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Fantasy Focus: Changes for 2016 and Team Building Help

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The 2016 MLS Fantasy season is nigh. Who should you pick? What are the changes for the new year?

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

MLS Fantasy is live, and it's time for you to pick your team and join leagues. Before we get into the good stuff, join the Black and Red United classic league (5664-1506), and also the head-to-head league (5664-1507).

Changes for 2016

The first thing you'll notice is that the total number of players for teams has decreased from 18 to 16. Last season, we got two goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders, and four forwards. This season, we lost one each of defenders and midfielders. We may have lost two players, but we maintained the $120M budget.

Once the season starts, we have just two transfers per round, excepting two rounds with unlimited transfers -- rounds 19 and 33. To help cushion the blow, we have two wild cards to play for unlimited transfers. One can be used between rounds 1 and 17, and the other can be used between rounds 18 and 34.

There are changes to scoring. Players who make 35 passes and complete 85% of them or more get one point, and players who make 70 passes and complete 85% of them get two points. Additionally, players will get a point for every four shots they take, and one point for every four fouls they receive. On defense, clearances, blocks, and interceptions (CBI) have been separated into their own individual categories, with players earning 1 point each for four clearances and four interceptions, and 2 points for four blocks.

Now let's get to the players. I have especially excluded rookies and other new players like Luciano Acosta (DCU, $9.0), Antonio Nocerino (ORL, $8.5), and Jelle Van Damme (LA, $8.5) because they're generally high priced and we don't know how they're going to do in MLS right away. It's a risk.

Goalkeepers

These are all of the goalkeepers that scored last last year organized by total points. The last three columns are Pp$ - points per million dollars, MpP - minutes per point, and RK - rank among all players in terms of MpP, with only the top 20 shown.

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What stands out to me is that D.C. United has two goalkeepers, Bill Hamid ($6.0) and Andrew Dykstra ($5.0), in the top 10 in terms of minutes per point.

Recommendations: With Hamid out to start the year, you'll have to cool your jets on him for a bit. With no goalkeeper costing more than $6.0, David Ousted (VAN, $6.0) is probably the best option. I also would not argue against David Bingham (SJ, $6.0), or Jesse Gonzalez (DAL, $6.0)

Sleeper: With Clint Irwin (TOR, $5.5) at a new club this season, it's possible that having better players in front of him will help both he and the team succeed. He produced points even on a bad Colorado team, so he could be in for a big fantasy year.

AVAs (All Value All-Stars): Dykstra is worth a look if he can duplicate the scoring pace from last year at his price, and Tim Melia (SKC, $5.5) is good value for the money.

Defenders

Here are the top 30 defenders organized by points scored last season. The top 20 rankings for MpP from here on out are for players who played 450 minutes or more:

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Recommendations: Matt Hedges (DAL, $9.0) is staring you in the face, and you shouldn't have hesitation in adding him. I also like Clarence Goodson (SJ, $7.5) and Gaston Sauro (CLB, $7.5), who would have popped up on this list had he played more minutes last year -- his MpP is better than Matt Besler's.

Sleeper: Not appearing on this list is Ike Opara (SKC, $7.0), who was injured much of last year. He played just 533 minutes, but he was the most productive defender in the league with just 11.59 minutes per point. Hedges is second ranked, but he was more than 5 minutes per point slower than Opara. The mitigating factor here is Opara's return from injury, and the possibility of coach Peter Vermes rotating center backs and resting Opara. Proceed with caution.

AVAs: Sal Zizzo (NYR, $6.5) ranked 16th in MpP, but only played 1039 minutes. Also, Hector Jimenez (CLB, $5.5) ranked 19th in MpP and could put up big numbers with extended action.

Midfielders

Here are the top scoring midfielders from last year

mlsfmid

Recommendations: Here's where the money starts to fly. Benny Feilhaber (SKC, $11.0) scored the second most points last year behind Sebastian Giovinco (TOR, $11.5), so he's a no-brainer. You can also rest easy with Pedro Morales (VAN, $10.5), who ranked third in MpP despite finishing just outside the top 30 in points. Lastly, Fabian Castillo (DAL, $10.5) is good to go.

Sleeper: Jose Villareal (LA, $6.5) was the sixth ranked player in MpP, but he only played 698 minutes. With the aging Galaxy midfield and the loss of Juninho, Villareal could be in for a big year if he gets playing time.

AVAs: Kwadwo Poku (NYC, $7.5) played just 997 minutes, but he scored a point every 12.16 minutes, leading all midfielders. If he's a regular starter under the new regime, he should be a regular starter for you. Also, Pedro Ribeiro (ORL $5.5) scored at a high rate, but needs more minutes to make him worth it.

Forwards

These are the top 30 scoring forwards from a year ago.

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Recommendations: Only Didier Drogba (MTL, $11.5) scored a point more frequently than Sebastian Giovinco. If there's a way to get them both in your team, you should do it. If you're not inclined to do that, Giovani Dos Santos (LA, $11.0) is a great alternative, as was 6th ranked in MpP with 59 points in 800 minutes.

Sleeper: Maximiliano Urruti (DAL, $8.5) will get chances in the attack with his new team. He was 15th ranked in MpP, but wasn't a regular 90-minute player for Portland.

AVAs: Quincy Amarikwa (SJ, $7.5) could put some numbers up with a full season in San Jose. Down the coast, don't forget about Mike Magee (LA, $7.0), who only played 367 minutes, but tallied 25 points.

Scoring Change Beneficiaries

With the new changes to scoring, I looked for players who would benefit from the changes that you might not consider for your teams otherwise. Here are a few.

Jamison Olave (RSL, $8.0) - Averaged over 7 clearances per game, which would be worth two bonus points if he exceeded that in any game.

Leonardo (LA, $7.5), Soni Mustivar (SKC, $7.5), Raul Rodriguez (HOU, $8.0) - Averaged more than 4 interceptions per game, which would be worth one bonus point.

Dax McCarty (NYR, $9.0) - McCarty is the only player who approached averaging 70 passes while completing 85%, with 71.2 passes per game and 84.5% completed. That would approach being worth 2 extra points per game.

Osvaldo Alonso (SEA, $8.5), Wil Trapp (CLB, $7.0), Darwin Ceren (ORL, $7.0) - These guys make 60 or more passes per game, and they complete 86.5% or more of them. They're good for a passing bonus point each game.

That's it. Good luck in picking your teams, and we'll see you in the B&RU leagues! Again, the classic league is 5664-1506, and the head-to-head league is 5664-1507.