Managing a lower league team in FIFA 18 is never easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding paths you can take in career mode. Bringing a team up from low-ranking minnows to world champions is the ultimate achievement in FIFA 18, one requiring grit, guile and determination.
Lower League Management 101 is my comprehensive guide to making it as a lower league manager in FIFA 18. I’ll take you through every step on the journey, from picking the right team and scouting great prospects to making shrewd transfers and what to focus on along the way. By the end of it, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to be a successful manager at lower levels.
In part 1, I’ll show you exactly what you need to consider when picking a team. Is it more important to have a good budget or lots of high potential players? And what nation should you start in? I’ll answer these questions and more in this article.
So let’s get stated on the first step of your journey and find out how to pick the right team to guarantee future glory in FIFA 18.
Choosing a nation to start in
Picking which nation to start in is vitally important, as it will influence how long it’ll take you to get to the top, your budget, the calibre of your players and the quality of opposition you’re likely to come up against.
Broadly speaking, there are two main options when choosing a starting nation. You can pick a country whose teams are relatively mediocre overall, try to assert your dominance and become a big fish in a small pond. Alternatively, you can pick a nation with a strong footballing history and at least two divisions for you to battle your way through, thus becoming a big fish in a big pond.
In my opinion, it’s the latter of these two options that offers the best prospects for a lower league management career. While you could start in, say, Sweden as a poor team and try to rise to the top, the fact that it only has one division means you’ll probably get bored relatively quickly.
That’s why I find England to be one of the best nations to start your career in. Its league structure comprises of four divisions, giving you ample opportunity for a long and hard-fought career mode as you battle all the way from League 2 to the top of the Premier League. As well as that, starting right at the bottom means you should be facing opposition who are more less your equals; start in Spain’s lowest division (the second tier), for example, and you’ll play a big mix of opposition, and could really struggle.
Another benefit of England’s league structure is that, because it takes so long to get to the top, you have plenty of time to develop your squad, grow your youngsters and build up your budget. Start anywhere else and you could find yourself promoted to the top division before you and your team are ready. A season spent playing teams with superior players and budgets is a surefire way to get quickly relegated.
You can still pick a country with two divisions to start in if you want to. This is a good choice if you prefer to start with a better budget and higher-quality players than you would get from starting in League 2. It’s also a good choice if you’re not looking for a lengthy career mode, or if you don’t mind changing to a different team after a few seasons.
But for a long-lasting, challenging lower league career, you can’t beat League 2. So let’s take a look at the best ways to home in on the right team for you.
Budget and player potentials
Unless you have a clear choice (such as your local or favourite team), it’s best to spend a bit of time working out which team to manage.
A key consideration needs to be the budget. Getting this right is vital to ensuring you end up with a team that is neither too easy nor too frustrating.
You don’t really want to pick a team that’s too wealthy compared to its division rivals, otherwise you’ll probably find things too easy. As well as being straightforward to buy high-quality players who far outclass the other players in the division, you may end up getting promoted before you’ve amassed the funds to compete with teams in the division above; you may be wealthy in League 2, but could be quickly outspent in League 1.
At the same time, you probably don’t want to pick the poorest team in the division, as you’ll really struggle to make any meaningful improvements. While I’m sure there are some players who enjoy the punishment of starting a career this way, it makes it extremely difficult to rise up the divisions before FIFA 18’s 15-season career mode comes to an end.
So as you scroll through the teams in the division you’ve picked, make a note of each team’s budget, then pick a handful of teams whose budgets sit somewhere in the middle of the pack. This will become your team shortlist.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to take a look at player potentials. Head over to SoFIFA.com in a web browser and enter the name of one of the teams from your shortlist into the Teams box on the left-hand side, then click Search. Once the page has loaded, sort the players by potential. Open a new tab and repeat this for the next team on your shortlist, and so on until you’ve loaded each side you’re thinking about managing.
This allows you to directly compare the teams on your shortlist in terms of how promising their players are. In this case, it’s good to pick a team with plenty of promising players. Starting at the bottom means you’ll have a restrictive budget, and probably can’t afford to completely overhaul the team if it doesn’t already have a decent number of high potential players.
Another thing you’ll have to think about is whether the teams in your shortlist have any positional weaknesses. Are they severely lacking high potential strikers? Is the starting OVR of their goalkeepers woefully low? This is one area where the importance of picking a team with a decent budget comes into play – you need to make sure you can afford to patch up any glaring weaknesses in the squad, both in terms of current OVR and future potential.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for players that have been loaned in. You may think you have plenty of options at centre back, for example, only for half of them to disappear at the end of the season and return to their parent clubs.
Finally, watch out for the board expectations of any team you’re thinking of managing. A demanding board will make things difficult for you, and how much you end up challenging yourself will depend a lot on what the board expects from you.
I’ve created a basic spreadsheet that I use when picking teams for my Good Teams for Career Mode series. Fill in the info on player potentials from SoFIFA, as well as budget and board expectation info from FIFA 18. That way, the spreadsheet can help you compare teams and pick the best one for your career. You can download it here if you want to use it.
A good team to manage in FIFA 18: Luton Town
Let’s take a look at an example of a good lower league team to manage: Luton Town.
One reason is that their budget of £1,132,456 stands more or less in the middle of the League 2 average. They’re way off the top spenders in the division, but still have enough to bring in some good players or invest in their youth facilities.
They have a good number of high potential players, including one player with 80 potential (rare in League 2, although he is only loaned in). They stand ninth out of 24 teams in the division in terms of the number of high potential players they possess, so are able to mount a good challenge without having everything going their way.
As well as that, there aren’t too many obvious weaknesses in their squad, but there are a couple of positions that could be improved. That gives you leeway to make the changes you want to without getting overwhelmed by the number of improvements that are required.
Finally, the board expectations are reasonable, with no critical objectives urgently competing for your attention. In fact, most of the expectations are either low or very low, so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to fulfil what the board wants from you.
That balance of good budget, high potential players, well-rounded squad and achievable board objectives makes them an excellent pick for a lower league manager career in FIFA 18.
What about you?
That wraps up part 1 of my Lower League Management 101 guide. Next I’ll be looking at the importance of scouting, then moving on to transfers and all the things you have to think about as you rise through the divisions. If there’s anything else you want me to cover, just let me know in the comments.
What criteria do you use when picking a team to manage in FIFA 18? Is there anything that you consider absolutely essential? Or any teams that you always pick? Make sure you share your thoughts in the comments below!
And last but not least, don’t forget to download my spreadsheet to help you pick a team for your career mode. I’ve entered one team in the sheet to show you how to use it. Download it below:Download my spreadsheet