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An Idiots Guide to Soccer and Soccer Gaming (Part III)

North American sports fans may find it quite different, and perhaps more difficult, to successfully build a dynasty in soccer games. If you think the MLB doesn’t do enough to ensure parity in the league, wait until you read about what goes on (or doesn’t) in soccer leagues around the world.

Note that most of these off pitch rules don’t apply to MLS, as the league contains some distinctly North American characteristics to the team building side of the sport. And as always, there are bound to be some discrepancies league by league, but by and large, the following are applicable to most of the world’s biggest leagues.

Trading vs. Transfers


Building a successful soccer team from the ground up is not for the impatient. I mean, we’ve all been there before in other sports games, right? Take over a slumping franchise, trade veterans for prospects and picks, and voila, you've got an up and coming contender just a season or two later.

No such luck in soccer. To start, there’s very little “trading”, per se, in soccer. Most transactions are done with money. That is, a club pays a fee to the club that’s selling a player. So if you’re trying to rebuild and want to sell off your first team veterans, you run the risk of not being able to find a replacement, especially because a player doesn’t have to join your club if they don’t want to. Unlike North American sports, where after trading players the new teams automatically assume their existing contracts, soccer clubs have to negotiate a new contract with players once their offers are accepted. And there can be plenty of reasons why some players won’t sign with you: the biggest one is usually money — that the offered wages aren’t to his liking; or if you’re playing Football Manager, your team’s reputation matters also a great deal.

That’s not to say there aren’t bargains to be had. Generally, if you want to get players on the cheap, take a look at their contracts. The longer the player is tied down for, the higher the premium you have to pay to get him. And why not? The club doesn’t need to get rid of him. On the flipside, if you see a player with only one season left on his contract, pay close attention because there’s a chance he won’t resign with his current team, and that team may offload him to get something, anything, in return.
 

Drafting vs. Poaching


If that hasn’t put you off from “blowing it all up” yet, consider this: tanking doesn't pay, because there are no drafts. So deliberately throwing the season — admit it, we’ve all done it — is out of the question. In fact, many of the leagues are divided into divisions, so if you end up in the bottom positions at the end of the season, you run the risk of being relegated to a lower division. It’s a huge deal, as your club will earn much less income and if you haven't been shown the door already, you will be forced to offload important players to lighten the salary commitments. It can be a pretty vicious spiral into the abyss, so -- and this may be in stark contrast to some team building philosophies with North American sports games -- win every game you can.

How does a club reinvent its squad then? The obvious answer is to buy promising youngsters from other teams. But for clubs without the financial clout, the answer lies in the scouting department. FIFA, PES and Football Manager all give you scouts to work with, and it’s a good idea to pay the big bucks and hire the good ones. It is through them that you can find the diamond in the rough, and for a fraction of the price of a “name” player with similar abilities. You can also invest in youth academies — soccer’s answer to drafting — where they take in local (and sometimes international) youths in hope that they will turn out to be a serviceable player, or if the stars align, a worldbeater.

Loans

If, say, you need a stopgap player to provide some temporary help for your squad, there is another solution besides purchasing a player and making a three or four year commitment — loans. If another club agrees, you can conceivably loan a player from them for either half a season or an entire one. For the club receiving the player, it’s usually because they need help in a certain position or in rounding out the squad, and don’t want to splash the cash. Loan fees are considerably cheaper and sometimes even free. However, almost always the loaner picks up the tab for the player’s contract, so you can’t get away from that. For the club loaning out the player, the reason is either financial -- they want somebody else to pick up the player’s tab — or developmental — they want the player to get competitive match experience that they otherwise wouldn’t get at their current club.

It’s important to make sure your club has enough depth. Many times when building a team, it’s easy to forget that many leagues, in addition to its regular league games, also have competitive cups of some sort. Take the English Premier League for example. There are two cup tournaments in addition to weekly league games, meaning that if you proceed to the latter rounds of each cup, there’s a chance that you’ll be playing two to three matches week in and week out. The increased matchloads will definitely tire out your regular starters, and if you don’t have a deep enough squad to rotate your team with, you run the risk of failure in all three of the competitions. And for those playing with contending teams, there are also continental cups to think about, so that’s potentially four different competitions for your team to deal with.
 

Final Thoughts


So if it sounds like it’s not the easiest task to steer a soccer club in manager mode or in Football Manager to success, that's because it isn’t. Often times, it will take more than a season or two to turn a faltering club’s fortunes around, and even if you’ve stacked your team to the hilt, there are no guarantees you’ll win anything either. But don’t let that deter you. building a soccer team can potentially be a lot more satisfying than turning a North American sports team around, precisely because of the lesser amount of rules designed to ensure parity. And of course, it also doesn’t take anything away from those of you who like to play with winning teams and have them vying for the pole position every season — that’s also a hard task with teams breathing down your neck. So, like I said in the beginning of the guide, if you have even a passing interest in the sport, go pick up a copy of FIFA, PES or Football Manager. All three of them are quality games, and all three will chip away at your free time until your significant other complains. And don't worry about which one you ultimately choose to spend your time on, we won't judge -- we know how difficult the choice can be.

So this completes the introductory guide to understanding and getting the most out of your soccer games. From the vibrant soccer community here at OS, may I be the first one to welcome you to the fraternity!


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Member Comments
# 1 RoyceDa59 @ 07/13/12 03:45 PM
Great job on these articles, you are making want to dig back into my Football Manager addiction I had a few months ago but I will just wait for 2013.
 
# 2 UK0wnag3 @ 07/13/12 06:54 PM
I've always wondered how willing American teams would be to rebuild if relegation was a possibility
 
# 3 StefanK @ 07/14/12 03:51 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by js3512
Thanks for writing these articles. I love to play FIFA as soccer a very fun sport to take part in but it's just not a sport made for TV in my eyes. (I know, typical American) These articles have really helped me to understand some of the finer points of the game and how to use them.
Not a sport made for TV? There is on commercial break: half time. If that's not made for TV I don't know what is. Not judging, just saying.
 
# 4 StefanK @ 07/14/12 03:53 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by StefanK
Not a sport made for TV? There is on commercial break: half time. If that's not made for TV I don't know what is. Not judging, just saying.
*one commercial break*
 
# 5 StefanK @ 07/14/12 05:27 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by js3512
Has nothing to do with the commercial breaks or lack there of. It just doesn't hold my attention whatsoever on TV because it looks like they're just kicking the ball back and forth to each other. Very hard to pick up on any sense of strategy if you're not very knowledgable about the sport.
I get it. Like I said, not judging just saying. I used to think the same way when I was younger. But being raised around the sport, being forced to watch it, I had no choice but to pick it up. Plus IMO the MLS is unwatchable just because I'm used to the speed and talent of English and Spanish League soccer. If you can, try to only watch the EPL or SPL when it comes to picking up the game, it will serve you a lot better than watching MLS. You can trust me on that.
 
# 6 eyeamg0dly @ 07/14/12 11:14 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by js3512
Has nothing to do with the commercial breaks or lack there of. It just doesn't hold my attention whatsoever on TV because it looks like they're just kicking the ball back and forth to each other. Very hard to pick up on any sense of strategy if you're not very knowledgable about the sport.
i used to think like this too, but it was because i didnt understand what they were trying to accomplish. i dont know how much you are up on college football or nfl. think about spread offenses in college, the idea is the make the field as wide as possible both vertically and horizontally to find matchups that favor your players.

in soccer, when you see them pass the ball like they do, they are trying to spread the defense out either vertically (goal to goal) or horizontally (sideline to sideline) to make room for passes and to generally get players in space. this is what we call the build up. to the untrained eye this doesnt look very productive at all, but if they find the weakness they are looking for then they can exploit it.

some teams like to play narrow favoring tight passing and overloading the defenses zone. my only question is why dont they trying something different with narrow formations, like running screens as an example. or play off balance wide formation but overload one side of the field to shift the zone favorably for your playmakers. think of it like like running isolation in basketball. but instead of players moving into the corners away from the ball handler, they just just shift to one side of the pitch.
 
# 7 eyeamg0dly @ 07/15/12 01:46 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by js3512
When you put it in terms of the spread offense in football I kinda get what you mean. I'll have to pay attention for that next time I see a game on. Maybe it'll keep me involved more.

I have one other question, and maybe there will be a Part 4 of this article to explain this but how exactly do the subs work? I see them come in from time to time but don't really know the players well enough to know anything about how it works. Can players re-enter the game after being subbed in for? Is there a certain time in which subs come in? How does it affect the clock? Things of that nature.
once a player goes out he cant come back in. generally 3 subs per game, however ive seen more in friendly matches. clock keeps running no matter what. they sub in when there is a break in the flow. player checks in and then when the ball goes out of bounds, or there is a penalty, or anything really that stops the flow of the game, he joins the game. managers usually sub when there is an injury, player gets red or yellow carded, or late in the game for fatigue or tactical reasons.

the game is very simple. i look at our traditional american sports and wonder why do we need all the rules to make things complicated.
 
# 8 StefanK @ 07/15/12 02:42 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by eyeamg0dly
i used to think like this too, but it was because i didnt understand what they were trying to accomplish. i dont know how much you are up on college football or nfl. think about spread offenses in college, the idea is the make the field as wide as possible both vertically and horizontally to find matchups that favor your players.

in soccer, when you see them pass the ball like they do, they are trying to spread the defense out either vertically (goal to goal) or horizontally (sideline to sideline) to make room for passes and to generally get players in space. this is what we call the build up. to the untrained eye this doesnt look very productive at all, but if they find the weakness they are looking for then they can exploit it.

some teams like to play narrow favoring tight passing and overloading the defenses zone. my only question is why dont they trying something different with narrow formations, like running screens as an example. or play off balance wide formation but overload one side of the field to shift the zone favorably for your playmakers. think of it like like running isolation in basketball. but instead of players moving into the corners away from the ball handler, they just just shift to one side of the pitch.
That is a good way of explaining it. To answer your question on why they don't use strategies like overloading one side is because when you do that you leave yourself open to counter attack. Being that the pitch is so big, it is very easy for an opposing player to be forgotten about, thus being able to "sneak" around the defense. Remember that all players do have a responsibility when it comes to defense, not just the back 4 or 5.

Yes, the defenders are most important when it comes that, but if the midfielders don't do their job correctly the opposing side have more opportunity. Think of it as a mixed strategy using your "spread formation" explanation and strategy from hockey. In hockey if the guys in the middle don't defend correctly, the opposing side has more room to work with to be able to weave in and out and create good angles.
 
# 9 StefanK @ 07/15/12 03:05 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by js3512
When you put it in terms of the spread offense in football I kinda get what you mean. I'll have to pay attention for that next time I see a game on. Maybe it'll keep me involved more.

I have one other question, and maybe there will be a Part 4 of this article to explain this but how exactly do the subs work? I see them come in from time to time but don't really know the players well enough to know anything about how it works. Can players re-enter the game after being subbed in for? Is there a certain time in which subs come in? How does it affect the clock? Things of that nature.
Subs usually only start coming in after about an hour of match time. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. It's all up to the manager and his gut feelings. If he sees that his 35 year old midfielder is starting to slow down a bit and that opens up some extra angles for the opposing side, he'll most likely sub him out.

Now when it comes to yellow/red cards it's a bit different. Let's say a player gets a yellow card 15 min into the game. If the manager knows that's it's a player who can lose his composure sometimes, he'll sub him out to make sure he doesn't get that second yellow card, equaling a red card. Once a player get's a red card, not only is he sent off but now you are down to 10 men. A manager is not allowed to sub in a player for another who has received a red card. Being a man down drastically changes your strategy and makes it that much harder to come back or hold the lead. Let's say one of your defenders gets sent off, what do you do? Change of formation is first and foremost, but where do get that extra help now? Do you move one of your midfielder into a defenders position and open up the middle of the pitch more? Or do you sub in an defender for one of your strikers and lose potential scoring another goal?

But like I said, it all depends on the manager and how he feels about the situation.

When it comes to affects on the clock, every stoppage affects how much extra time there will be. Free kicks, goal kicks, injuries all affect the extra time clock. Only a few fouls here and there during the match and expect 1-2 min of extra time. Has there been fouls all over the place and a couple injuries? Expect 3-4 maybe 5 min of extra time.

Hope this helps a little bit. I'm not sure if I just started rambling or not
 
# 10 coach422001 @ 07/15/12 08:04 PM
One small comment on your part II description of offsides. There must be two defenders goalside of the player when the ball is played to him. As you described, most often the offside rule is called when an attacker is beyond the last outfield defensive player and only the keeper is goalside of him. Rarely, if the keeper is off his line, an attacker can be offsides if only one outfield defender or none are goalside. This happened in the last World Cup, where the keeper came out to punch the ball away and the attacking player who eventually put the ball away had only one defender between him and the goal. It took the announcers a while to realize that the official called the play off because the keeper was out by the penalty spot and the attacker was behind him when the ball was played to him. However, as you described in the simplest description most often the keeper is the last defensive player between the goal and the offside player.
 
# 11 RaiNN @ 10/14/12 02:49 PM
Way to go. Don't watch the spanish league. German and British for nice football. Dutch for young talents and funny commentary. Maybe because I'm used to the Bundesliga(Germany) I just don't like the spanish league. No doubt that the teams are good. But in the Bundesliga every team can win against every team. That is how it's supposed to be. In spain barca and real dominate everything
 

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