If you’ve never played Football Manager, good god man, don’t. It is one of the most addicting sports games on the market, particularly if you enjoy business and sports and like the idea of simulating the experience of running a soccer club, similar to how Out of the Park Baseball allows you to run a baseball team. It’s absolutely engrossing.
Football Manager also has perhaps the best database of soccer talent in the world. You can find pretty much any professional player rated by the game’s many contributors by searching the editor. I used the editor to modify the Official Winter Update database to make the NASL rosters accurate up to the New York Cosmos signing of Niko Kranjcar (minus a few rookies across the league who aren’t in the game).
One thing that immediately stands out is how the ratings quantify that Miami FC and Rayo OKC have constructed serious rosters. Replacing the San Antonio Scorpions and Atlanta Silverbacks with these teams upgrades the quality of the league overall.
Obviously, the rating process is not perfect. Some ratings that are questionable – is Jimmy Maurer really only an 89 overall on a 200 point scale? That doesn’t make sense to me as someone who watches every Cosmos game. By and large, the ratings are pretty solid and regardless this is the best sim software of its kind. That being said, this is not scientific but is done for entertainment purposes.
First, let’s take a look at the top 15 players on each roster based on FM2016’s ratings. The format will be Name, Position(s) – Current Rating/Max Rating. For older players, the max rating is a thing of the past, just to show you how good they once were. For younger players, it shows you the promise of how good they may one day be.
The Railhawks have one of the weaker rosters in NASL according to FM2016’s estimation. The Railhawks do not have one player rated above 100. Admirers of Tiyi Shipalane such as myself would take issue with that.
- Tiyi Shipalane MR/L, AMR/L – 98/102
- Matt Watson, M/AMC – 98/98
- James Marcelin, DM/MC – 95/103
- Nazmi Albadawi, AMR/C/L, ST – 95/108
- Akira Fitzgerald, GK – 95/98
- Brian Shriver, AML/ST – 94/101
- Kupono Low, DL – 93/97
- Austin Da Luz, ML/AML – 92/103
- Connor Tobin, DC – 91/97
- Simon Mensing, DC – 91/105
- Paul Black, DL/C – 89/95
- Marvin Ceballos, MR, AMR/C – 88/105
- Kareem Moses, DR/L/C – 88/96
- Brian Sylvestre, GK – 88/116
- Alex Perez, DC/DM – 88/101
Newcomers Nik Ledgerwood and Adam Eckersley replace Lance Liang as the top rated players in Edmonton. Like the Railhawks, FC Edmonton’s roster is not rated very highly by the game relative to the other teams in NASL, though Edmonton is stronger at the top than Carolina, it is not as deep.
- Nik Ledgerwood, DM/MC – 102/110
- Adam Eckersley, DL – 101/114
- Pape Diakite, DC – 98/123
- Sainey Nyassi, AMR/L – 98/106
- Albert Watson, DC – 98/99
- Tomi Ameobi, ST – 93/95
- Daryl Fordyce, AMR/C, ST – 93/96
- Jake Keegan, AML/ST – 91/92
- Edson Edward, DR/C – 91/98
- Matt Van Oekel, GK – 91/95
- Dustin Corea, MR/C, AMR/C – 90/102
- Ritchie Jones, MR/C – 89/90
- Pablo Cruz, MR, AMR/C – 88/105
- Johann Smith, DL/ML – 88/90
- Mallan Roberts, DC – 85/106
Fort Lauderdale Strikers
The Strikers are one of the better teams in the league according to FM2016. Strikers fans might have expected PC to rate higher, but the club still has eight players rated over 100, even if two are goalkeepers. Angulo rated at 93 at the 15th best slot shows Fort Lauderdale is deeper than Carolina or Edmonton as well.
- Adrianinho, ML/C, AML/C – 115/135
- Bruno, GK – 114/134
- Matheus Carvallho, AML/ST – 112/122
- Aurello Saco-Vertiz, DL/ML – 107/108
- Gabriel, MR/AMR – 106/143
- Diego Restrepo, GK – 101/110
- Dalton, DC – 101/130
- Kleberson, DM/MC – 101/154
- PC, DL/AML – 98/126
- Maicon Santos, ST – 98/110
- Julius James, DR/C – 97/108
- Luis Zapata, DL/DM – 97/107
- Gale Agbossoumonde, DC – 96/110
- Nana Attakora, DC – 96/105
- Jose Angulo, AML/R, ST – 93/99
Indy Eleven finds newcomers among its top four players. Brad Ring is the best rated holdover, and Indy fans might take issue with the game’s rating of Dylan Mares. From the appearance of these ratings, one would expect Indy to be in the same class as Carolina and Edmonton.
- Jon Busch, GK – 106/126
- Lovel Palmer, DR/DM/MC – 102/104
- Nemanja Vukovic, DL/ML – 98/100
- Sinisa Ubiparipovic, M/AMC – 97/103
- Brad Ring, DM, MR/C – 96/108
- Dino Williams, ST – 94/101
- Justin Braun, ST – 94/99
- Colin Falvey, DR/C – 94/97
- Greg Janicki, DC – 93/95
- Dragan Stojkov, ML/C, AML/C – 92/105
- Stephen DeRoux, DR/L, ML – 89/98
- Marco Franco, DR – 89/100
- Nicholas Patterson, MR/C – 87/94
- Dylan Mares, M/AMC – 87/105
- Eamon Zayed, AMC/ST – 84/101
Jacksonville has four players rated by FM2016 at 100 or better, with newcomers Matt Fondy and Richie Ryan falling just short at 98. Among the holdovers, Keita ranks highest with goalkeeper Gallardo and Pascal Millien following.
- Pekka Lagerblom, DC/DM/MC – 104/118
- Lucas Scaglia, DM/MC – 103/116
- Alhassane Keita, ST – 102/136
- Junior Sandoval, MC, AMC/R – 100/105
- Matt Fondy, AML/ST – 98/100
- Richie Ryan, DM/MC – 98/105
- Miguel Gallardo, GK – 96/105
- Pascal Millien, MR/L, AMR/L/C – 94/103
- Charles Eloundou, AMR/L, ST – 92/111
- Mechack Jerome, DL – 92/96
- Jemal Johnson, ML, AMR/L – 91/115
- Alex Dixon, MR, AMR/L – 90/96
- Alberto Navarro, DC – 89/95
- Tyler Ruthven, DC – 89/96
- Matt Bahner, DR/MR – 87/93
Miami FC is positioned for a remarkable debut season. Matuzalem is the highest ranked player in NASL according to FM2016, and Wilson Palacios gives Miami a second player rated 120 or better. Cvitanich also rates among the league’s best, and the roster has quality throughout.
- Matuzalem, DM/MC – 127/153
- Wilson Palacios, MC – 120/155
- Dario Cvitanich, ST – 118/145
- Adailton, DC – 110/127
- Dane Richards, MR/AMR – 107/117
- Daniel Vega, GK – 100/120
- Brad Rusin, DC – 98/107
- Pablo Campos, ST – 97/102
- Blake Smith, ML/AML – 97/106
- Rhett Bernstein, DC – 93/94
- Jaime Chavez, ST – 93/96
- Ariel Martinez, MR/AMR/ST – 92/111
- Jonathan Borrajo, DR/DM – 92/99
- Mason Trafford, DL/DC – 91/95
- David Sierra, GK – 85/105
Minnesota United FC
Minnesota United’s roster ratings suggest it will be one of the best teams in the league again, in its send-off season. While there are NASL-elite rated players at the top in Ibson and N’Djock, the quality in depth across the top 15 is most remarkable compared to the other teams.
- Ibson, DM/MC/MR – 118/142
- Sammy N’Djock, GK – 116/125
- Lance Liang, DL/ML/AML – 103/109
- Christian Ramirez, ST – 102/115
- Danny Cruz, ML/R, AML/R – 101/102
- Bernardo Anor, ML/C, AML/C – 99/105
- Ben Speas, ML/R, AML/R – 99/108
- Stefano Pinho, AML/ST – 98/104
- Aaron Pitchkolan, DC/DM – 98/104
- Kristian Nicht, GK – 97/101
- Justin Davis, DL – 97/99
- Daniel Mendes, MR/AMR, ST – 97/115
- Jaime Watson, ML/R – 94/102
- Tiago, DC – 94/115
- Greg Jordan, DM/MC – 93/103
New York Cosmos
It will surprise no one that the Cosmos have the best rated roster in NASL. The recent signing of Niko Kranjcar gives the team its top player, while Juan Arango and Yohandry Orozco amount to a league-leading 3 players rated 120 or better. Fans might be pleasantly surprised to see newcomer David Ochieng regarded so well by the game, but the aforementioned 89 rating of supporter favorite Jimmy Maurer means he fails to make a deep top 15. Roversio and his 102 rating will be missed in the Spring.
- Niko Kranjcar, ML, AML/C – 122/152
- Juan Arango, ML, AML/C – 122/145
- Yohandry Orozco, ML, AML/C – 120/127
- David Ochieng, DC/DM – 109/(110-140)
- Ayoze, DL/ML/AML – 109/114
- Gabriel Farfan, DL – 106/116
- Hunter Freeman, DR – 106/110
- Adam Moffat, DM/MC – 104/106
- Roversio, DC – 102/109
- Jairo Arrieta, ST – 102/114
- Carlos Mendes, DC – 102/107
- Michael Lahoud, MC/MR/DR – 100/105
- Yasmani Duk, AMC/ST – 98/108
- Andres Flores, MR, AMR/C – 98/104
- Danny Szetela, DM/MC/MR – 94/100
The Fury will look like a new team in 2016, much to the chagrin of their fans who enjoyed an unexpected Fall title run last year. Peiser was the top goalkeeper in the league in 2015 so it is no surprise to see him rated among the team’s best. With the loss of so many quality players, Ottawa had to bring in many new faces. Marcel de Jong is the best rated player on the team, with Jonny Steele and Pablo Dyego adding to holdover Julian De Guzman as the players rated over 100.
- Marcel de Jong, DL/ML – 119/125
- Romuald Peiser, GK – 111/114
- Jonny Steele, ML/AML – 104/108
- Julian De Guzman, DM/MC – 104/115
- Pablo Dyego, DR/MR – 102/125
- Kyle Porter, MR/ML – 95/105
- Rich Balchan, DR/C, DM – 94/99
- Paulo Junior, AMR/C – 94/97
- James Bailey, DM/MC – 93/120
- Rafael Alves, DC – 92/96
- Lance Rozeboom, M/AMC – 90/93
- Carl Howarth, AMR/ST – 87/90
- Brandon Poltronieri, DL/ML – 86/100
- Dennis Chin, ST – 86/96
- Fernando Timbo, DL – 83/95
When Rayo OKC was announced, NASL fans were confounded by the move to allow the team in the league on such short notice. A long period of quiet from Rayo added to the concern, until the team made a flurry of impressive signings. FM2016’s ratings suggest that Rayo will be one of the better teams in the league. Giorgos Samaras was the cherry on top, but the team possesses an impressive seven players rated above 100. NASL fans will take issue with the relatively low rating of Billy Forbes.
- Giorgos Samaras, AML/ST – 120/135
- Juanan, DC – 110/119
- Robbie Findley, ST – 107/109
- Derek Boateng, DM/MC – 107/150
- Daniel Fernandes, GK – 105/120
- Michel Garbini, DL/DM/ML – 104/125
- Marvin Chavez, ML/R, AML/R – 103/118
- Erick Norales, DL/C – 98/114
- Richard Menjivar, DM/MC – 96/102
- Kosuke Kimura, DR/L – 96/106
- Rauwshan McKenzie, DC – 93/100
- Pecka, DM/MC – 93/98
- Sebastian Velasquez, ML, AML/C – 93/102
- Billy Forbes, AML/R, ST – 91/102
- Caleb Patterson, GK – 89/112
Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Rowdies boast a deep roster filled with quality. FM2016’s top two Tampa Bay players are both goalkeepers, but the 15th best player is rated above 90. Fans might feel that Tom Heinemann is underrated by the game after his performances last season. Freddy Adu’s ratings may also be called into question.
- Michael Langer, GK – 114/118
- Matt Pickens, GK – 109/119
- Freddy Adu, AML/C – 105/123
- Neill Collins, DC – 101/116
- Khalif Alhassan, MR, AML/C/R – 99/108
- Juan Guerra, DM/MC – 98/110
- Darnell King, DR/MR – 98/106
- Tamika Mkandawire, DC – 98/118
- Junior Burgos, ML, AML/C – 97/101
- Georgi Hristov, AMC/ST – 97/119
- Tom Heinemann, ST – 96/100
- Frankie Sanfilippo, DR/C – 96/101
- Danny Mwanga, ST – 94/108
- Keith Savage, MR/C – 93/100
- Walter Ramirez, M/AML – 92/97
Simulating the Spring
If the ratings are to be believed, there should be two classes of teams in the league. The first tier will be the New York Cosmos, Minnesota United FC, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Miami FC and Rayo OKC. The second tier will be the Carolina Railhawks, FC Edmonton, Ottawa Fury, Indy Eleven and Jacksonville Armada. That being said, no one would have seen Ottawa coming last year by looking at it this way, so the games need to be played on the field. Prior to kicking the sim off, I dropped Roversio from the Cosmos roster since he’s out for the Spring, and locked transfers.
Prior to the start of the season, the game predicts the following outcome based on roster strength:
- New York Cosmos
- Fort Lauderdale Strikers
- Minnesota United FC
- Miami FC
- Rayo OKC
- Tampa Bay Rowdies
- Ottawa Fury
- Jacksonville Armada
- Indy Eleven
- FC Edmonton
- Carolina Railhawks
The game generated its own schedule, so in this version round one’s highlight was an upset by Minnesota United of the Cosmos 2-1. The Railhawks also pulled off a 2-0 upset of the Fury, while Jacksonville prevailed over Rayo 2-0, the Strikers downed the Rowdies 1-0 and Indy also beat Edmonton 1-0. Miami had the bye.
The second series saw Rayo OKC best the Strikers 2-1, Ottawa have one of their famous nil-nil draws with Minnesota, Miami beat Edmonton 3-1, the Rowdies pummel Carolina 4-1 and the Cosmos bounce back to beat Indy 3-1. Jacksonville had the bye.
Round three was marked by upsets again. The Cosmos were setback once more, this time 3-0 by Miami, Jacksonville also upset the Strikers 2-1 and Indy overturned the Fury 2-1 while Minnesota and the Rowdies drew 0-0 and Carolina and OKC drew 2-2. Edmonton had off.
The fourth series saw more bad news for the Cosmos, with the jinx coming this time from Edmonton 2-1. Jacksonville won 2-1 over Carolina, Ottawa and Miami drew 2-2, Minnesota beat OKC 2-1 and Tampa Bay beat Indy 2-1. The Strikers were the bye team.
Round five saw the Cosmos bounce back 2-1 over Ottawa, Minnesota and Fort Lauderdale draw 0-0, Indy upset Jacksonville 3-1, Rayo OKC top fellow expansion side Miami FC 2-0 and Tampa Bay best Edmonton 2-0.
Round six sees the league hit brush past the halfway point in the season. Carolina topped the Strikers 2-1, Edmonton beat their Canadian rivals Ottawa 2-1, Indy upset Rayo 2-1, Tampa beat their new Florida rivals Miami FC 2-0 while Jacksonville surprised Minnesota 1-0. The Cosmos had off.
At the rough halfway mark, the league table looks like (W-D-L):
- Tampa Bay Rowdies, 4-1-1, 13 points
- Indy Eleven, 4-0-2, 12 points
- Jacksonville Armada, 4-0-1, 12 points
- Minnesota United, 2-3-1, 9 points
- Carolina Railhawks, 2-1-2, 7 points
- Miami FC, 2-1-2, 7 points
- Rayo OKC, 2-1-3, 7 points
- FC Edmonton, 2-0-3, 6 points
- New York Cosmos, 2-0-3, 6 points
- Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 1-1-3, 4 points
- Ottawa Fury, 0-2-4, 2 points
That is quite a difference from the game’s projected table. Through this midpoint, Miami’s Dario Cvitanich and Jacksonville’s Alhassane Keita top the charts with five goals.
Round seven kicked off the second half with an emphatic 3-0 victory by the Rowdies over the Cosmos, further digging New York’s hole in the short season format. Edmonton crushed Rayo 4-1, while Jacksonville upended Miami 3-1. Minnesota topped Carolina 2-0, and Indy and the Strikers drew 1-1. Ottawa had off.
The eighth series saw the Cosmos try to make up lost ground with a 4-2 victory over Rayo, with Edmonton topped Jacksonville 1-0. The rest of the matches were draws, with Tampa and Ottawa 0-0, Carolina and Indy 2-2 and the South Florida derby resulting in a 2-2 tie between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Minnesota rested this week.
Round nine’s big winners were the Strikers, who downed Edmonton 3-0. Miami also won 3-2 over Carolina while the Fury beat Rayo 2-1. The Cosmos lost more ground in their effort to rise back to the top by drawing 2-2 with Jacksonville, while Indy and Minnesota drew 1-1. League leaders Tampa Bay were off.
The tenth round saw Rayo play their final match of the Spring, winning 1-0 over Tampa Bay. The Cosmos beat the golden age rivals the Strikers 2-0, while Jacksonville climbed atop the league with a 3-1 victory over Ottawa. Minnesota drew 1-1 with Miami, while Carolina and Edmonton shared the spoils at 2-2. Indy was off.
The final series saw the Rowdies reclaim the top spot and win the Spring season in dramatic fashion with a head-to-head victory for the title over Jacksonville 3-2. The Cosmos earned three more points too-little-too-late for the Spring, 2-1 over the Railhawks. Minnesota won the Fly Over Derby against Edmonton 3-1, while Miami topped Indy 2-0. Ottawa drew 2-2 with the Strikers.
The final table shaped up as follows (W-D-L):
- Tampa Bay Rowdies, 6-2-2, 20 points
- Jacksonville Armada, 6-1-3, 19 points
- Minnesota United, 4-5-1, 17 points
- New York Cosmos, 5-1-4, 16 points
- Indy Eleven, 4-3-3, 15 points
- Miami FC, 4-3-3, 15 points
- FC Edmonton, 4-1-5, 13 points
- Rayo OKC, 3-1-6, 10 points
- Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 2-4-4, 10 points
- Carolina Railhawks, 2-3-5, 9 points
- Ottawa Fury, 1-4-5, 7 points
Keita ended up taking home the goal scoring title with 8, closely trailed by Cvitanich at 7. Juan Arango was the highest rated performer in the league with a 7.79 average, followed by the Strikers’ Adrianinho at 7.51 and Cvitanich at 7.50. Junior Sandoval of Jacksonville, Adrianinho and Austin Da Luz of Carolina led in assists at 4. Arango had the most man of the match awards at 4. Tampa Bay’s Michael Langer kept a league leading 5 clean sheets, while Lucas Scaglia of Jacksonville played the dirtiest with 5 yellow cards.
Lesson: The Short Season Lends Itself To Unpredictable Results
While the game’s projected season table before the sim lined up with expectations, the actual results of the sim go to show what a crapshoot the short 10 game Spring season can be. Of course, I did only one sim of the season since I don’t have time to do a Monte Carlo process and run the thing 1000 times. I imagine if you did that, the results would shake out more like the game’s projected standings most of the time. In real life, they only play it once. A bad run of form can doom a talented team to a poor finish as with the Strikers in this sim, while a hot streak can see a relative underdog like Jacksonville rise toward the top. Over the course of the longer combined Spring-Fall season, the table should normalize toward expected results, so therefore part of the fun of the Spring season is it is the best time for an underdog to lock up an unexpected playoff spot.
Bonus Content: Puerto Rico FC
Here is a look at how FM2016 rates Puerto Rico FC’s signings so far:
- Ramon Soria, DL/C – 100/108
- Oliver, AML/R, ST – 95/111
- Chris Nurse, DM/MC – 91/95
- David Meves, GK – 91/101
- Pedro Mendes, ST – 88/96
- Paulo Mendes, AMR/L/C – 83/91
- Joseph Marrero, AMR/ST – 64/94
- Jorge Rivera is not in the game
So according to Football Manager, Carmelo Anthony, Adrian Whitbread and Tom Payne have a long way to go to build a squad ready to compete in NASL.