We spend the vast majority of our time here on Black and Red United talking about professional soccer--primarily D.C. United, but also the Washington Spirit, the Richmond Kickers, and the US National Teams. But, being a soccer fan influences other lifestyle aspects--getting some good soccer gear, taking soccer-inspired road trips and vacations, visiting a great soccer pub, or finding an awesome new soccer-themed diversion/game (I'm talking about the kind of game you can buy at a game store, not the kind you pay to see at RFK Stadium).
So if you want to kill a Saturday afternoon while awaiting a big televised match later that evening, here is my countdown of the Top 5 soccer-inspired games to enjoy during your free time.
5. MLS Fantasy Soccer Manager. Fantasy soccer has been surging in the last few years. This year, MLS made some real improvements to their fantasy interface (we could still use a smartphone app, however!). You get to pick your team, set your lineup, manage against a $100M salary cap (which is a much more impressive number than the real MLS salary cap), and compete in various leagues for prizes (we even have a B&RU league, and a dedicated fantasy writer right here on the site). As is true with most fantasy leagues, a big part of the fun is in selecting your team up front and trying to fit all the players you want within the salary cap. My one complaint with MLS's fantasy soccer system is that it's a season-long competition. So, if you are just getting into MLS right now and want to join the league, you certainly can, but you won't be competitive to win anything in your league. Perhaps MLS Fantasy Soccer should split the fantasy league in two with a competition for the first half of the MLS season and a separate competition for the second half.
4. Football Manager 2013. If you are a true aficionado of all things soccer and would love nothing more than to buy and run your own soccer club, this is the game for you. A very comprehensive and complex soccer simulation, FM 2013 let's you take control of the front office of any team from almost any soccer league in the world (including MLS). Designed for your PC or Mac, you can choose to be responsible for as much or as little of the front office and managing responsibilities as you like. We've even used FM's built-in player ratings right here on B&RU as our first scouting reports on new talent coming from overseas due to the massive size and quality of their player database. Lastly, there are even reports out of Azerbaijan of a twenty-something year old who received a job managing a professional soccer team's reserve side due to his prowess on Football Manager. So, if you want to step inside the world of running a major world soccer club, this is the game for you (in all its depth and glory).
3. Foosball. This may be the granddaddy of all the soccer-themed games. I don't see as many foosball tables out and about as I used to, and perhaps that's directly attributable to the general decline of arcades as home gaming has become so realistic over the years. But, back in the days before Xbox and PlayStation (heck, in the days before Atari and Nintendo), there was nothing better at soccer camp than a foosball table to pass the free time while arguing about whether spinning the handles was allowed (IT'S DEFINITELY NOT! - see rule 13). To this day, I always enjoy playing foosball, and when I see a really skilled player (who actually knows how to pass and shoot), it's a sight to behold. And you can buy a decent table for a few hundred dollars to have one at home, or you can pay upwards of $2k for a tournament-quality table.
2. EA Sports FIFA 13. I know many of you will disagree with FIFA 13 only placing at #2 on my list. Believe me, it's strictly a generational thing. If you are from Gen Y (aka a Millennial), there is little doubt you will have FIFA 13 at #1 on your list, and I can't argue with that. It is certainly the 800lbs gorilla among soccer-themed games, likely dwarfing all other games in revenue produced, units sold, and active players. It is also highly regarded and critically acclaimed when compared to console games for other sports. My teenage son is among those who claim that the broad success of FIFA 13 is a significant factor in soccer's growing popularity in this country. While EA's FIFA series started out as a basic arcade game (just a much, much better version of the original Atari soccer game), it has morphed and grown over the years adding depth that includes many other facets of owning and running a soccer club. While its complexity does not yet equal Football Manager 2013, FIFA 13 has much to offer the aspiring manager. You can now be almost any major club or national team in the world, using the actual players from those teams. Game play includes individual on-line games against other players from around the world, entire seasons against your friends, and even building your own club from the lower divisions into Premier League winners. And the game visuals are so realistic that if you walk into a room where FIFA 13 is being played and quickly glance at the TV, you may be fooled into thinking a real soccer match is showing. If you aren't already a FIFA 13 player, go get it now (there's a version for almost any platform imaginable). Then hide your wallet, because it has a way of slowly siphoning money from you for a very long time, both from in-game purchases and for the next annual version that will surely come out in a few months!
1. Subbuteo/Table Football. If you are a Gen Xer like me and played in youth soccer tournaments in the early 1980s, there's a good chance you were introduced to Subbuteo through advertising they placed in many tournament programs. I think I was first exposed at a regional youth tournament in Dallas, TX, in 1981. Through the magic of mail order (yes, the 1980s were a simpler decade), we were able to buy Subbuteo, a soccer-themed game that is played on a table with each team having eleven free-moving figures that are "flicked" by each human player in a simulated game of soccer (note that Subbuteo is a specific brand name, but there are other companies that make "table football" games as well--ala Kleenex vs. tissue paper). Subbuteo is really quite ingenious, and its roots go back to the 1940s in England. If you want a great game that's a terrific conversation piece for your man-cave and is customizable for a price (you can get almost any team you want, including D.C. United), Subbuteo is for you. And, there's even a dealer here in the DMV. I have no ties to TabbleSoccerUSA and have never met any of their staff, but I've been a happy customer in the past (they even have videos that will show you how to play). So, if you want to turn off the video game system and enjoy a soccer-themed game, give Subbuteo a flick.
What are your favorite soccer-themed diversions/games? What should we add to this list, and what should come off?