Hello all you fantasy addicts, amateur lineup tinkerers, and first timers out there. It's time for another year of MLS fantasy. Sounder at Heart again has a fantasy league up over on MLSsoccer.com. Just click that link, sign up, and search for Sounder at Heart in the Leagues tab to join. It shouldn't be hard to find. We had a great time last year; two of our players even finished in the overall top 10! Abbott had a nice writeup of how our year went last year. So join up! It will be a lot of fun.
Code to join this league: 1739-690
Many of last year's members are already in the league.
For those curious about how it works, the basic rundown is that you have a budget of $120.0M to spend on a team of 18 players. Players earn points from all sorts of trackable actions, including defensive stats like headers won, interceptions and tackles, and offensive stats like goals, assists, chances created and good passes. Prices for players will adjust based on how well they play, enabling smart managers to increase their budgets. The overall standings are based on total points, though head-to-head fans can join such leagues if they desire.
For more details, I highly recommend you read MLSsoccer.com's preview and advice posts. There's a lot of great advice and insights into how all the rules will work this year.
That said, I plan to do a fair amount of fantasy posts this year, hopefully able to bring you weekly posts to aid you in your endeavors. I've decided to start the year off with some of the fantasy rules I've picked up over the years to make sure I have a great fantasy experience. The only ones you have to follow are rules 1 and 2. The rest are merely guidelines.
RULE 1: FUN TRUMPS EVERYTHING
Fantasy sports all have one thing in common: the one reason above all you play is to have fun. Having fun means something different to everyone. For some it means crushing your co-worker's team into the dirt. For others it's fielding a team full of players you love to root for. For a few degenerates it's winning big and making money off of your sports knowledge. If you'd feel as dirty as the Duwamish River rooting for a Timber, by all means, don't put any of them on your team. If you really want to start Mike Fucito as your captain every week (Dave), why not? Do what makes you happy and what makes you feel good about your team. In the end, it is your team, and you should always enjoy what you are doing with it. If some of my advice or someone else's advice doesn't appeal to you, there's no need to follow it.
RULE 2: KNOW THE RULES
The number one failing amongst less experienced players in any fantasy game is that they don't know or understand the rules. The rules for us can be found at http://fantasy.mlssoccer.com/help/, and MLSsoccer.com's posts do a fantastic job of explaining some of the ins and outs of the details. Whoever you are, however you want to play this game, I guarantee you'll have a far better experience if you actually know what the rules are before jumping into it. You don't have to know every little detail, but the more you know doesn't hurt.
Since I know most of you didn't actually follow my advice and go read them, I'll let you know that the biggest change this year is that prices for players change solely based on how they do in games, it no longer has anything to do with the numbers of transfers in and out. A fantastic change in my opinion. Scoring seems to generally be the same, with a few minor tweaks. Pay attention to transfer windows, deadline dates and the substitution rules. Your fantasy experience will be far better for it.
RULE 3: KNOW THE SCHEDULE
This more or less falls under "know the rules," but it is worth breaking out on its own. Working the schedule to your favor is one of the most important aspects to MLS Fantasy. The most obvious part of this is making sure you can field a full XI due to byes. These are scheduled way ahead of time, so you should be able to plan around them. Of course, "best laid plans" and all, so you should at least be aware of them. Check your players' schedules, especially if you have multiple players from the same team.
On the other side of that coin, try and load up good players who are playing twice in the same week, as you're giving them the chance for double points. Bad players playing doubles usually don't do you much good though.
Try and favor guys playing at home. The Galaxy and the Sounders combined to have a +2 GD on the road, which means when they were on the road they were worse than the Rapids and Union playing at home. Home field advantage is huge in MLS, so try and leverage that when you can.
Finally, it's worth paying attention to international calendars, especially if you're fielding players who are likely to get called up. If you're playing Altidore, Dempsey, Besler, Gonzalez, Bradley, Zardes, Jones, Trapp, and Diskerud, you might want to make plenty of moves in preparation for the Gold Cup or utilize the unlimited transfer week in June.
If you know the schedule, or at least what's coming for your players in the next 2-3 weeks, you'll be far better off than most.
RULE 4: DON'T OVERCOMMIT YOURSELF
Every fantasy manager is going to put in a different level of effort into winning their league. Some will spend at least an hour a day tinkering, researching and worrying about their fantasy team. Others will check in for ten minutes at the last second to set their lineup and that's about it. If you know you aren't going to spend much time researching transfers, trending players or matchups, I'd suggest you make yourself a flexible squad with decent bench players so that you don't have to worry about transfers every week.
For those who do spend hours obsessing over their teams, feel free to walk the tightrope of having useless but cheap bench players, with all of your value locked into your starting XI (this is the approach advocated by Andrew Winner, at least to start the season). You know you'll have the time and interest to spend cleaning up your mess of a team when a bye week hits with an injury or two and a call-up. Your team might even look better at the end of it. But taking the time and effort to work through it can be taxing, and the game can be ruined if you find yourself in a bad spot and let it get ahead of you. Fantasy should not be stressful. Make it easy on yourself, unless you enjoy taking on the higher risk strategies.
RULE 5: DIVERSIFY YOUR INFORMATION
One of the best ways to make sure you are getting good advice is to ask around. It is no different when trying to improve your team in fantasy. I'm going to do my best to bring you some recaps and advice here, MLSsoccer.com will be a constant source of advice, and here within SB Nation, Never Manage Alone will be providing MLS advice as well (though they are focusing on the Yahoo! game). There haven't been as many reliable sources in the past, but it seems to be gaining steam every year. I'd suggest finding 3-5 sources you trust and follow them on Twitter or check in with them when you can.
Doing your own research is usually even more valuable than listening to what some of the "experts" think. Take advantage of the filters MLS gives you on their player lists. The two I find most valuable are Percent Selected By and Value (Form). Those two tell you which players are popular and which have recently been delivering value for their price. Individual stats to pay attention to are CBIs, Key Passes, Recoveries and Crosses. Those will give you consistent value and, especially on the offensive side, are usually better indicators for future success than just Goals/Assists/CleanSheets.
RULE 6: FIND AN OUTLET
If you're anything like me, you want everyone to know about all the trials and tribulations your roster has been through. And, if your family and friends are anything like mine, they're already sick of hearing about it. Don't worry though, there are many out there who are more than willing to listen. The fine community at /r/FantasyMLS is around all the time, and I'm sure commenters here, at Never Manage Alone, other SBN sites, or maybe even MLSsoccer.com will be happy to chat about it. I guarantee you that you'll have a better time if you share your experience with other people like yourself.
So join up our league. It will be a lot of fun, and we are people like yourself.
Code to join this league: 1739-690
Good luck everyone this year, I hope you find it even more fun than years past.