MLS Fantasy is back for 2017 and boy has it changed. Andrew Winner announced the rules changes on February 1 and they are definitely going to take some adjustment. Just check out the discussion already going on over at r/FantasyMLS!
This is the elephant in the room. Everyone gets unlimited transfers every round. This certainly answers the question of bye weeks and poor scheduling. Managers will never have to worry about fielding a full XI again.
This rule change fundamentally changes the strategy of the game. It’s no longer about picking up players that have a better overall average. Now roster selection is about return on investment. The season schedule no longer dictates the “must own” list. In 2016, certain players were obvious choices due to the fixtures they had over a period of weeks.
Playing the money game is also going to be important. Maximizing your overall value each round is going to be key. An extra 3-5 points for a min/max pair might not be worth the $0.2-0.4 you trade off. It should not be forgotten that bench players affect salary. The $4.0m scrub doesn’t earn a salary increase.
The only scoring rule changes announced so far revolves around defenders and goalkeepers. Clean sheets are now worth 5 points.
Defenders have been statistically worse than attacking players for several years, but that’s changing. Premium defenders have dropped a full $2.5m for 2017. For their new price, the leaders should be on par or better than similarly priced midfielders and forwards. It would not be surprising to see a manager win a round with four or five starting defenders in 2017.
Monetary Rule Changes
Cutting the roster by a player is nothing compared to taking $20m away from managers. These rule changes fundamentally re-balance rosters. Assuming $10m for goalkeepers, managers had $7.8m per field player to distribute in 2016. Compare that to the $6.9m managers have in 2017 and there will be a noticeable crunch. For all the min/maxers, this means each $4.0 scrub only nets $2.9 towards a premium player and it can be done one less time. Assuming four scrubs, you net $11.6. In 2016, you could get $19m using five scrubs.
The new budget allows managers four premium attacking players to start the season. This means everyone will need to know a few more names besides superstars. In 2016, it wasn’t unheard of to have five, six, or even seven premium players on the field.
This change may look bad on the surface, but it definitely increases variance among the rosters. Picking the right premium players from the list is going to be crucial, especially since you can’t afford more than a handful. Finding depth that is primed for a good round is going to be tougher and differentials will mean a lot. Teams will be less likely to share five or six players once things shake out because there are consistently more choices.
The rule changes in 2017, while drastic, are an effective way of re-balancing the game and increasing the longevity of the average player. The long strategy and planning portion of the game is being replaced by round by round knowledge and singular matchups. There is no more dead time and no more consensus bad positions.
If the goal of MLS is to use fantasy to increase viewership, this will certainly help. The hot players can be owned without penalty, and managers can tune in to see them play.