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Football Manager 2020 Review from an FC Dallas Fan

Football Manager 2020 is available to scratch your soccer itch, but it’s a time suck and trash. So you should probably buy it.

MLS: Montreal Impact at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Though there are rumblings that a few leagues will begin to kick off some soccer action in the coming weeks, Major League Soccer is not getting back in action until at least June (maybe longer). Soccer really isn’t the most important thing to worry about when 50,000+ Americans have succumbed to this disease and many more are at risk. I’m grateful for the leaders and experts who are making hard choices and working day and night to figure out how to move forward. We could be in for a long haul.

So, what do we do with all that time?

For one, you can follow my friend Jose Carmona’s series about moving FC Dallas to the English Pyramid in FIFA20 and dominating. It’s detailed and fun.

Two, you can go out and get yourself a copy of Football Manager 2020, the latest and greatest edition of the king of soccer sports management games.

Back in March, Football Manager 2020 was free to play for a few weeks, so I spent some time with it, putting it through its paces, and seeing how managing FC Dallas would shake out.

This isn’t a thorough review - I’ll hit bullet points. Then, you make up your mind.

The Bad

  • The game is trash. Evidence below.
Trash
Exhibit A. Pictured: Trash.
  • The game still struggles to get Major League Soccer right. The AI goes nuts on trades. Kyle Beckerman ends up finishing his career out via trade with the Houston Dynamo. Jozy Altidore gets traded (on a DP contract no less) to FC Cincinnati. Brek Shea is a regular left back starter for multiple teams each season, including the LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and so on.
  • Transfers and salary cap management are at times contradictory and impossible. (Granted, this is more on MLS than on the game, but the game should make it easier to navigate those confusing, byzantine rules.)
  • A competent human manager will dominate MLS within a season or two while other MLS teams will trade away assets willy nilly and end up with hobbled inferior squads.
  • No USL teams to keep players fit and developing, although it is slightly better than in FM19.
  • No playable lower leagues. My dream is to take the Oklahoma City Energy to the Club World Championship (somehow).
  • The youth system still needs work. Some of FC Dallas’ great youth prospects are severely underrated. Paxton Pomykal, for instance, can get better but is still rated too low. (I don’t believe they incorporated his mustache either, which is weak.)
  • The draft is mostly useless. (Okay, again probably on the changing landscape of MLS/North American development.) Your owners will complain if you trade away those useless draft assets for something that helps your team (like funny money or international slots).
  • You literally have to cajole, insult, and beg your attackers to score goals. Encouraging them never works. Benching them for a game or two might. Seriously, 17 shots on goal, and you can’t put one past a two star keeper? And please, in a game like that above, the keeper ended with an average rating. He hardly stood on his head.
  • No women leagues in the year 2020, folks.
  • The CONCACAF Champions League always end up with MLS teams making it to the final, severely underrating the quality of Liga MX.
  • Still never enough variety in what you can say to your players. I’m still looking for the opportunity to tell a youngster, “You are like a son to me.” Or the classic, “You should probably go back to college.”
  • The match engine still can’t figure out that sometimes players and teams will play great and still lose. So, no, a player in good form is not going to suddenly stand still and wait 30 seconds for an opponent to run forward and take the ball from him. It should be possible for a GK to end a game with a 9.0 rating for being an excellent keeper and let past three goals (because those goals were sublime and there was little the keeper could do).
  • A time waste that may destroy your family relationships and suck joy from the experience of watching soccer, placing unrealistic expectations on your favorite teams and their players who you suddenly experience a desire to cajole, insult, and beg to play better.

The Good

  • It’s soccer, and it demands your complete focus.
  • FM20 does improve scouting options and the ability to find a better mix to make the game as tedious as you would like by handing off or taking on various staff responsibilities.
  • Signing a dirt cheap youth player and coaxing him into a three or four star level player is satisfying. Having that same player win the golden boot is beautiful.
  • Dominating Major League Soccer and beating Arsenal/Chelsea/ManCity or whoever in the Club World Championship.
  • Winning a championship, resigning from your team, moving to a bigger club, winning a championship there, resigning from them, and then going back to MLS.
  • Plenty of tactics to help you get started. I almost always go with a 4-3-3 with a DM as a Deep Lying Playmaker, two hardworking/creative midfielders, two Inside Forwards/Wingers, and an Advanced Forward. It translates well from lower tier teams to bigger teams, is fairly easy to find players to plug in for cheap, and can consistently win.
  • As a legend, your board becomes afraid to lose you after you get your team on a ten game or more unbeaten streak, so they will buy you a new stadium even if they can’t afford it.
  • Giving yourself a crazy avatar (though this one is from FM19, but still)...
Imagine this guy roaming the sidelines for Chelsea.
  • Pro-tip: I’m a cheater sometimes. I will take hard fought draws and exciting losses (especially when some of my core players are injured), but I will reload a recent save if my players go out and act like they don’t know what they are doing. Load/save is your friend, and it is one of the best features of the game. (I wish I could do this in real life. Remember that FC Dallas game at Chicago last season? We all deserve do overs.)
  • Becoming a world legend, taking over after Berhalter is fired, and leading the USMNT to glory with at least two to four FC Dallas players in the mix. (Picture again is from FM19. I should have taken more FM20 screenshots! I started coaching DC United this time because FC Dallas wouldn’t give me an interview. Their mistake.)
Complete and utter domination.

Conclusion

This game is trash. It’s a waste of your life. It's unrealistic and frustrating. It will keep you up long into the night scouting for youth players and tweaking your tactics. You will never take vacations.

You should probably buy it.