MLS Fantasy 101: How to set up your MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager team

Starting today, launches a multi-part series about how to start playing MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager, our exclusive season-long fantasy game. Contributor Schuyler Redpath, one of the alltime best MLS fantasy players, will walk you through the game, from the basics of building a team to tips on the best way to optimize your selections within the salary cap.

Part I: Setting up your team.

The 2013 Major League Soccer season is just about two weeks away, which means you've got to start focusing your MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager team now. If you're an experienced player, you've probably already got your plan in place and ready to execute. If you're a novice, then this series is for you. We were all novices at one point. I can't promise you'll win anything – like the grand prize of a trip to the 2014 MLS All-Star Game – but you'll definitely be more engaged in MLS, the matches, and the debates. 

Let's start by going over some of the basics:

Set up Your Team

First things first: You need to register for an account. You can do this with an email address or through your Facebook or Twitter account. to play MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager in English or Spanish. Managers can also register their team by creating an MLS network account (click the "Sign Up" button at the top left of the page).

Once you have signed up, it's time to channel your inner Bruce Arena and start piecing together your squad.

Some things to remember. FS:M is a salary-cap game, which means you have a limited amount of money to spend, but you can select any player provided he fits into your salary cap. 

  • You have $100 million to spend on a squad of 15 players, with no more than three players from any single team.
  • Add a player to your squad by clicking on their name in the list on the right of the page.
  • Use the filters to view different players and narrow your search. Filters exist for everything from position to performance to price.

You also need to give your team a name. And a uniform. Have fun here. After all, you're the team owner, so the team should express your personality.

Now picking your squad is not as easy as just taking all the stars and cruising to the championship. The salary cap makes this a much deeper mental exercise. It's like a first-year class at business school: You need to think about the return on investment, balancing a player's cost with his potential production.

Strategies for Success

So what's a winning strategy when you're picking your squad? Here are a few strategies that I always keep in mind:

Focus on attack-minded players. The scoring system rewards attacking play – as it should – so use this to your advantage. Obviously, you want to get goalscorers like Chris Wondolowski and Thierry Henry.

But the same strategy applies to midfielders. The best buys are midfielders who are the focal point of their teams' attacks, or guys who are listed as Midfielder in FS:M but who play more of a Forward role in real games. These are guys like Chris Rolfe and Sébastien Le Toux. Likewise, you will hurt your chances if you pick a Forward who plays more of a Midfield role.

Most importantly, probably, keep attacking play in mind when picking defenders. Look for defenders who are relied upon to join in the attack on the flanks, such as Lee Young-Pyo or Corey Ashe, who get points for assists and passing. Also look at set-piece targets like Aurélien Collin, Jámison Olave, or Drew Moor, who earn valuable attacking points despite their defensive positions. 

Load up on set-piece specialists and penalty-kick takers. This is a great way to maximize your point potential. Do your homework to find out who takes the penalties for each club. For example, Houston midfielder Brad Davis gets a lot of assists, but he's also the club's usual free-kick and penalty taker, which leads to extra points each year. 

Save money with your bench. While you are selecting 15 players, only 11 of them will start and earn fantasy points. The best way to find success in fantasy is to build your club the way the LA Galaxy have been built in recent years: Spend big on high-scoring regulars, be thrifty on your bench. Buy a couple of low-wage players for your bench so that you can spend the funds elsewhere on a better starter. I generally opt to select the cheapest option for my backup goalkeeper as you will rarely be forced to rely upon your backup goalkeeper. If your starting goalkeeper has a bye week, you can then use a transfer to bring in a new starter.

Speaking of transfers, your initial squad has unlimited free transfers up until the Round 1 deadline (15 minutes before kick off of the first match, or Mar 2 at 3:45 pm ET). This means you have a few weeks still to tweak your roster again and again until you have settle on the right combination. Then it's go time.

Schuyler Redpath has been playing MLS Fantasy for over 10 years. He has placed in the top 10 overall for five straight years, winning numerous prizes, including a trip to the MLS All-Star Game. 


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