these changes about?’. I do not agree with the either of the two big changes about pricing and DGW scoring. I believe it limits tactical options, and discourages long term players who now feel punished for playing it every week, mostly as I play a lot of fantasy games that fluctuate player prices and there isn’t an issue, but this moving to a Daily Fantasy Scoring (like Draft Kings) doesn’t sit right with me as it is there to allow casual one-off players who aren’t invested in the game to walk at any time and do a hit-and-run on the new prize system.

Also, DFS games are there to foster addiction tendencies such as ‘it should be barely fun so that they chase the big one’ and ‘everyone starts equal at the roulette wheel, everyone has the same roll of the dice’ which is designed to inspire hope into addiction riddled people…which isn’t in the spirit of a fantasy game. That is betting game tactics that have been brought in to entice a different kind of player to the game, and sometimes that isn’t a good thing if it becomes a problem. The new changes have made a huge portion of the MLS fantasy players feel alienated as if they were the problem by simply playing a game that was offered to them. There was nothing wrong with the old system, it just needed to be refined than rewritten entirely.

I did a long tweet thread expressing my concern for the new season and the changes made, if you are inspired by the ramblings of an English football enthusiast discussing how the MLS is structured then this is the thread for you:

MLS Scout Picks Squad: Week 1

Budget: $124.5 million (fixed at $125.0m)

Formation: 3-4-3

Starting 11

GK: Clark (POR)

DEF: Mabiala (POR)

DEF: Long (RBNY)

DEF: Hollingshead (DAL)

MID: Valeri (POR)

MID: Atuesta (LAFC)

MID: Eriksson (SJ)

MID: Moralez (NYFC)

FOR: Martinez (ATL)

FOR: Vela (LAFC) (C)

FOR: Ruidiaz (SEA)


GK: Freese (PHI)

MID: Vako (SJ)

DEF: Robinson (ATL)

DEF: Mukumbilwa (VAN)

MLS Fantasy 2020: Week 1 Fixtures (13)

D.C. United 2-0 Colorado Rapids

Montreal Impact 1-1 New England Revolution

Houston Dynamo 3-2 LA Galaxy

San Jose Earthquakes 2-2 Toronto

FC Dallas 4-2 Philadelphia Union

Orlando City 1-2 Real Salt Lake

Nashville 0-1 Atlanta United

Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 Sporting KC

Columbus Crew NYCFC

NY Red Bulls 2-0 FC Cincinnati

Seattle Sounders 2-1 Chicago Fire

LAFC 2-0 Inter Miami

Portland Timbers 3-1 Minnesota United

MLS Fantasy 2020: Week 1 Insight

MLS 2020 Predictions:

Eastern Conference Winners: New York Red Bulls

Western Conference Winners: LAFC

Supporters’ Shield: New York Red Bulls


Teams to Watch / Avoid in Week 1:

Miami & Nashville (avoid): New teams are hard to trust and I'm not sure my blood pressure can take opening games against LAFC and Atlanta for the league's newest additions. Probably best to be safe and avoid them until we can review their lineups in early weeks. It's not risky, but from a mental health perspective, it's the right idea.

D.C. United (Watch): The first fixture is interesting for MLS Fantasy players as D.C. United can be a half-decent squad. I'll be using some of my bench 'autoroo' options with DC players - in particular I'm keen to know how Edison Flores gets on as he looks a real handful and might prove more effective than Rooney was in his role. If they do well, move them in for a starter. If not, and Colorado spring a surprise, it's not the end of the world.

FC Dallas (Watch): Explosive matches at the end of the season in a free-scoring team. This game against Philadelphia could ruin wild with goals - or predictably as I've now said it, will finish 0-0.

New York Red Bulls (Watch): A lot of the old guard are out. This is a young, competitive team and I expect them to make a good push for the Supporters' Shield again this season if they can find some consistency. They tend to come good every other year though, as per tradition.

Champions League Teams (Avoid): Atlanta, Seattle, New York, LAFC and Montreal are all in continental action this past week, with ATL / MTL / NYC / LAFC securing their quarter-final births. MLS does take a backseat for these teams, so rotation does play a factor. LAFC won't rotate though due to playing Miami in their first game, so you're safe in that respect.

Essential Player Picks:

Vela and Martinez and locks in attack.

Edison Flores (DC) looks a good Week 1 option as a newcomer to the league.

Hollingshead (DAL) is a bonus points magnet and a certain points machine regardless of the fixture.

Diego Valeri (POR) seems to have made it in all of my drafts so far.

Captaincy Picks:

Essential: Carlos Vela (LAFC) - he's the one and only.

Alternative: Raul Ruidiaz (SEA) - reliable and typically chips in with a goal.

Differential: Brian White (RBNY) - Red Bulls are heavily overlooked this week.

Advice to new MLS Fantasy Players:

I've listed a few bits of basics that I use on a weekly basis that might help a few new players out that are giving.

Set-Piece Takers: Designated players often take penalties and set-pieces, so you can't go wrong with the likes of Maxi Moralez (NYC), Diego Valeri (POR), Alejandro Pozuelo (TOR) among others.

The 'Autoroo' Rule: In its simplest terms, in MLS you can use your 4 subs to maximise your points. I'll be putting a couple of D.C. United players, in the first game, on my bench. If they do well, you take out a player in your starting team for a player who doesn't play. The best benched player get the points when the player, typically a cheap $4.0 million option, finishes his game... Experienced players use this all the time to help their squads out.

Ever stuck for ideas?: The MLS Fantasy team post their weekly Power Rankings (as do Rotowire) that give you the best options on a weekly basis.

Bonus Points: attacking midfielder's and central defender's attract a lot of bonus points and their importance can't be understand.

Analysing Changes to MLS Fantasy for 2020:

Double Gameweek Scoring Changes:

I understand what was intended with this change, though I do not believe that it is a smart move in the slightest.. Typically in MLS Fantasy, and most fantasy football games, if a player plays twice in a week they get points based on their contributions across both games. In MLS Fantasy this year, only the best points performance of the two games will count towards their tally.

The idea, especially with a fixed budget, was to move away from having perceived ‘templated teams’. Not only did I think this wasn’t the case in MLS to begin with, with a lot of variety with team selections, the budget lock means reporting changes. Reporting will now be about the best available for the week, thus encouraging more template teams to begin with.

It’s a backwards move because it ultimately punishes both the on-field player and the Fantasy player. Carlos Vela managed 363 points last season. It’s a mammoth score that I don’t think will be beaten in the game. By scaling back Double Gameweek weeks, a large chunk of Vela’s points are ultimately taken away from his record, which at its very core makes very little sense as overall player totals and the actual impact they make on the pitch can never be fully reflected in MLS Fantasy – that is not right and I’m not on board for that simple reason.

It also doesn’t help that this move has been received with a lot of criticism – perhaps the web development team needed to focus test this move on its core audience of players before rolling out with the changes.

In closing, it’s limitations like this that are in fact only making it harder for regular players to enjoy and effectively play the game. The team at MLS Fantasy clearly want to attract a casual audience that can jump in and out, which is fine, but you shouldn’t be putting up posters about your Fantasy game by telling prospective players what you can’t do in the game, before you ever sell the benefits.

Champions League Format:

This is actually a welcome addition. Everyone hated the Spring and Fall Season format. This change will focus on active players and offers a different route to playing the game. This is probably the best improvement the team have made this year by quite a distance.

Fixed Budget of $125 million:

For me, this move leans heavily on the tactics that are regularly applied by Daily Fantasy Scoring (DFS) models such as Draft Kings, enabled to entice a potentially vulnerable audience to the game to make cheap bets at a whim for short term gains. From my experience, you can either hate daily fantasy, or it’s something you can get on board with if it is the right platform.

For me, the way MLS Fantasy applies the budget is fine, though at my very core as a human being, I absolutely detest cheap tactics that betting companies use to entice its audiences and don’t like to see that replicated in any form or fashion as it breeds a particular audience for the game.

What should have been considered here is if MLS Fantasy is capable of attracting new players. It’s a niche league, with a limited base of players that actually play the game. Casual football fans do not treat MLS with the respect it perhaps deserves and due to it being a very hard league to follow, i.e. Miguel Almiron, one of the top players in the league, was a relative unknown to many football fans when he moved to Newcastle – with Miggy the top MLS Fantasy player in 2018.

Since we’ve been playing the game, MLS Fantasy struggles for anything more than 30,000 players, with only a fraction of that as active participants. This is a small number and we can’t help but feel that by putting up walls of fixed budgets, limitations on points scoring, you’re not setting a sustainable model to grow your platform – especially when the game’s social media and web presence is fleeting at best.

That said, we're willing to see how it works out as the Champions League format is reliant on a fixed budget.

What MLS Fantasy needs to do to improve:

- Navigation needs to be improved. Less clicking and new pages, please.

- Create an MLS blog feed in the Fantasy game so players can read general news from around the league.

- Expanded statistics on the website. There is a big market and need for this as you can only search a few player traits. I'm appealing to the development team to expand on the range of statistics so it gives you more of a reason to stay on the website to stay on the website. We'd start by being able to search by player bonus points and live ownership.

- Just keep it simple. Adding layers on to a game played by a nice audience doesn't help, it only makes it more difficult for the players that enjoy the game and play it regularly.

- Lean on the points scoring system, the best part of the game, when making decisions on changes to the game. MLS scoring is very, very positive and this should be reflected in the game.

- In improved social media and web presence is required (if you're hiring, we're listening). More consistency is required if you're looking to develop the game.

What do I appreciate about the MLS Fantasy team?:

A few of the guys at MLS headquarters have actually been very forthright and honest. There is a good level of communication between content creators like us, the player base and themselves, so at least the development team aren't hiding in anonymity and are talking to us, even if there's a bit of push-back on the changes this year.

MLS Scout Picks Squad: Week 1

Budget: $125.0 million (fixed)

Formation: 4-3-3

Starting 11

GK: Frei (SEA)

DEF: Segura (LAFC)

DEF: Mabiala (POR)

DEF: Long (RBNY)

DEF: Hollingshead (DAL)

MID: Atuesta (LAFC)

MID: Pozuelo (TOR)

MID: Valeri (POR)

FOR: Vela (LAFC)

FOR: Martinez (ATL)

FOR: Ruidiaz (SEA)


GK: Hamid (DC)

MID: Flores (DC)

MID: Duke (SKC)

DEF: Brilliant (DC)

My Strategy:

I've got a triple up on D.C. United players on my bench. If they perform well against Colorado, take out some of the players in the starting lineup, utilising the autoroo feature by replacing a starting player with someone that 100% won't play. If they bomb, just leave things as they are.

Just to end on, I've actually quite enjoyed picking my team this week, though my initial picks are very, very similar to a lot of teams I've seen across Twitter and Reddit. There are no restrictions on you having the team you want, though I envision that with price rises, this will become harder to manage over the course of the season.

Want to know more about The Hype Train?

The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in Fantasy sports reporting, starting with Fantasy Premier League (FPL), before expanding to MLS Fantasy coverage in 2018.

We pride ourselves in providing beautiful graphics, statistics, in-depth analytical reporting and free weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb rankings tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review games, live sport, and professional wrestling.

In 2019, Hype Train Football Club was formed, becoming the first Fantasy Football website to take to the field. HTFC is a socially active team across social and web channels, providing regular match highlights, match reports, comprehensive player statistics and unique player profiles.

The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog' in 2016 by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), and were again shortlisted as a finalist in 2019 in the 'Best Fantasy Football Blog' category.

You can follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, follow Hype Train FC on Instagram, subscribe to our YouTube channel for exclusive content, or visit our website here at

All aboard.


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