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Fantasy MLS preview for 2020

What’s new, our league codes, and gambling!

SOCCER: JUN 22 MLS - Toronto at FC Dallas Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MLS’s fantasy game is back this year, and the scoring system will be the same as last year with points awarded for goals, assists, chance creation, defensive actions, and everything else you enjoyed banking on in 2019. If you want to join our league and compete with 2018’s 2nd overall player (this guy), then you’ll want to smash this link to join our league. Also, before you get scared off about that high finish in 2018, you should keep in mind I came crashing to earth last year, and that 2018 was an outlier and the product of amazing dumb luck for yours truly. Also, you should be aware that MLS has added a pick em’ game (link for our league is here), and there are some changes from 2019 worth noting.

The first thing of note is the salary cap has been boosted from $120 million to $125 million this year. Yeah, you could say that is arbitrary in the way players are valued, but it’s pretty easy to build a team without getting into the weeds about every team’s depth and rooting around for value at least at the outset. Another significant thing about this salary cap is that it’s fixed.

Unlike previous seasons where your team’s ‘value’ would grow based on their success week in and week out, you’ll be playing with a firm cap all season. Sure, Zdenek ‘The Kobra’ Ondrasek is definitely good for a hat trick in the opener, but you’ll have to pay an extra million to roster him next week, and you won’t have an expanded cap to facilitate that. Another thing to consider about the firm cap is you won’t have to consider prior weeks before rostering a player. When Aaron Long gets a red card in Week 2 and puts up a negative number, you won’t have to worry about playing him in Week 4 because he’ll be a drag on your cap.

This modification has made the game simpler; just make the best team you can every week without worrying about a player did last week, 3 weeks, or 5 weeks ago.

Another game play wrinkle this year is the scoring for ‘Double Game Week’ players. In previous seasons, utilizing players who could potentially play two games in a week was key to success. MLS has tweaked the scoring for these players this season. Instead of scoring the total of the two games for any particular player whose team plays twice in the same week, this iteration of the game will assign the higher of the two individual game scores for that week. An example of this would be, say, a game where Carlos Vela plays twice in the same week and scores 7 and 10 in those games. In previous seasons, you would mark him down for a 17. This year, he’d be good for 10. While the opportunity for two bites off of the apple will still retain appeal, it won’t remotely be valued in the same way it had in previous seasons. This should lead to greater variation in lineups through out the season.

The prize structure is similar to last year, but the season structure has changed. There won’t be a split season this year, but there will be small mini-seasons which will allow you to qualify for an end of the season tournament if you finish in the Top 50. MLS will send you this for your ringtone if you qualify.

Ok, MLS won’t send you the ringtone, but you will qualify for a ‘Champions League’ that runs through Weeks 24-32, and those prizes will match the full season prizes. If you start off horribly, like I undoubtedly will, you’ll still have a shot as the season goes on to prove FC Paxton Used Car Salesman SC can still gain glory and cash through the end of season tournament. This will come in handy when you fall victim to bad cell reception, summer weddings, and all of the other garbage you have to address when you just want to watch soccer and play a dumb game.

I’ll spare you any takes on my favorite players this year or how to line up in Week 1. There’s plenty of resources out there which would make me diving in to that redundant here. If you are playing the game for the first time though, I highly recommend learning about the Switcheroo tactic. Long story short, it’s a great way to boost your points week in and week out by having a player in an early game on the bench having the opportunity to get a score (5-6 is a good benchmark) that’s suitable and then subbing in for a player that doesn’t play. If the player hits or exceeds the number, you let them sub in by rostering a player that won’t play. If they don’t, roster a starter- EZ PZ. Ok, now on to the fun stuff.

If you’ve followed me here at BigD over the years, you’ll know I’m a huge proponent of legal sports gambling- particularly as a means to boosting interest in Soccer in the US. As of today, we’re up to 13 states (yay!) that have legalized sports betting, and it’s just a matter of time before it’s legal across the board. I’ll be posting my MLS picks weekly in the Fanposts for your enjoyment if you’re in a legal state or if you...anyway.

I’m also excited to see that Rotowire will have JD Bazzo (@dfsMLS) and Schuyler Redpath (@draftkicks) doing weekly picks this year on their site. If you’re not familiar with these guys, they know the league really well and succeed regularly at MLS prognostication on the MLS game, DFS, and straight gambling on MLS. They’ll be behind a paywall after this week, but you get what you pay for ie way better than what you’ll get from me.

If you want to see how I did last year, you can go here. It’s fine not having a winning record when betting soccer matches because of draws and what not, and I did end up over 200% on a hypothetical $100 last year. That said, the bulk of that was profit on one match, and if you take that out, I actually lost a bit last year. Picking these games isn’t for the faint of heart, and the new spending paired with more charter flights really changes the equation for 2020. That said, the injury information has improved substantially, and you can always monitor the international absences if you’re not a lazy ass. The best recipe for success will be much as it has been for years: Know the teams, know how they play, know how they’ll match up against certain teams, and know the roster to the best of your ability. If you want to go the analytics route and buy into xG models, be my guest. To me, it’s a worthwhile tool to look for inefficiencies in line, but it’s not great at determining outcomes.

Much like last year, I won’t dive into the minutiae with why I make this or that pick. I’m just going to roll with it, and you can always hit me up in the comments if you want to know more about my rationale. All picks will be a flat $10 until otherwise stated. As always, enjoy the games this weekend (it’s finally here!) and good luck, fellow degenerates.

Week 1 picks*:

COL +.5 -130

MON/NER Draw +240

San Jose to win +105

Orlando to win Even (+100)

FCD -1 +170

Van +.5 -145

CMB to win +125

*- Odds courtesy of Bovada.