MLS Fantasy Golden Rules
In the MLS Fantasy Golden Rules series, we will be going over some basics for beginners and some refreshers for veterans. We are aiming to cover some of the broader questions that get brought up and clear up some common errors we see holding players back from their desired final rankings. With the change to unlimited transfers, these can be implemented right away and it’s still early enough in the season where mistakes are not game breaking.
Rule 3: Bye Week Navigation
Some of the roughest weeks in MLS Fantasy are the rounds when only 6-10 teams are playing and a group of starters will be absent for international duty. Roster selection is difficult and managers all begin to feel they are using a template team.
There are a few strategies to help managers get through the bye week without losing ground while giving the potential to rise in the standings.
Identify the Best Matchups
The first thing managers should be doing is identify the most favorable matchups for the round to isolate the players they should be targeting first. By paying attention to international absences, call ups, and sub history managers should be able to determine which teams have the biggest advantage before the round starts. This information is crucial to surviving the bye week.
The Template Team
After the matchups are explored, managers should identify the most likely composition of the template team. The template team, or cookie cutter team, is the ideal team for the bye round that nearly every manager will stumble upon. For Round 4, we are looking at a template team that includes Carlos Vela, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Daniel Royer, and Paxton Pomykal for starters. Every player on the template team will usually be performing well in the weeks leading up to this round and have a favorable matchup.
These players are part of the template for a reason. They are typically safe options with the best ceilings. Managers should look to include a large portion of the template players as a safety play. If Vela is 100% owned, nobody loses ground.
There are plenty of resources online like MLSFantasyBoss.com, the MLSFantasy Boss Chat and Discord, r/FantasyMLS, and others to review. Identifying the players that are rising to the top with the aid of these resources should give any manager an idea of where to start.
Differential picks make or break these weeks. After the template team is laid out, it’s up to managers to decide how to earn the most points from the remaining players. By using the information gathered from assessing each matchup, managers should have a good idea of which teams will perform better than others. Selecting players from these teams is a great start.
Road players are also great differential candidates in bye rounds. The obvious Round 4 example is the Colorado Rapids defense. Normally taking defenders on the road is a dangerous prospect, but FC Dallas is missing several key play makers and may be anemic on offense. If other managers continue to avoid road players, these differentials could win the round with 1-3 clean sheets added to a team’s score.
Bye weeks can be a massive value trap if managers aren’t paying attention. With the potential absences in the Union lineup, David Accam is a prime candidate for a start. But Accam has already dipped $0.7m in value and has an average score of 1. If he doesn’t get his goal, he’s likely to dip again. Subs getting to start are always a dangerous option for value but can be totally worth the risk. Taking a player like the Crew’s Patrick Mullins who hasn’t seen the field yet is a safer option as his average hasn’t been affected yet.
Watch the Line-ups
Lineups come out roughly an hour before game time. Managers need to ensure they see them for questionable players in the lineup. The easiest way to lose a lot of ground is to speculate without checking back on your lineup. Bradley Wright-Phillips should be a lock to start, but with Red Bull playing CCL, he may get a break as rotation hits every squad. Taking a DNP score, or worse a 1 point sub roll, from a premium player is going to hurt.
Why this Works
By building the core of a cookie cutter team, you ensure you don’t lose touch with the pack. You won’t win the round outright this way, but you also won’t lose pace either. At times, the best play is to play safe and keep your chances of meeting your goal alive. When you stay close to the pack, you let your differentials be the difference maker.
Why This is a Golden Rule
This is a golden rule because it’s the surest way not to lose ground while providing a smaller chance to gain ground or move ahead. Making a big misplay on a massive bye week can be devastating to your overall standing. If the obvious captain goes off for a 40+ point doubled score and you captain a player who only gets 10, you’ve fallen behind and may struggle to make up the loss over the course of the season.
These rounds are all about differential players and managers that excel at picking the right differentials come out ahead. Taking a few risks here is the only way to get ahead. Backups and subs are in those positions for a reason, but the chance to start can bring out the best in them even when they are facing a first team defense on the opposing side.
There is a lot to overthink on massive bye weeks and the last-minute trends can be devastating. Lots of managers make panic moves as rosters are revealed to make the most of a cheaper option or grab an unlikely starter. If you were hoping for these roster changes, by all means make the change, but if you feel you are only doing it to follow the crowd it might be best to hold off.
Trust your gut more than normal on these rounds. Player scores go all over the place in bye rounds, but the early roster decisions are usually based on long term trends rather than a single week and a reaction. They are generally safer to trust than a last minute hopeful transfer.