Here’s What’s Wrong With Fantasy Soccer

Fantasy soccer isn’t as fun as it should be, and that’s always bothered me.

Courtesy of Giphy (http://gph.is/1DCZi12)

I have numerous die-hard soccer friends, but almost none of them play fantasy soccer. Meanwhile, even the most casual fans of (American) football get into fantasy football. I personally have been watching and playing soccer for more than 20 years but have never been able to find a fantasy soccer game that’s as enjoyable as fantasy (American) football games.

I watch and care about soccer ten times more than I watch and care about football, yet I’ve always found myself more interested in my fantasy football games than my fantasy soccer games. It’s never made sense to me. So I set out to understand what’s wrong with fantasy soccer.

Before I get into the details, I want to clarify that this is not going to be a discussion on gambling versus games of skill. That is a completely separate issue that I’m not going to try to address here. What’s discussed below is strictly about user enjoyment and engagement. Also, this post isn’t an attack on any particular company or website but rather a challenge of the way fantasy soccer is played.

Courtesy of Giphy (http://gph.is/2c9clNw)

Fantasy soccer suffers from 3 fundamental problems:

  1. Real-time individual player stats are complex and not prevalent on match day broadcasts
  2. There are too many different ways to score fantasy points
  3. The game flow in soccer makes it nearly impossible to predict what’s going to happen

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.


  1. Real-time Player Stats

When you watch a soccer match, other than goals and assists, how many times do individual player statistics come across the screen? Maybe once or twice and maybe they’re discussed at halftime. For the most part, individual stats are non-existent in match broadcasts.

Second, the complexity of soccer stats is infuriating. Do you know what a successful dribble is? If a cross is played on the ground, is it still a cross or just a pass? If a cross is massively over-hit, how is that categorized? If a player passes the ball out of bounds, is that a dispossession? What if the pass was deflected by the defense and the team still retains possession? What is a key pass?

As someone who is a devoted soccer fan and watches at least 5–10 matches per week, if I can’t understand these stats, how is someone else who has a serious or casual interest in soccer supposed to understand?

I think soccer stats are very useful for analytical purposes post-match. I love reading articles about stats and analyzing the game in a different way than just on the surface. BUT, when I’m watching a match and one of my fantasy players is in the game, I don’t want to have to rely on checking my computer or phone to know how my fantasy team is doing. I want to know that an action taken by my soccer player either has a fantasy value or doesn’t. And I want it to be simple.

In fantasy football, I know when my running back has a 4-yard run, I get 0.4 fantasy points. In fantasy soccer, if my right winger takes 5 dribbles and hits a lofted pass, I have no idea if that is going to mean fantasy points for me or not.

Courtesy of Giphy (http://gph.is/1CvEBlq)

That’s a problem.


2. Number of Scoring Attributes

The second issue with fantasy soccer games is the fact that games can have anywhere from 10 to more than 30 different ways for players to score fantasy points. And, depending on what platform you’re using, these scoring attributes can differ greatly. It’s tough to keep it all straight and understand how many points your players are scoring.

This is related to the issue above. But let’s assume you’re able to understand all of the different stats discussed in point 1 above. On a less complicated theoretical fantasy soccer site, your player’s fantasy scoring may look like this:

Steven Gerrard — M

33 points

1 Goal = 10 points

2 Assists = 10 points

3 Shots = 3 points

2 Shots on Goal = 4 points

2 Fouls Won = 2 points

2 Fouls Committed = -2 points

1 Successful Dribble = 4 points

5 Crosses = 5 points

1 Dispossession = -1 points

1 Yellow Card = -2 points

*Stats and fantasy points are for illustrative purposes only and do not represent any specific website or app

To reiterate, this is a simple fantasy scoring line. Now add in the other 7–10 players on a normal fantasy team. It’s tough to keep straight.

I agree and accept that these scoring elements are needed to generate scoring and variability in fantasy games, but the complexity makes it incredibly difficult for fans watching a match to keep everything clear.

Here’s what ultimately ends up happening: I watch a match or handful of matches without much focus on fantasy. Then, I check my fantasy scores at the end of the matches and hope I did well. For a game that’s supposed to act as a second-screen experience, that’s a problem.


3. Game Flow

It is almost impossible to predict what is going to happen in a soccer match at any given moment. This is what makes the sport so great to watch but also so tough to play as a fantasy sport.

When I turn on a game, I want to be able to root for a specific action as it relates to my fantasy team. What makes NFL RedZone, the whip-around cable TV channel covering NFL games on Sundays, so amazing is the fact that fantasy football games make it painfully simple for users to understand the fantasy implications of what’s happening on the field.

When RedZone flips to the Cowboys vs. Eagles game, I can recognize both teams, and immediately identify that I have an Eagles receiver on my fantasy ream. When the Eagles quarterback (Wentz) drops back to pass, I want him to throw it to my receiver. I want my receiver to at least catch the ball for positive yards and hopefully score a touchdown. If Wentz turns around and hands the ball off to a running back, I know that there will be no fantasy impact for me on this play.

Every play in football is an opportunity to root for some action. I can quickly understand the fantasy implications of what is happening. In fantasy soccer, I have no idea when my player is going to be near the ball and if he is going to take a scoring action when he gets on the ball. Once my player gets on the ball, there’s so many different actions he could take that may or may not have fantasy scoring implications that it ultimately leaves me frustrated and confused most of the time.

This unpredictability also forces me as a fan to commit to watching one soccer match at a time. It doesn’t make sense for me to switch between matches I’m viewing when scoring events happen randomly. Since no one can predict when fantasy scoring events will occur, I’m stuck observing random fantasy scoring events occurring that may or may not be applicable for my fantasy team.

This unpredictability and game flow makes it tough to follow your fantasy soccer game and understand what to root for. That is a problem.

Courtesy of Giphy (http://gph.is/2aAcuK6)

The items above were incredibly frustrating to me and led me to completely rethink the way fantasy soccer should be played. These frustrations were the reasons I created Fan Futsal.

Fan Futsal is a completely free daily fantasy soccer website where users select five clubs instead of individual players for their fantasy team. Only three scoring elements are used — goals for, goals conceded, and the result of a game (win, loss or draws). Even with simplified scoring, Fan Futsal still offers the strategic elements that make fantasy soccer so interesting, like aligning your fantasy team in different formations.

If you want to experience a revolutionary way to play fantasy soccer that provides an enjoyable, innovative second-screen approach, check out Fan Futsal now at www.fanfutsal.com.


Originally published at fanfutsal.com.