Too bad there are not many real-life soccer related games for the fans. If there was a game called “Salary Cap,” players might get luck with a “Bend It Like Beckham” card. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
It’s that time of the year again trying to figure out what to give you favorite soccer fan for Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza (Ok, Chanukah has passed, but you never know for the future).
Is he or she bored with the “you be the manager or coach games?” Then you might be interested in these new and much more realistic games (these can be found as traditional board games — you remember them? — or as computer games).
Happy shopping and good luck finding them in the real world:
How many teams can you acquire and take full control of in the league without losing your fortune or your mind? This is a simple game that will bring you back to the league’s nostalgic old days when it was the in-thing to do to own multiple soccer teams. Not to be confused with the Anti-MLS Monopoly game, in which owners try to divest their teams for the highest price.
The rules are quite simple. You try to emulate Manchester City and buy as many high-salaried players as possible. The player who accumulates the most stars without getting either the dreaded “You have hired Jose Mourinho card” “player dissension card” win. If that sounds too easy, you might want to try to play the advanced version of the game where you finish in the standings is taken into account.
Forget about just winning one MLS Cup championship. Can you do it multiple times while keeping your club under the salary cap and meandering around the league’s countless regulations? Good luck. You will need the brains of an economist, a little help from the league office and some luck (especially if you’re fortunate enough to pick up that special “Bend It Like Beckham” card, which allows you to skirt some of the salary cap issues.
You and your opponents are given the worst teams that a European league has to offer. Winning a championship is out of the question. Staying alive in the top tier is more realistic. In this unique set up, there is only one loser — the demoted side. The rest of the survivors are called winners. Available in English Premiership, Italy Serie A, Spanish La Liga, French Ligue 1 and German Bundesliga versions, but not in MLS.
Hide and Seek
As in you hide and the authorities seek. A cousin of the Relegation Zone game, you are trying to hide or cover up a big secret or scandal about your team. The team that lasts the longest and out of jail the most time is declared winner. These secrets can include a night club incident, a racial slur or taunt, a transfer payment made under the table, drugs or just a good, drugs old-fashioned sex scandal (and there are multiple options for this category, including getting caught in bed with a teammates’ wife, the owner’s wife, a teammate or a horse).
Let’s Make A Deal (MLS version)
Match wits with MLS coaches and sporting directors, present and past, in this popular game. How many trades and how quickly can you make and transform your club into MLS title contenders? But be forewarned: there are so many pitfalls along the way. You certainly want to avoid getting an “injured for the rest of the season” card after trading for a star. But you will be praying for a “special dispensation card” from the league to help your salary cap woes.
The irascible coach (that’s former MetroStars and U.S. national coach Bora Milutinovic for the uninformed) with the overstuffed passport comes to your country looking for a coaching job with a number of potential suitors. Will it be for a national or club position? In the American version of this game, Bora could be traveling to Chicago to meet with U.S. Soccer officials or with the Chicago Fire. Or perhaps he is just visiting and will go to Soldier Field to watch the Chicago Bears take on all comers.
Minnows of the World Cup
Can you lead a small country into soccer’s promised land? You have your choice of a tiny island in the Caribbean, a newly found nation in Africa, just about any Oceania side or a small European country such as Andorra or Luxembourg. If you’re fortunate enough, perhaps you will be able to play at altitude and manage a rare home win or a tie against a favored side. If you lose too many games by wide margins, you could be fired midway through the game. If you’re fortunate, perhaps you will draw a special secret “penalty kick card,” which can use used at an important juncture of a close and vital match. It will take all of your wits and guile to get your country through. And if you don’t, you will be fired immediately from your job.
Match your wits with the U.S. national team coach as he tries to get through the mine field that is called CONCACAF in one piece. Along the way, you will have to put up with horrible pitches, water-drenched fields (sometimes on purpose), cockroach-infested hotels and locker rooms with only cold showers, phone calls to players in the middle of the night and radio stations who set up shop with huge loud speakers at your hotel. At the game, you will hear more curses about you, your country and your mother than you can shake a stick at, plus the usual bags of urine, batteries and coins thrown at you during the nation anthem or walking out to the field prior to the match. There can be many surprises in this game. You can advance if you receive a special “$40,000 in unmarked bills card” which you can use to bribe officials” or have the “automatic red card and two-game suspension card” utilized by an opponent against you for a mysterious hand ball late in a crucial match. The survivor — err, winner — gets a berth in the World Cup. The loser is immediately fired as coach.