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Let's get ready to MLS Fantasy in 2020

(Photo: Andy Witchger/Wikimedia Commons)

by Andrew Pierce

The 2020 Major League Soccer season kicks off Saturday, Feb 29, at 1 p.m. with DC hosting Colorado, and with that, the 2020 MLS Fantasy season kicks off as well. Whether you’re brand new to fantasy soccer or if you’ve been playing EPL/MLS Fantasy for years, we’re excited that you’re here. 

If you’re new to Major League Soccer itself, having a fantasy team might just be the easiest way to get to know the league and players. As we wait for Charlotte Town FC (please) to begin play in 2021, playing online every week will help you get to know the players that will face the Townies next year, or, possibly, the players that will be wearing the Charlotte kit at Bank of America in the very near future. Don't worry about "winning the league," just plan on using this year as a learning experience.

If you already have an MLS team, then maybe you know a certain something about how they’ve been in seasons past, in this preseason, or who their breakout star will be before every else in the league figures it out. That gives you a slight advantage, so come play with the newcomers. Really, there's something for everyone who plays in 2020.

What do you need to know to play the league's official game in 2020?

The Basics
Every entrant in the league's official game gets to name their team and select 15 players under a salary cap. There's no draft here like you might find in fantasy football: all players are up for grabs to everyone. Each team has to select 2 goalkeepers, 5 defenders, 5 midfielders, and 3 forwards, and 11 of those can play in any of 7 different formations. Finally, you cannot select more than 3 players from any 1 MLS team. Sorry, Brittany Hildreth... you cannot play with 15 Portland Timbers in this game.

Next, that 15-man team that you select each week can join an unlimited number of leagues. You are automatically registered for the overall MLS Fantasy league, your favorite team's league, and the FCL. More on that last one below.

We obviously encourage you to join our Mint City Collective public league and our MCC Members-only league if you're eligible. Hop in the Members Slack to join the latter.

Finally (though there are more rules if you're interested, available here), the Captain designation is important. Picking a Captain from your starting 11 players will double that player's score in any given week. So for example, if Lalas Abubakar (pictured above) has a 10 point game for his new team, the Colorado Rapids, and he's your Captain, he'll score 20 points towards your week's total.  

Alright, now you've got the basics down. Let's look at what's new this year, and to be honest, there's a lot:

The Changes
Gone is the chance to double up a players score with “double game week” totals. Previously, players who played twice in a week could accrue double the points, but this year, just the top score of that player's week will count. This feels like a change that was made to help the everyday player and not the fantasy shark who would stack their lineup with double game weeks in hopes of cracking a ridiculous score. Only counting a player's top score will help level the playing field.

Perhaps the biggest change that MLS released was a "fixed budget" for your team this year. In years past, you were rewarded with players' values going up the better they performed each week, increasing your salary cap each week they played well. This year though, you get $125 million to start the season, and it never goes up, end of story. This change should allow folks to have all-star level rosters from the start and then some tough roster questions to answer as the season progresses.

Plenty of folks have written about how, towards the end of seasons past, every contending roster started to look the same as players had $140-150 million to spend and would just buy every good player that week. This move is an attempt to force everyone to make decisions during crunch time and should be a welcome change as the season comes to a conclusion. 

The final new thing to come to MLS Fantasy this year is the introduction of the Fantasy Champions League. Here’s how the league described FCL in their preview: “The first 24 weeks of the season will be split up into four qualifiers. The top 50 managers from each qualifier will advance to the Fantasy Champions League, where they will have a chance to win $5,000 in prizes. The FCL will take place over the final eight weeks of the 2020 season (weeks 25-32). If a manager qualifies for the FCL, they will not be eligible to compete in future qualifiers.” Not sure I can explain it better than that, but it sounds like an added wrinkle to make the game more fun this year, so no complaints.

Players to Watch
This week, to borrow a term from the Daily Fantasy Sports folks, seems to be pretty “chalk,” meaning the best players are going to be owned by a majority of the players. There were a ton of new imports to the league this offseason though, and plenty of them could make an impact in MLS Fantasy this year. The hard part will be deciding if they’ll make enough of an impact in week 1 to have them in your roster. 

Another thing to remember when setting your rosters is to pay attention to who is actually projected to be in the lineup. You don’t want to have a big name/big dollar player taking up a roster spot in your starting 11 if he’s going to miss a game or two that week (*cough* don't start Nani *cough*), so be sure to check and make sure everyone has the green light for that weekend's games. Probably best to do it on Friday night.

That’s all for this week. Welcome newcomers and veterans to the MLS Fantasy wars. And again, we hope to see all of you in the MCC Fantasy League this year!

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