MLS Fantasy 101: Five tried-and-true strategies for success as you navigate the 2014 season

MLS Fantasy 101 is your entry-level course to becoming a fantasy soccer manager extraordinaire.

The 2014 MLS season is nearly here. It's now or never to get your MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager team in order.

For the past week or so, we've been going over the basics of FSM. Before you're dismissed from MLS Fantasy 101, let's review what we've learned:

Now what? Ultimately, that's up to you. You are the manager, after all, but here are some tips that have helped me over the years.

PICK WITH YOUR HEAD, NOT YOUR HEART

A common mistake in fantasy is to select players from your favorite team. To be successful, you must become more pragmatic and value of potential across the board. Some rounds, this may mean including a player from your club's rival.

That's not to say don't include players from your own club, because if the matchup is favorable, your reasoning is valid. But reason is the key. Successful fantasy players don't let their passion for their club trump their passion for their fantasy team. Tough, no doubt, but necessary.

INCREASE YOUR BANKROLL WITH WISE TRANSFERS

Another crucial element to success is to increase you bankroll by making transfers at the right time. Player values will increase or decrease based on the popularity of the player in the transfer market. If you sell a player for a higher price than you paid, then a sell-on fee of 50 percent (rounded up to the nearest 0.1 million) will be applied on the profits.

For example, if you buy a player for 4.2 million and transfer the player when their value is 4.6 million, you will receive 4.4 million, earning a tidy profit. It may not seem like a lot, but it adds up. If you find a "diamond in the rough" and buy him before the masses do, you are setting yourself up for a nice return if you choose to sell him someday. In the end, that could mean a bigger budget to bring in big-time stars.

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR DIGITAL RESOURCES

It's Wednesday night and you've just left the office. Suddenly, it hits you: There are midweek games and the transfer deadline is less than an hour away! On top of that, you have two starters who were called up for international duty still in your starting XI.

Not to worry. You can fix up your team on a laptop, tablet or mobile device. While I don't encourage "transferring and driving," you can easily make these changes from your iPhone, Android or other mobile devices by going to ‪m.fantasy.mlssoccer.com . (Hint: Bookmark the link for easy access.) 

*Make sure to stay up to date on the latest injuries, international call-ups and the Disciplinary Report to see which players will be out for the upcoming round.

CONSUME AS MUCH MLS AS POSSIBLE

The best way to familiarize yourself with who's hot and who's not is to digest as much MLS as possible. Obviously, that means watching the games, either on TV or through a MLS LIVE subscription.

Online, check MLSsoccer.com for bits of info such as injuries, international call-ups and disciplinary action. But also check out ESPNFC, NBC's ProSoccerTalk, SB Nation, and Soccer By Ives for good info about the league. Listen to podcasts, including MLSsoccer.com's March to the Match and ExtraTime Radio, NASN's Best Soccer Show, and ESPN's Big Head, Red Head.

Embrace Twitter. Engaging in social media can prove fruitful if you follow the right sources. @MLS and even MLS players will fill your Twitter feed with useful info. Feel free to hit us up for advice anytime at @MLSFantasy.

Lastly, watching games is the ultimate way to keep up with your fantasy players. Just as a good team goes out and scouts their competition, you are essentially doing the same thing. Watching matches will lead to more success in MLS Fantasy. And hey, it's fun!

STAY THE COURSE

Considering the FSM game runs from March to October, the season can – and will – become grueling at times for fantasy owners and players alike. For eight months out of the year, you will experience the ups and downs of being a gaffer.

At times, you'll be pleased with your results and will be rewarded by seeing your fantasy team move up the standings. But there will be some bumps in the road along the way. Would your manager abandon his team in the middle of a campaign? No chance, so try not to get discouraged and stay the course if your form isn't always sterling. There's always next week!

The prizes should help motivate you a little as well, and remember to join and create leagues to compete against your friends and fellow supporters.

HAVE FUN

OK, that'll do it. You've completed Fantasy 101. Best of luck this season, and, more importantly, have fun! It's just fantasy after all (or so you'd like your opponent to believe).

Oh, and don't forget that you still have unlimited free transfers up until the Round 1 deadline (15 minutes before kick off of the first match – March 8 at 2:45 pm ET).