Categories
Sports Strength

The 50 Best MLS Players

Who else is hyped for the return of Major League Soccer? After a wild 2020 season, which saw play stoppages and a bubble tournament at Disney World, we should have a semi-normal MLS season coming up that is poised to be very exciting.

Columbus Crew SC aim to win back-to-back MLS Cup titles this season with an unbelievably deep roster that Caleb Porter has built. Meanwhile, Atlanta United, FC Cincinnati and Inter Miami CF have spent on a number of high-profile players, including Brenner, Luciano Acosta, Gregore and Santiago Sosa.

The usual suspects will be in the mix at the front of the line, with Josef Martinez, Raul Ruidiaz and Gyasi Zardes firmly in the conversation, but MLS boasts a number of young, exciting prospects looking to stamp their name on the league when the seasons kicks off next week.

Without further ado, let’s get into the top 50 MLS players heading into the 2021 season.

50. Blaise Matuidi – Inter Miami CF
Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images

This man has the European pedigree and offers Miami an incredible midfield option to lock down the center of the pitch.

49. Aaron Long – New York Red Bulls

Long is a U.S. Men’s National Team regular and the Red Bulls will need him to be stellar in 2021 with a very young roster playing in front of him.

48. Franco Jara – FC Dallas

Jara was a huge figure for Dallas in 2020, tallying seven goals a season ago and leading a fun attack for the Texas side.

47. Alexandre Pato – Orlando City SC

The Brazilian/Portuguese influence in Orlando is real, and Pato becomes the latest in a long line to head to Florida.

46. Sebastian Lletget – LA Galaxy

The veteran Galaxy midfielder gives LA another legitimate option behind Chicharito. After his recent success with the U.S. Men’s National Team, Lletget commands respect on the club and national team levels.

45. Santiago Sosa – Atlanta United 

Atlanta has been looking for someone to hold it down in their midfield and offer Miles Robinson and the back line some assistance. Sosa should be the answer after Atlanta picked up a heavily-coveted Argentine holding midfielder.

44. Robin Lod – Minnesota United

Lod is a tremendous player for Adrian Heath’s side because of his versatility. He’s been deployed on the wing and centrally, which makes Minnesota much stronger when it comes to their depth.

43. Gregore – Inter Miami

Miami came in clutch picking up a strong-willed defensive midfielder in Gregore, who boasts loads of experience from his time in Brazil.

42. Latif Blessing – Los Angeles FC

You could say he’s been a blessing for LAFC in his time with the club because of his unbelievable talent on the ball. On a team with so many talented attackers, Blessing may be the most exciting to watch when in possession.

41. Anton Tinnerholm – New York City FC

Tinnerholm is arguably the best two-way outside back in MLS, so NYCFC being able to keep him for the upcoming season is massive.

40. Victor Wanyama – CF Montreal
Corbis/Getty Images

With years of Premier League and European experience, Wanyama offers Montreal consistency and a stabilizing force in the center of the park.

39. Adam Buksa – New England Revolution

Buksa is a legitimate scoring threat with a lot of the attention drawn to Gustavo Bou in the New England attack. Both of these players are in for big seasons in Boston.

38. Darwin Quintero – Houston Dynamo

Quintero has found success with multiple MLS sides in his career, and Houston will only continue to benefit from the veteran Colombian’s playmaking abilities in 2021.

37. Pedro Santos – Columbus Crew SC

Santos can do it all for the Crew, and in a lot of ways they need him to be a creator and finisher. 

36. Frankie Amaya – FC Cincinnati

Cincinnati seemingly has kept Amaya for the time being, and that’s certainly for the best. He’s quickly become one of the best two-way midfielders under 21 in the league.

35. Matt Turner – New England Revolution

Turner is quickly working his way into the USMNT picture, and with another strong season it wouldn’t be shocking to see him in the mix for a trip to Qatar for World Cup 2022. 

34. Cristian Espinoza – San Jose Earthquakes

The Earthquakes have been through ups and downs under Matias Almeyda, but Espinoza has been unbelievable for San Jose’s attack and serving as chief creator for the team.

33. Diego Valeri – Portland Timbers

He’s a Portland cult hero and Valeri hasn’t shown signs of slowing down for the Timbers, who will once again be in the West playoff mix this season.

32. Ayo Akinola – Toronto FC

Akinola is certainly a young striker to keep an eye out for moving forward. He led Toronto in goals last season at the age of 20 with nine.

31. Ezequiel Barco – Atlanta United

Barco struggled a bit early in his MLS career, but when he’s clicking he’s incredibly fun to watch for Atlanta. 

30. Kevin Molino – Columbus Crew SC
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

As if Columbus didn’t already have enough attacking firepower, they added Molino this season to an already loaded roster. Molino nearly guided Minnesota to MLS Cup in 2020, and he’ll aim to help the Crew win their second straight league title this season. 

29. Valentín Castellanos – New York City FC

NYCFC will be without striker Heber until the summer, which means Castellanos will likely be their go-to goalscorer once again in 2021. He takes on players very well and his pace makes defenses tremble.

28. Diego Chara – Portland Timbers

Chara is the most physically dominating midfielder in the league. His gift of breaking up attacks from opposing teams is nearly unmatched in MLS.

27. Rodolfo Pizarro – Inter Miami CF

Now having Gonzalo Higuain for a full season, Pizarro will be expected to lift his game and help Miami reach the postseason in a competitive Eastern Conference.

26. Hany Mukhtar – Nashville SC

Nashville has so much to be excited about with Mukhtar. He’s a former German youth international and despite only playing part of the 2020 MLS season it was evident that he’s going to be one of the most exciting creators to watch in the league.

25. Robert Beric – Chicago Fire

If you’re looking for an underrated MLS player with incredible potential it’s Beric. In a crazy 2020 season, Beric managed to score 12 goals, his biggest goal output since 2014/15 with Rapid Wien in Austria.

24. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez – LA Galaxy

We’re going to pretend 2020 wasn’t full of struggles for Chicharito because we’re all aware of the immense talent he possesses. The Galaxy went from Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Hernandez, so they’re expecting big returns from the El Tri star.

23.Andre Blake – Philadelphia Union

The Jamaica international has been as steady as they come in goal for his entire MLS career. His athleticism makes him the best goalkeeper in the league and he serves as one of the many reasons for the Union’s recent success.

22. Chris Mueller – Orlando City SC

Mueller feels like he’s on the brink of really taking over in Orlando, and that could very well lead to him moving abroad in the near future.

21. Alexander Ring – Austin FC

Easily one of the best midfielders in MLS, Austin made a splash when acquiring Ring from NYCFC this offseason.

20. Nani – Orlando City SC
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Nani’ career resume speaks for itself. Manchester United. Sporting Lisbon. Valencia. He’s done it at so many top clubs, and Orlando certainly benefits from his flash and tremendous goal scoring ability. 

19. Luciano Acosta – FC Cincinnati

After a brief hiatus away from MLS, Acosta returns to a new Eastern Conference side. When previously with D.C. United, Acosta was one of the more entertaining players in the entire league when partnered with Wayne Rooney in the nation’s capital. Now he brings his talents to a buzzing West End Stadium.

18. Walker Zimmerman – Nashville SC 

The former MLS Defender of the Year should be in the conversation once again this season for a Nashville team that is looking to break through in the Eastern Conference.

17. Gyasi Zardes – Columbus Crew SC

Zardes just always finds ways to score in MLS, and despite the criticism he’s become one of the league’s most steady strikers over his tenure in both LA and Columbus.

16. Jordan Morris – Seattle Sounders

Morris likely won’t play this season, but his talent is undeniable and we’re hoping he can make a speedy recovery because Seattle and MLS are better when the American is on the field.

15. Sebastian Blanco – Portland Timbers

Blanco helped guide the Timbers to the MLS is Back Tournament title last season and was named MVP of the bubble-style competition in the process. 

14. Carles Gil – New England Revolution

The Spaniard makes things look so easy when he’s creating for his teammates. Gustavo Bou and Buksa will be huge beneficiaries of Gil’s playmaking.

13. Tomás Pochettino – Austin FC

The expansion side gave up plenty to bring in the Argentine playmaker, and it should immediately pay dividends on Day 1. Pochettino fits the mold of an MLS attacking midfielder.

12. Gonzalo Higuain – Inter Miami CF

After years of success in Europe, you were able to see glimpses of Higuain’s magic last season. There’s no reason to think the combination of him and Pizarro won’t be incredible in 2021.

11. Brenner – FC Cincinnati

Brenner will likely be someone everybody is eager to watch when their team plays Cincinnati in 2021 after becoming an MLS record signing this offseason. 

10. Nicolas Lodeiro – Seattle Sounders
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

He’s been a mainstay for the Sounders since 2016 and continues to produce at elevated levels for one of MLS’ most consistent clubs.

9. Emanuel Reynoso – Minnesota United

Reynoso is the prototypical Argentine player that MLS teams have been eyeing and bringing north for several years now. His creativity was evident in the 2020 playoffs and there’s surely plenty more to come from the former Boca Juniors player.

8. Alan Pulido – Sporting KC

The former Chivas Guadalajara striker gives Sporting exactly what they’ve been lacking for a few seasons now; a proven goalscorer up top.  Pulido could very easily be in the Golden Boot discussion in 2021.

7. Gustavo Bou – New England Revolution

The Revolution Designated Player is without question one of the most underrated strikers in MLS, but he and his team could be in line for a lot of success this season.

6. Josef Martinez – Atlanta United

Martinez is very capable of being No. 1 on this list. A former MVP and MLS Cup winner, the Venezuelan looks to return to his fine form after suffering a brutal knee injury early in 2020.

5. Raul Ruidiaz – Seattle Sounders

The Peru international has tallied double-digit goals every season he’s spent in MLS, and without Jordan Morris available for most of the upcoming 2021 season Ruidiaz will be relied upon a whole lot.

4. Lucas Zelarayan – Columbus Crew SC

Caleb Porter’s Columbus side is so deep throughout the squad, but when you talk about the player that really makes their team go it’s Zelarayan.

3. Diego Rossi – Los Angeles FC

The time to enjoy Rossi in MLS may be nearing an end if he continues at his current level. Since arriving in Los Angeles, the Uruguayan has been a nightmare for opposing defenses. He’ll surely be one of the next MLS superstars to head to Europe.

2. Alejandro Pozuelo – Toronto FC

Pozuelo has perfectly filled the void for Toronto left by Sebastian Giovinco a few years back. His ability to score and facilitate for his teammates makes him one of the most dangerous attackers in the league, and his diminutive stature makes him difficult for defenders to track down.

1. Carlos Vela – Los Angeles FC

LAFC’s captain simply does it all, and the amount of success the club has had in such a short span of time can be directly attributed to the Mexico international’s creative abilities.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Most Hyped Major League Soccer Teams of the 2021 Season

Like many major leagues around the world, 2020 was a drastically different sports landscape than what we’ve all become accustomed to over the years. Major League Soccer was no different. The league got going for barely two weeks before being forced to shut down due to COVID-19, and then when MLS was able to resume it was in a bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

We’re slowly returning to life as we knew it prior to COVID-19, and thankfully MLS is about to welcome back fans in every market in 2021. It’s great timing too because there’s plenty to be excited about when the season kicks off in two weeks.

A new club is debuting down in Texas with the long-awaited arrival of Austin FC. Several teams are unveiling their new home venues to play in this season, including FC Cincinnati’s beautiful West End Stadium.

And on top of all that we have incredible play on the field with a number of familiar places heading to new cities for the 2021 campaign.

Let’s take a look at the five most hyped MLS teams we’re ready to watch this season.

5. Atlanta United
Kevin C. Cox / Getty Image Staff

New Players to Watch: Lisandro Lopez (formerly Racing Club), Ronald Hernandez (on loan from Aberdeen), Santiago Sosa (formerly River Plate)

Top Five Matches: April 17 vs. Orlando City, May 9 vs. Inter Miami, June 23 vs. New York City FC, July 21 vs. FC Cincinnati, August 15 vs. Los Angeles FC

Biggest star: Josef Martinez – The Venezuelan is a three-time Best XI finisher in MLS and also took home MVP honors in 2018 when Atlanta won MLS Cup. He’s one of the most complete forwards in the league and he benefits from a new manager in Gabriel Heinze that will undoubtedly improve the side’s attacking prowess from a year ago.

Manager: Gabriel Heinze 

Breakdown

Atlanta is just three years removed from its first and only MLS Cup title to this point in their franchise’s brief history. On top of all the COVID craziness from a year ago, Atlanta’s season on the field wasn’t what they had hoped for in the slightest after losing Martinez to injury in the first game of the season against Nashville.

He’ll be one of the most exciting players to watch on any team this season as he returns to full strength in a squad full of experience and talent. If you’re a fan of South American flair this is definitely a team you won’t be able to keep your eyes off of all season long.

Outside of maybe LAFC, Atlanta plays some of the most beautiful soccer in MLS and for that reason, they’ve already been able to send incredible players like Miguel Almiron to other leagues to further their success.

4. FC Cincinnati
Justin Casterline/Getty Images

New Players to Watch: Brenner (formerly Sao Paolo), Luciano Acosta (formerly Atlas), Ronald Matarrita (formerly New York City FC)

Top Five Matches: April 17 vs. Nashville SC, May 16 vs. Inter Miami, June 26 vs. Toronto FC, July 7 vs. Columbus Crew SC, October 30 vs. Philadelphia Union

Biggest star: Brenner – The Brazilian immediately adds a level of sophistication to their attack without having stepped on the field yet for Cincy. The diminutive forward is quick and skilled and there’s a reason why the club shelled out the most money in MLS history for an incoming player. If Cincinnati succeeds in 2021, it’ll likely be because of this man.

Manager: Jaap Stam

Breakdown

There’s so much to be hyped about if you support Cincinnati, and even though their new stadium is garnering so much attention it might not be the number one thing on fans’ minds once their team takes the field.

The investments the club have made in Brenner and Acosta speak volumes about where Cincy believes they can stack up in the competitive Eastern Conference this season, and there’s no reason to believe that if those two players in particular can gel that this club will be among the league’s most exciting attacks.

3. Austin FC
Rick Kern/Getty Images

New Players to Watch: Tomas Pochettino (formerly Talleres), Alexander Ring (formerly New York City FC), Cecilio Dominguez (formerly Independiente)

Top Five Matches: April 17 vs. Los Angeles FC, May 9 vs. Sporting KC, May 15 vs. LA Galaxy, June 23 vs. Minnesota United, July 22 vs. Seattle Sounders

Biggest star: Tomas Pochettino – Similar to Cincinnati’s vision with Brenner, Austin invested heavily in this South American to help shape the club’s inaugural team that steps on the field in April. Pochettino’s vision and creativity will be a necessity for the upstart club as they look to make a dent in the Western Conference.

Manager: Josh Wolff

Breakdown

It seems as though Austin has done everything right ahead of its debut MLS season. They brought in Josh Wolff and Claudio Reyna to help shape the club from their head coach and technical director positions, respectively. 

Reyna already had success with New York City FC in the same role and that club has certainly built a talented roster over its first six years of MLS play.

And then Austin was able to secure a beautiful stadium that will be available to open midseason to go with an expansion roster of players that on paper appears to be very competitive. Oh, and did we mention that Matthew McConaughey is an owner as well? Pretty cool.

2. Los Angeles FC
Alex Menendez/Getty Images

New Players to Watch: Kim Moon-hwan (formerly Busan IPark), Jesus David Murillo (formerly Independiente Medellin)

Top Five Matches: April 24 vs. Seattle Sounders, May 8 vs. LA Galaxy, May 29 vs. New York City FC, July 21 vs. Portland Timbers, October 23 vs. Minnesota United

Biggest star: Carlos Vela – What the Mexico international has done in Los Angeles in just three seasons is already mesmerizing. His talents are nearly unmatched in MLS and it seems as though he scores a better goal than last every time out on the pitch. It’s very possible he’ll break 100 MLS goals before he’s done in the United States.

Manager: Bob Bradley

Breakdown

LAFC is close to turning the corner in the biggest of matches, and with Vela back for a full season in 2021 after missing a lot of last year out of precaution with COVID-19 rocking the world, this team is on the verge of winning an MLS Cup.

The experience throughout the squad sets them apart from many of the teams looking to put themselves in the mix, and Bob Bradley has done a tremendous job of filling out the roster with some solid defensive pieces to go along with LA’s incredibly-skilled attacking group.

1. Minnesota United FC
Abbie Parr/Getty Images

New Players to Watch: Patrick Weah (Homegrown player), Wil Trapp (formerly Inter Miami), Juan Agudelo (formerly Inter Miami)

Top Five Matches: June 23 vs. Austin FC, June 26 vs. Portland Timbers, July 28 vs. Los Angeles FC, August 21 vs. Sporting KC, November 7 vs. LA Galaxy

Biggest star: Emmanuel Reynoso – The sheer number of talented Argentines playing in MLS is staggering at the moment, and Reynoso is leading the charge after an incredible 2020 season in Minnesota. His creativity is unbelievable, but it’s a close contest with his ability to find the back of the net. Minnesota could be on the verge of moving into the MLS Cup contenders discussion with another big season from Reynoso.

Manager: Adrian Heath

Breakdown

Minnesota came so close to reaching MLS Cup last season, and had it not been for an incredible Seattle comeback in the Western Conference final it could’ve been the Loons’ shot at a first MLS Cup championship. 

Heath’s team is emerging as a favorite in the league when it comes to attracting young stars. Reynoso was the initial piece they needed in the attack, and now one of his former Boca Juniors teammates Ramón Ábila could soon be joining him in the Midwest. 

If the Loons can manage to keep Ike Opara on the field for a full season, their defense will be much improved and give them the extra edge they need come postseason time.

Categories
Sports Strength

Meet Erling Haaland, Norwegian Football Savior

It’s with no exaggeration that we may be witnessing the two greatest strikers in Bundesliga history battle one another on a regular basis with Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland taking Germany by storm almost every week. 

Although Lewandowski has been doing it for some time now, Haaland’s impressive form at such a young age has immediately made him one of the biggest commodities in not just Germany but all of Europe.

If you’re talking about top-level strikers, it’s Lewandowski, Haaland and then everyone else. That’s why Borussia Dortmund is about to be bombarded with transfer inquiries for the Norway international in the very near future.

In fact, Haaland’s super agent, Mino Raiola, and the player’s father have already begun taking meetings with a number of Spanish giants this week in order to gauge the market for his client. Barcelona and Real Madrid kicked off those meetings on Thursday, and there will undoubtedly be many more with Haaland’s team moving forward.

What makes Haaland so special though? We’ve seen great strikers of the past like Ronaldo Nazário, Pele, Eusebio and many more, but something feels different about Haaland. Maybe it’s his signature long, blonde locks or his patented meditation pose after he scores a goal.

History of Haaland

If you’re wondering where Haaland’s sporting pedigree comes from, it doesn’t take much digging to find his father, Alf-Inge, the former Premier League midfielder/defender that had a lengthy 10-year stint in England’s top flight. 

He spent his time with three English sides, Nottingham Forest, Leeds United and Manchester City, the last of which seemingly could be chasing his son in the near future as they prepare to fill their vacant striker role when Sergio Aguero exits the club this summer.

Erling’s initial path was quite similar to that of his father, beginning with Bryne FK in their native town that holds the same moniker. After that, the younger Haaland has grown swiftly at each club he’s been at and continues to do so before turning 21 years old.

In his brief time at Molde, 16-year-old Haaland scored in both his first Norwegian Cup and domestic league matches before propelling himself to RB Salzburg two seasons later. That’s when the attention on the young striker began to grow immensely.

Over the course of the 2019/20 season, Haaland’s only full campaign in Austria, the 6’4” finisher tallied an astounding 28 goals in 22 games across all competitions. That included goals in the UEFA Champions League against Liverpool and Napoli. In fact, Haaland is the only teenager in UCL history to score in his first five group stage matches.

It was after the group stage that Haaland would join Dortmund in the Bundesliga, and his legend has only grown since his historic substitute debut for the Yellow and Black when he recorded a hat-trick off the bench.

To this point in his Dortmund career, Haaland has as many goals as he does matches played with 49 finishes in as many matches. For that reason, he’s already been named Golden Boy in 2020 for being voted the top player aged 21 or under in Europe.

Style of Play

Haaland isn’t your typical No. 9 and that’s what makes him so difficult to compare to other players past or present. His height and power are similar to that of a Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while his ball skills and pace mirror more of a Cristiano Ronaldo. 

What makes Haaland so unique is his ability to play the striker position in as many ways as his team needs him to be successful. He’s capable of playing an out-and-out role where he gets service into the box, but where Haaland is actually more dangerous is when he drops into the field of play and can find the ball at his feet in or around the penalty area.

This allows him the opportunity to either possess or find one of his teammates to disperse the ball around the pitch in the typical up-tempo manner that Dortmund likes to play. This makes Haaland incredibly difficult to defend because opposition must constantly pay attention to his off-ball movement.

Teams are also quickly realizing that it doesn’t matter which foot Haaland finds the ball on because his “weaker” right foot has proven to be just as good as his preferred left and it seems as though both options continue to improve on a regular basis.

What the Future Holds

Haaland is easily one of the two most-coveted players in the world at the moment, with Kylian Mbappe being the other. At the moment, Dortmund doesn’t appear willing to sell their star striker and understandably so given the returns he’s provided so far in Germany.

The club made it known that they won’t entertain another team activating Haaland’s release clause of nearly $91 million until the summer of 2022, however, his Raiola and Haaland’s persona team of representatives have already begun discussions with other clubs to prepare for the event that Dortmund changes its mind and fields offers this summer.

As previously mentioned, Raiola and Co. have already held meetings with various Spanish clubs, including Barca and Real, and have more on deck with various Premier League sides expecting meetings in the near future. Those clubs include Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

On the international stage, Haaland faces a challenge playing with Norway, who have only qualified for three World Cups in the nation’s history. Their most recent appearance was in 1998, but after not qualifying for this summer’s rescheduled EURO 2020 event Norway will now need to focus its full attention on qualifying for the Qatar World Cup.

Similar to Ibrahimovic’s national team career with Sweden, Haaland will be forced to carry his side to glory given the lack of talent he’s surrounded by. Regardless though, Haaland’s career is already on a trajectory that very few players can say theirs is headed and that’s what makes him such a joy to watch every week.

Categories
Sports Strength

If World Cup 2022 Started Today, Here’s the USMNT Best XI

It’s always fun to wonder, right? I’m sitting here and we’re 598 days away from the 2022 World Cup kicking off in Qatar next November. There’s a lot that still needs to happen, including the U.S. Men’s National Team securing their place in the 32-team field, but we’re going to assume that they can get the job done this time around.

If you’re murky on the details of World Cup qualifying or how the USMNT can clear its path towards next winter’s tournament, you can read more about it in another recent article we just dropped. 

When the U.S. (likely) steps on the pitch in Qatar next year we’ll be seeing drastically different talent than 2017 when the Yanks were managed by Bruce Arena and featured a squad much older in age. Of the current group of anticipated call ups for World Cup qualifying, it’s hard to imagine anyone older than Jozy Altidore (31) having a shot at making the plane to Qatar.

The U.S. recently secured a narrow 2-1 victory over Northern Ireland in an international friendly, and during that match Gregg Berhalter put out a team with an average age of exactly 23 years old. Since the USMNT’s failure to qualify for Russia four years ago, the path has become clear for success with a new group of players. Younger players.

The days of Michael Bradley, Tim Howard, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler are long gone. In fact, the only players that have received USMNT call ups in the past year from that 2017 team that lost to Trinidad & Tobago on the final Concacaf matchday are Christian Pulisic, Kellyn Acosta and Tim Ream.

In a lot of ways it’ll actually be more difficult for Berhalter this time around when it comes to team selection. The sheer talent and youth that the Americans possess right now is astonishing.

Players getting regular minutes at major clubs like Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and Juventus may have Sergiño Dest, Giovanni Reyna and Weston McKennie sitting pretty in the mind of their national team manager. But what about domestic players competing in Major League Soccer? 

There’s a few of them that could work their way into the national team picture over the next 12 months. 

James Sands at New York City FC is one of them. His progression in MLS is on the same trajectory as Tyler Adams when he started with the New York Red Bulls. He’s been thrown into various positions and succeeded at basically all of them. 

Colorado Rapids left back Sam Vines could potentially be a name that works his way into the discussion as well. The 21-year-old was one of the most consistent players for the U.S. Under-23 team that recently competed for an Olympic bid, but fell short. Vines has steadily progressed with the Rapids and left back is a position the Americans aren’t deep at on the national team level.

Let’s get back to what everyone came here for though and examine my Best XI if the USMNT was competing in the 2022 World Cup right now.

One37pm

GOALKEEPER

GK: Zack Steffen

The Manchester City shot stopper has been atop the list of goalkeepers for the U.S. for a few years now after making his move abroad from Columbus Crew SC. There’s definitely competition for the starting role with Ethan Horvath, Matt Turner and Sean Johnson in the discussion as well as young keepers like David Ochoa, Matt Freese and JT Marcinkowski.

That said, it would be nice for Steffen to get more regular minutes in the Premier League, but in his limited time with Man City he’s looked strong with one of Europe’s top clubs. For now, he’s locked in as the starter.

DEFENDERS

LB: Antonee Robinson

CB: John Brooks

CB: Aaron Long

RB: Sergiño Dest

This is where things could get interesting, and I fully expect to be altering this back four as I continue to document my national team thoughts over the next year-and-a-half. Brooks and Dest are seemingly locks given their form for club and country, but Long at center back and Robinson out left could absolutely change in the near future. 

Of this mock team, Long is the only MLS player that would start for Berhalter and probably be one of the few players competing domestically to earn a plane ticket next year. Long’s saga with the Red Bulls over a potential move to Europe certainly put a damper on his chances of making a move abroad, at least for now. 

And players like Mark McKenzie and Chris Richards are breathing down his back for a chance at a starting spot. I’d actually expect one of these two guys to take over the other central defender role in the next year-plus, but for now Long hangs on to it.

MIDFIELDERS

CDM: Tyler Adams

LCM: Weston McKennie

RCM: Yunus Musah

Of all the position groups we go through today, this is by far the easiest set of selections. I won’t be the first or last person to throw these names out there, but Adams, McKennie and Musah should and will be the starting midfield in 2022 barring something completely unforeseen.

McKennie may very well be the most-talented player in this group, while Adams is so versatile and can play just about anywhere on the pitch. Musah’s recent commitment to the USMNT completes a midfield group of three that’s easily the best in Concacaf and arguably one of the best midfield trios in the world.

ATTACKERS

LW: Christian Pulisic

CF: Josh Sargent

RW: Giovanni Reyna

Pulisic is the face of the national team and similar to Adams, McKennie and Musah, is essentially a lock at this point to play every meaningful national team game moving forward. Striker is where it gets really intriguing for Berhalter and he’s going to have to make a decision and live with it.

Sargent has played quite well for a Werder Bremen side that simply doesn’t have much talent, so perhaps a move is coming for him in the summer, but he’s proven he can shoulder the striker load for the USMNT. Daryl Dike, Nicholas Gioacchini and Jozy Altidore are probably the next three names in line for Berhalter in that No. 9 role. 

Dike’s ascent with Orlando City SC and now Barnsley while on loan in England has been significant. It truly feels like he’s on the verge of greatness and it could be a real battle between him and Sargent for regular minutes.

Finally, Reyna is another player that has the benefit of playing at a top club and being surrounded by immense talent; most notably Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho. The Dortmund winger has had to battle for minutes as of late though, and that’s something to watch out for over the next year, especially with Brenden Aaronson becoming a household name for those that watch American soccer regularly. 

Aaronson likely won’t be at RB Salzburg for long because of his quickness, vision and finishing ability. He could very easily find himself coveting a meaningful role with the U.S. very soon.

Categories
Sports Strength

Top 10 USMNT Players Under 23

The wound is still fresh after the United States Under-23 Men’s National Team fell short against Honduras in their win-and-in Olympic qualifier on Sunday, but we’re not here to talk about that right now. 

The future remains bright for the U.S. and its core of young men aiming to get on a plane to Qatar next November for the 2022 World Cup. On paper, this may be the most talented group of players the U.S. men’s side has ever seen and in many ways that makes it challenging to figure out who will be left off the trip halfway across the world in under two years’ time.

Manager Gregg Berhalter certainly has his work cut out for himself given the sheer number of top-quality players competing in some of Europe’s biggest leagues. Then, there’s a flock of guys stateside in Major League Soccer aiming to impress the boss at a time where the majority of the attention is on the stars across the Atlantic.

We’ll start off with a few honorable mentions because let’s face it there are too many strong players in this pool and it simply feels wrong to leave some of this names out of this article.

Honorable mentions

James Sands – New York City FC

Blessed with versatility, pace and underrated on-ball defending, nine times out of 10 it’s almost impossible to get a glimpse of this player during an NYCFC match. But that’s a good thing. His defensive positioning is sublime for a 20-year-old and the fact that the club has moved him back and forth between center midfielder and center back proves how valuable he will be once a European side scoops him up in the near future.

Konrad de la Fuente – FC Barcelona

He was the original man at Barcelona before Sergiño Dest arrived in town and stole the show. Despite bouncing between the senior side and Barca B, de la Fuente’s talent is inevitable. His on-ball skills have the flare of a Blaugrana player and once the team figures out where he can be best utilized on the pitch it’s game over. Expect to see this young man playing more regular minutes at the Camp Nou very soon.

Nicholas Gioacchini – SM Caen

It’s difficult to project how many strikers would get on the plane for Qatar, but Gioacchini is firmly in the race to make the squad given his quick ascent with the national team. In his first-ever national team appearance against Panama, what did he do? Just went out and tallied a first-half brace. The USMNT’s depth at striker may be the most fascinating position group to watch ahead of 2022.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at my top 10 American players under 23 years old.

10. Giovanni Reyna – Borussia Dortmund

Living up to the career of his father, Claudio, won’t be easy, however, Gio Reyna is off to a heck of a start. The Dortmund attacker is one of the youngest in the USMNT pool and is in line to be a cog with Christian Pulisic in the final third for the next decade-plus. Playing with Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho certainly won’t hurt his development.

9. Daryl Dike – Barnsley (on loan from Orlando City SC)

Has anyone in American soccer undergone a faster rise than Dike? It’s easy to argue that this guy already has a claim at being the starting striker moving forward for the USMNT. During a pandemic-riddled MLS season, Dike became an instant star in Orlando. He’s also got an incredible soccer pedigree, with his cousin Emmanuel Emenike previously starring for the Nigeria national team.

8. Tim Weah – Lille

Speaking of pedigree, George Weah’s son has certainly made a name for himself during his young career in Europe. After earning limited minutes at Paris Saint-Germain, Weah has found himself a nice home with Lille where he’s been able to play in one of the most fast-paced teams in Europe. Weah doesn’t have a permanent position just yet, but it’s very likely we could see him playing out on the right wing ahead of Dest moving forward.

7. Yunus Musah – Valencia

The Americans have had a lot of wins with young dual-nationals committing to the U.S., but Musah feels like such a huge one after recently selecting the Yanks over England, Ghana and Italy. Since Musah first stepped on the pitch for the USMNT against Wales last year, it felt like he was the perfect player to solidify an incredible midfield led by Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams.

6. Josh Sargent – Werder Bremen

First thing that comes to mind about Sargent? Most-famous American redhead player since Alexi Lalas. The part they have in common? Their knack for scoring goals. Similar to McKennie’s run at Schalke, it feels as though Sargent will need a change of club in the near future because he’s outgrowing the talent around him. Sargent currently leads the team in goals with five in all competitions and certainly has the potential to excel at a stronger Bundesliga side.

5. Brenden Aaronson – RB Salzburg

The difference between a good player becoming a great player often comes down to development at a young age, and Aaronson was able to take his game to another level before joining Austrian side RB Salzburg. The former Philadelphia Union midfielder possesses everything you want in an attacking midfielder. His ball skills are among the best of the USMNT player pool and his vision to pick out his teammates is going to help this national team grow immensely.

4. Tyler Adams – RB Leipzig

Watching Adams’ development with the New York Red Bulls was an absolute treat. The MLS club threw him into so many uncomfortable situations during his time in New Jersey, playing almost every position outside of goalkeeper and striker. His engine never stops and if you’re looking for a clone of N’Golo Kante this is it. Let me sit in front of the American back line for the next decade and tell opposing teams good luck trying to get past him.

3. Weston McKennie – Juventus

Critics said McKennie’s move to Juventus was a PR stunt. It couldn’t possibly have been because of his actual soccer acumen, could it? He shut those naysayers down almost immediately with his side volley against Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League group stage. The midfielder’s energy is endless and his ability to get forward is something the U.S. will ride to success going forward.

2. Christian Pulisic – Chelsea FC

The biggest question of people’s minds is whether or not Pulisic will stick it out at Chelsea past this season. May he will or may he leaves. Regardless, he’s the most creative player the U.S. has in its attack. He may not be at Landon Donovan’s level of finishing just yet, but his ability to slalom through defenses and pick out his teammates is uncanny. The consistent goals will come with regular playing time. You can bank on that.

1. Sergiño Dest – FC Barcelona

This player speaks for himself. Barcelona received heavy skepticism from many people when they brought in Dest this past summer, and the right back has done nothing but excelled at one of the biggest clubs in the world during a season where the Blaugrana have had their share of struggles. When Berhalter deployed Dest at left back in the U.S.’ recent friendly against Jamaica, he wandered forward, cut in on his preferred right foot and scored this unbelievable goal from distance. He’s the complete package and the best overall defender the Americans have at the moment.

Categories
Sports Strength

Top 10 Sergio Aguero Moments at Manchester City

Manchester City’s rise to stardom as a club can be attributed to many factors, but as far as the club’s on-field success goes look no further than their star striker for the past decade as the main reason for the English giants entering the conversation of the Premier League’s elite.

Sergio “El Kun” Agüero will officially leave Man City this summer, following the club’s announcement on Monday, and that got us to thinking about his greatest goals during his Premier League career.

Aguero arrived in Manchester back in 2011 and during his 10-year run with the Citizens he amassed 257 club goals for the European giants.

He’ll likely have some more in the tank before he exits the club in June, but let’s take a look back at Sergio Aguero’s top moments in light blue.

10. 2015/16 season vs. Liverpool

Kun has been known for a lot of things throughout his career, and losing defenders is definitely one of them. 

9. 2015/16 vs. Chelsea

Aguero’s ability to work in tight spaces has always been one of his best qualities. Maybe it’s from the years of practice with Lionel Messi or playing under managers like Pep Guardiola. Whatever the reason may be though, his combination play with Mario Balotelli was a thing of beauty on this day.

8. 2015/16 vs. Newcastle

Aguero has proven throughout his career that he can score almost any way possible, and his little dink over goalkeeper Tim Krul left the Dutchman on an island as he came out to close down the Argentina international. That happened to be Aguero’s third goal of the game as he went on to tally five against the Magpies.

7. 2011/12 vs. Swansea City

This definitely turned out to be one of Aguero’s longest goals at Man City. The Swans gave Kun way too much space to work with inside the penalty area and Aguero made them pay during City’s title-winning season.

6. 2013/14 vs. Chelsea

There’s a growing trend of Aguero golazos against Chelsea and this one was an absolute banger. Kun takes this first-time ball on his left foot while falling over and still scores an out-of-this-world goal. The Blues clearly haven’t always had the best luck against Aguero and City.

5. 2011/12 vs. Norwich City

We can’t give all the credit to Aguero on this goal, but the finish definitely outshines the stellar Carlos Tevez back heel. The two Argentines had plenty of chemistry together during their time together in light blue.

4. 2018/19 vs. Manchester United

There’s nothing like a Manchester Derby and on this day City fans got the last laugh courtesy of Aguero’s darting run into the penalty area. In hindsight, one of the United defenders should’ve probably put a body on him.

3. 2018/19 season vs. Chelsea

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many defenders are covering this man because it really doesn’t shake him at all. Chelsea had four bodies within five yards of Aguero on this day and the Argentine didn’t seem to care after blasting the ball far post past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

2. 2018/19 season vs. Liverpool

Most goalkeepers aren’t fast enough to keep up with an elite striker, and Aguero showed why he’s one of the most complete at his position after beating Liverpool keeper Alisson with this finish from an extremely tight angle on his off foot.

1. Championship Sunday 2011/12 season vs. QPR

We all remember this one, right? This may very well be the most-recognizable goal in the Premier League era after Aguero helped give Man City its first top-flight title since 1968. Manchester United fans should probably divert their attention elsewhere.

Categories
Sports Strength

An Ode to the Dink: Football’s Most Under-Appreciated Maneuver

You’re on the shoulder of the last defender and you know you have the best of him for pace. In a flash, you’re off. Running into the space behind the defense, only VAR can stop you now. You’ve timed it perfectly, the ball and green grass in front of you, one touch to take it under control as you cross the white line into the box. No need to look up, you can feel the keeper on his way and you know exactly where the goal is. With the deftness of a golfer and his wedge, your foot connects with the bottom of the ball sending it over the unsuspecting keeper. No need to wait for it to hit the net, you wheel away to the corner flag to celebrate the goal that’ll be shared across the world tonight. You’ve just dinked one over the keeper.

The beautiful game has many beautiful sights, but for me, one surpasses all others in the level of deftness, audacity and even arrogance displayed. Maybe it’s the years of playing FIFA, where dinking the opponents keeper was viewed as the height of showmanship.

There’s just something about a player running through one on one with the keeper and having the calmness and technique to lift the ball over, rather than going for a side or putting their foot through it and going with power. There’s not many more aesthetically pleasing sights in football, maybe even all sports?

So what exactly constitutes a dink? There’s certainly a family of shots that find the net by arcing over the keeper in some way. There’s the lob, which is probably best distinguished by distance. Think that David Beckham goal that shot him to prominence:

Beckham’s Lob

If a lob is from further out then the chip is probably similar in a lot of ways, but closer to the goal. Both have the element of catching an unsuspecting keeper off-guard, taking advantage of poor positioning to find the net. Clint Dempsey sending Fulham to the Europa League final is a textbook chip:

Dempsey’s Chip

Then we have the dink. You just know a dink when you see one. If there are some parameters, they would probably be:

  1. Must be moving towards the goal
  2. Keeper must be in some way closing the attacker down
  3. The ball must travel over the keeper’s body (with one notable exception)

Now the dink is far more art than science, so these rules are simply a guide. There are goals that may straddle the categories or could be argued as one or the other, but the impudent dinked finish when pulled off is truly the most exquisite of all.

Lionel Messi

Unsurprisingly, the greatest footballer of all time, Leo Messi, is a huge proponent of the dink. When you score the quality, range and sheer amount of goals that he has, it’s difficult to pinpoint one over the other, but this finish over World Cup and Champions League winning Manuel Neuer is just a textbook dink:

Hernan Crespo

One that has maybe been lost in the history books due to the match’s wild second half and beyond is Hernan Crespo’s dink against Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League final. The perfect pass from Kaka, the perfect run from Crespo and that finish. Almost a micro-dink, this offering shows that—unlike the chip and the lob—the dink doesn’t rely on height to beat the keeper.

Henrik Larsson

Here’s an example of the murkiness, the cross-pollination of the dink and the chip with Henrik Larsson finding the net for Celtic in football’s biggest derby. OK, this is a total homer pick and may be my personal favorite goal of all time, but bear with me.

I can see the argument for it being more of a chip, the distance is certainly right on the boundaries and maybe it travels just a little too high. Spiritually though, it’s a dink and it fits the earlier rules. So, for me, DINK.

Antonin Panenka

The notable exception in the rules of the ball travelling over the keeper is the ‘Panenka’. A glorious subset of the dink, the Panenka utilizes the technique of the dink from the penalty spot and embarrasses the keeper diving off the side as the ball slowly arcs into the middle of the net.

This iteration is named after the innovator, Antonin Panenka, who chose the last penalty in a shoot-out to unveil his miraculous creation. That shoot-out being the final of Euro ‘76, where unfavored Czechoslovakia defeated Germany with his dink down the middle.

The dink is king

You can keep your diving headers, your 30-yard thunderbolts or postage stamp corner finding free kicks. The dink is truly the king of finishes in football. With NFTs exploding in popularity right now, I wonder how long it will be before we see a ‘Topshot’ style football moments version. Sorare scratches the itch to a certain extent, but doesn’t include the coveted “Moments” function of Top Shot.

The world’s most popular sport seems a ripe market to create a chance to own little pieces of history. Your own team’s goals, your personal favorites, goals from matches you attended, the list goes on. There is just so much potential out there for a huge fanbase to delve into.

One thing’s for certain, when we see tokenized goals, you’ll find my collection full of dinks. Bring me ALL THE DINKS. That Larsson goal? I dread to think how much I’d be willing to pay to own it.

Categories
Grind Money

A Guide to Sorare: The Proper Football NFT Platform

If you haven’t heard about NFT’s over the past few weeks, then where have you been?

A lot of the focus has been on NBA Top Shot, but we are here to tell you about Sorare, the next NFT sports platform exploding right now.

If Proper Football, sports cards, fantasy sports, or FIFA Ultimate Team are your jam, this is the NFT for you.

So what is Sorare?

Sorare is a Football (Soccer) NFT platform blending licensed Digital Collectibles with the gamification and reward potential of Fantasy Sports, all built on Ethereum blockchain.

Where NBA Top Shot purely focuses on collectibility in typical sports card fashion, Sorare changes the game, allowing users to not only build their sports card collection but become ‘managers’ and use their cards to compete each week for rewards and prizes.

For example, this Kylian Mbappé unique sold for $65.6k (on November 29th, 2020), but should actually reward the buyer for 10 + years based on Mbappé becoming one of the world’s best players and therefore helping return healthy in-game rewards, as well as accumulating stored value based on scarcity as per the world of NFT’s.

Sorare

Each Sorare card holds the same attributes as other NFT assets; the token cannot be copied or taken away from your possession.

Sorare already has official licenses with 126 clubs including the likes of Liverpool FC, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Juventus, and are adding more all the time, meaning you can buy some of the world’s best and most recognizable players straight away on the platform!

The Hype

You thought NBA Top Shot was big? This is the leading NFT platform for the most popular sport globally—catering to the 3.5 billion fans of football worldwide.

Sales momentum is growing. In the past week, it hit over $1.8m in volume, but compared to NBA Top Shot which hit a sales volume of $17m in the last 24 hours alone (according to cryptoslam.io), the hype for Sorare is only just beginning, and the potential is huge.

There have been some pretty impressive sales on Sorare recently, including a Cristiano Ronaldo Unique card selling for $102k

There is a little more to get your head around than with NBA Top Shot, so here is everything you need to know.

How can I get started? Building your team

Head to Sorare, create your account and login.

When you start you are awarded with 10 common cards to build your team.

You can then purchase players in a number of ways:

‘New Market’ auctions – these are cards minted by Sorare and you will be bidding against other Sorare players

Transfer Market – here, you can directly purchase players other Sorare Managers have put up for sale, whether through the buy it now listed price or through direct offers to owners

*Pro Tip: This may not work for much longer, but I have found a few auction bargains in the early hours (GMT time) whilst others have been sleeping. Stateside you may be able to use this to your advantage!

There are 4 card levels: Common (these cannot be sold on the marketplace), Rare (100 cards exist), Super Rare (10 copies exist), and Unique (you guessed it, just the one!)

This means that there are only 111 player cards of value minted per season, and released gradually during the season!

If a player leaves their real world team, and joins another team in a league that Sorare analyzes from a data perspective, your card will continue to earn points.

Bruno Fernandes is a great example here. His cards were minted in the 19-20 season when he was playing for Sporting, a team under license by Sorare.

Only 11 Fernandes cards have been minted as he left Sporting to join Manchester United in January 2020, and as such no new Fernandes cards have been minted since as Manchester United are not yet under license by Sorare. 

Players who own his 19-20 Sporting card still earn points each game week, but no new cards are being introduced into the market, so these cards are absolute gold.

You can buy players using your credit card or with Eth by connecting a Metamask or Coinbase Wallet via WalletLink.

It goes without saying the rarer the card, the higher the price, and whilst the superstars we all love and know can be deemed as expensive, there are plenty of hidden gems for you to unearth just beneath the surface.

If you think a young player is going to break through and become a football superstar, put your money where your mouth is and pick him up early for cheap – Timothy Weah for me – I’m still hoping he can emulate his Dad!

If you are right, the rewards could be massive.

Entering Leagues

As a new manager, you will be able to enter the Rookie League which will reward you with Common and Rare player cards based on results.

At this stage, you will need to compose a 5-a-side team with your cards with your choice of formation – 1 Goalkeeper, 2 defenders, 2 midfielders, or attackers

Points are attributed to your card based on real-world performances, scored up to a maximum of 100 per card and your position in the league will be ranked against other managers.

Each week your cards earn XP points that can add multipliers to the cards in-game, and allow you to compete in higher divisions and win rewards.

You can also assign a Captain, who will earn bonus points so pick carefully.

Gameweeks run Tuesday to Friday, Friday to Tuesday and you can compete in the Rookie League for eight game weeks, after which you have to put on your big boy pants and enter the regional and global divisions.

Leveling Up

There are three global leagues for you to participate in:

  1. Rookie League: Only eligible for your first eight-game weeks
  2. All-Star League: Made up of four divisions
  3. Under 23 league: Made up of four divisions, and players have to be under 23 

Card level criteria differ for each league, meaning you have to think strategically about how to level up and if you want to compete in higher leagues—bear in mind, higher leagues will mean less but potentially more fierce and experienced competition!

You can also submit players to the Training League to level up XP!

Sorare

There are also regional leagues that open up based on enough licensed teams from that region playing in a given game week:

  • European Champions League: Player cards have to represent teams in the top five European football leagues
  • American Champions League: Players have to represent licensed teams covering MLS, Superliga Argentina, Liga MX, Colombian Primera A & Brasileiro Serie A
  • Asian Champions League: Players representing teams in the J-League, K-League & Chinese Super League
  • European Challenger League – Players from outside the top five European leagues

As you build your card collection, you can actually enter multiple leagues in the same game week.

 *Pro Tip: As football is the global game and Sorare’s are mopping up licenses around the world, it means seasonality is less of an issue. 

Consider building your team to take advantage of leagues such as the J-League & K-League, where other managers may miss opportunities. Who doesn’t want a vested interest in Kawasaki vs. Yokohama?!

The Tactics

You can take a few approaches to play Sorare:

  1. Play to earn based on scaling up your team via the fantasy rewards structure 
  2. Invest and speculate: You could buy players and flip for short term profits or hold youth prospects for long term value 
  3. Hybrid: The purest form of the game and what I enjoy – I’m building my team to earn my rewards now and create a long term store of value

*Pro Tip: Sorare has an awesome community, so follow the Discord or Telegram where people will be happy to help get you started as well as regular AMA’s!

Sorare’s Potential

With sports cards still booming and the world of NFT’s taking hold, Sorare takes the NFT structure and makes it engaging, exciting, and brings you back each day for more. This tied in with my belief that platforms based on official IP will be the dominant forces in this space; I think Sorare is just getting started 🚀.

Categories
NFT Sports

A Guide to Sorare: The Proper Football NFT Platform

If you haven’t heard about NFT’s over the past few weeks, then where have you been?

A lot of the focus has been on NBA Top Shot, but we are here to tell you about Sorare, the next NFT sports platform exploding right now.

If Proper Football, sports cards, fantasy sports, or FIFA Ultimate Team are your jam, this is the NFT for you.

So what is Sorare?

Sorare is a Football (Soccer) NFT platform blending licensed Digital Collectibles with the gamification and reward potential of Fantasy Sports, all built on Ethereum blockchain.

Where NBA Top Shot purely focuses on collectibility in typical sports card fashion, Sorare changes the game, allowing users to not only build their sports card collection but become ‘managers’ and use their cards to compete each week for rewards and prizes.

For example, this Kylian Mbappé unique sold for $65.6k (on November 29th, 2020), but should actually reward the buyer for 10 + years based on Mbappé becoming one of the world’s best players and therefore helping return healthy in-game rewards, as well as accumulating stored value based on scarcity as per the world of NFT’s.

Sorare

Each Sorare card holds the same attributes as other NFT assets; the token cannot be copied or taken away from your possession.

Sorare already has official licenses with 126 clubs including the likes of Liverpool FC, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and Juventus, and are adding more all the time, meaning you can buy some of the world’s best and most recognizable players straight away on the platform!

The Hype

You thought NBA Top Shot was big? This is the leading NFT platform for the most popular sport globally—catering to the 3.5 billion fans of football worldwide.

Sales momentum is growing. In the past week, it hit over $1.8m in volume, but compared to NBA Top Shot which hit a sales volume of $17m in the last 24 hours alone (according to cryptoslam.io), the hype for Sorare is only just beginning, and the potential is huge.

There have been some pretty impressive sales on Sorare recently, including a Cristiano Ronaldo Unique card selling for $102k

There is a little more to get your head around than with NBA Top Shot, so here is everything you need to know.

How can I get started? Building your team

Head to Sorare, create your account and login.

When you start you are awarded with 10 common cards to build your team.

You can then purchase players in a number of ways:

‘New Market’ auctions – these are cards minted by Sorare and you will be bidding against other Sorare players

Transfer Market – here, you can directly purchase players other Sorare Managers have put up for sale, whether through the buy it now listed price or through direct offers to owners

*Pro Tip: This may not work for much longer, but I have found a few auction bargains in the early hours (GMT time) whilst others have been sleeping. Stateside you may be able to use this to your advantage!

There are 4 card levels: Common (these cannot be sold on the marketplace), Rare (100 cards exist), Super Rare (10 copies exist), and Unique (you guessed it, just the one!)

This means that there are only 111 player cards of value minted per season, and released gradually during the season!

If a player leaves their real world team, and joins another team in a league that Sorare analyzes from a data perspective, your card will continue to earn points.

Bruno Fernandes is a great example here. His cards were minted in the 19-20 season when he was playing for Sporting, a team under license by Sorare.

Only 11 Fernandes cards have been minted as he left Sporting to join Manchester United in January 2020, and as such no new Fernandes cards have been minted since as Manchester United are not yet under license by Sorare. 

Players who own his 19-20 Sporting card still earn points each game week, but no new cards are being introduced into the market, so these cards are absolute gold.

You can buy players using your credit card or with Eth by connecting a Metamask or Coinbase Wallet via WalletLink.

It goes without saying the rarer the card, the higher the price, and whilst the superstars we all love and know can be deemed as expensive, there are plenty of hidden gems for you to unearth just beneath the surface.

If you think a young player is going to break through and become a football superstar, put your money where your mouth is and pick him up early for cheap – Timothy Weah for me – I’m still hoping he can emulate his Dad!

If you are right, the rewards could be massive.

Entering Leagues

As a new manager, you will be able to enter the Rookie League which will reward you with Common and Rare player cards based on results.

At this stage, you will need to compose a 5-a-side team with your cards with your choice of formation – 1 Goalkeeper, 2 defenders, 2 midfielders, or attackers

Points are attributed to your card based on real-world performances, scored up to a maximum of 100 per card and your position in the league will be ranked against other managers.

Each week your cards earn XP points that can add multipliers to the cards in-game, and allow you to compete in higher divisions and win rewards.

You can also assign a Captain, who will earn bonus points so pick carefully.

Gameweeks run Tuesday to Friday, Friday to Tuesday and you can compete in the Rookie League for eight game weeks, after which you have to put on your big boy pants and enter the regional and global divisions.

Leveling Up

There are three global leagues for you to participate in:

  1. Rookie League: Only eligible for your first eight-game weeks
  2. All-Star League: Made up of four divisions
  3. Under 23 league: Made up of four divisions, and players have to be under 23 

Card level criteria differ for each league, meaning you have to think strategically about how to level up and if you want to compete in higher leagues—bear in mind, higher leagues will mean less but potentially more fierce and experienced competition!

You can also submit players to the Training League to level up XP!

Sorare

There are also regional leagues that open up based on enough licensed teams from that region playing in a given game week:

  • European Champions League: Player cards have to represent teams in the top five European football leagues
  • American Champions League: Players have to represent licensed teams covering MLS, Superliga Argentina, Liga MX, Colombian Primera A & Brasileiro Serie A
  • Asian Champions League: Players representing teams in the J-League, K-League & Chinese Super League
  • European Challenger League – Players from outside the top five European leagues

As you build your card collection, you can actually enter multiple leagues in the same game week.

 *Pro Tip: As football is the global game and Sorare’s are mopping up licenses around the world, it means seasonality is less of an issue. 

Consider building your team to take advantage of leagues such as the J-League & K-League, where other managers may miss opportunities. Who doesn’t want a vested interest in Kawasaki vs. Yokohama?!

The Tactics

You can take a few approaches to play Sorare:

  1. Play to earn based on scaling up your team via the fantasy rewards structure 
  2. Invest and speculate: You could buy players and flip for short term profits or hold youth prospects for long term value 
  3. Hybrid: The purest form of the game and what I enjoy – I’m building my team to earn my rewards now and create a long term store of value

*Pro Tip: Sorare has an awesome community, so follow the Discord or Telegram where people will be happy to help get you started as well as regular AMA’s!

Sorare’s Potential

With sports cards still booming and the world of NFT’s taking hold, Sorare takes the NFT structure and makes it engaging, exciting, and brings you back each day for more. This tied in with my belief that platforms based on official IP will be the dominant forces in this space; I think Sorare is just getting started 🚀.