While there's no doubt that the FIFA series provides the ultimate football experience, the North American side of things often feels like it has little representation in the game. Having expanded to 19 teams (with 5 new teams joining in just the last 5 years), it's safe to say that soccer (or football, to use proper phrasing) has plenty of support across the continent - except when it comes to the FIFA series.
Anyone who's played the game in manager mode can tell you one thing - it isn't how the league is played in real life. Gone are the Americanized rules that make Major League Soccer what it is: the draft system, salary caps, and international slots are all gone. Instead, gamers are treated to the European experience of regular transfers and loans.
This isn't a bad thing, but it's not what Major League Soccer fans want - especially when it leaves most players getting bored of the league after dominating for a season or two. Without further ado, here's 6 ways FIFA could improve the MLS experience.
The Draft System
Major League Soccer has a delicate draft system in place which encourages teams to trade not only players, but their draft slots as well. It adds a unique edge to trading and would make things quite more exciting between MLS teams in the game.
With FIFA 13 quite capable of player regeneration, it's not like the game engine would have problems in regards to creating future draft picks - it'd just have to plop some local regenerated players right into the system. Like Transfer Deadline Day in Manager Mode, it'd be one of the most exciting days of the year for any manager.
International Slot Rules
Unlike several other leagues, Major League Soccer has hefty rules in place to ensure that domestic talent remains heavily focused on. The league is still comparatively young, and it's important that the local US and Canadian football scene is encouraged to grow. Thus, players can only field a certain amount of international player slots for anyone who doesn't hold a green card in the club's respective country.
Like the draft picks, these can also be traded for a year. It's yet another MLS-based feature which can make trades (and picking line-ups that fit these rules) so exciting.
Include the North American Soccer League
With North America providing millions of sales, it's time for EA Sports to realize that they need to focus on North America a little more. The North American Soccer League boasts an average attendance quite similar to England's League Two, and the inclusion of another local North American league would allow for many more trades and loans with domestic talent. In short, it'd keep things a little more interesting for North America as a whole.
This would also pave the way to another feature which would vastly improve the MLS experience...
Where's the CONCACAF Champions League? Even a limited edition would boost the fun of playing as an MLS-based team by large margins, as MLS teams could finally resume their frantic rivalry with the large clubs of Mexico.
As it stands, the current generation of FIFA will only have MLS sides playing MLS sides - a process which can grow stale after a few seasons where the other teams don't trade too often -which is very uncharacteristic of what a draft-based, trade-encouraged league should function like. Other competitions like the Club World Cup and the Canada Cup would be easily integrated with the game as it stands right now.
EA Sports already has an exclusive license for Major League Soccer, so why wouldn't they expand on their investment?
The Salary Cap was put into place back in the days when Major League Soccer was much less of a stable franchise than it is today. It ensures clubs control their budgets by placing a salary cap for all of the players on the team.
Of course, clubs can breach this cap with the Designated Player Rule, which allows them to sign players with some financial help from the league (Landon Donovan, Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry all play by this rule). Teams can have up to three designated players, which (in tandem with the international slot rule) leaves managers with plenty of tough choices to make - but that's what the game is all about.
Ah, yes, USA's frosty neighbor to the north, which boasts 3 teams in Major League Soccer as of 2013.
The FIFA development studio itself is based in Vancouver, so why hasn't the national team ever been included in the franchise? The underperforming side may not be making waves on an international scale like USA and Mexico do, but it's safe to say that the country's appearance in regular FIFA titles is long overdue, especially if a more accurate North American experience is in the cards.
Canada remains the only team in CONCACAF's North American Zone to not be included - it's the time of the maple leaf, baby.
The potential is certainly there for an amazing Major League Soccer experience in the FIFA franchise, it just needs to be focused on. EA Sports already proved it listens to fans when they finally switched the MLS to have Eastern and Western Conferences (remember when it just played out as a regular league?), so the potential for future improvements is always in the cards.
Including the draft system, international slot and designated player rules would all make for exciting trade possibilities within the game, and the potential inclusion of the NASL or cup tournaments would help keep things from growing stale for gamers who have an affinity towards their beloved MLS teams.
FIFA has grown exponentially over the last few years, and they've invested well in the world's most popular foreign leagues - but it's time to grow a better system a little closer to home.
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