If you’ve played Football Manager 2023 beyond the second season, you’ll have seen the Champions League takes a very funny turn as it transforms into a somewhat confusing league format. The more cynical among you out there (me? definitely not) may hypothesise that this is the natural first step towards the European Super League (yes, it still has a website!) that Real Madrid and the so-called English “big six” and co wanted a couple of years ago.
So when I discovered that the heroic folks at UKFootballScore had created an impressive European Super League database that takes this concept a whole lot further, I decided this was the perfect opportunity for our next FM23 Experiment series.
What is the European Super League database?
The European Super League database rips up more or less every major league around the world as we know it and throws them all into one giant playable league format. The format of the new league structure in reverse order is as follows:
Pepsi Elevation League: A mammoth 45-team division in which team plays each other once. The league is predominantly South American teams with a sprinkling of teams across Europe. The top 12 sides are promoted to the Rest of the World Leagues and 13th to 44th go into a promotion playoff, which sounds mental. And the league is so big it doesn’t fit on one screenshot!
Coca-Cola Rest of the World Leagues: Six 18-team divisions split across Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Oceania and South America. The top 2 from each are promoted to the Next Level League and the bottom three are relegated. Teams in 3rd to 7th enter a promotion playoff and 12th to 15th go into a relegation playoff.
European Next Level Leagues: Four 16-team divisions start with all European teams, but presumably non-European sides can work their way up to this level. The top two from each division are promoted to the Super Leagues and the bottom two are relegated to the Rest of the World Leagues. Teams in 3rd to 7th enter a promotion playoff and 12th to 15th go into a relegation playoff.
European Super Leagues: The top tier of this database is formed of four 16-team divisions. The top 5 teams from each league go into the Champions Playoff, which looks like a traditional knockout format. Two teams from each league are relegated to the Next Level and 11th to 14th go into a relegation playoff.
Possibly the most intriguing element of this database is the massive money available. At every tier of the database, the teams that secure promotion or finish in the top five earn £100m in prize money. There’s also huge money available for winning matches, starting at £1.5m per win in the bottom tier and £5m per win at the top tier.
The database also makes it possible to manage teams that aren’t playable in regular FM23, including teams in non-playable African, Asian and South American leagues. That said, there are issues such as the database being based in England, which means that all of the international-based teams are now English clubs – so when you sign players, you need to send them all on courses to speak English, and all the scouting focuses are in England, which is weird but unavoidable.
Who to manage in the European Super League database?
There’s a multitude of intriguing options available to manage in this custom database, depending whether you want to start at the bottom and work your way up, start right at the top and go for glory, or somewhere in the middle.
Super League clubs to manage: Real Madrid are the obvious team to manage in ESL One, but Sporting and Lazio offer a more interesting challenge. You might want to avoid ESL Two as it contains Liverpool, Man UFC and Bayern. More favourable options could be Arsenal and Valencia in ESL Three, although it does include Man City. While Newcastle could be a fun option in ESL Four, which also includes Barcelona and PSG (and Aston Villa?).
Next Level clubs to manage: This tier offers a much nicer challenge, including some really tricky ones. For example, Red Star and AZ are in League One, Leeds, Crystal Palace and Rangers are in League Two, Union Berlin and Kobenhavn are in League Three and Sassuolo and Brighton are in League Four.
Rest of the World clubs to manage: If Africa floats your boat, then look to Kaizer Chiefs, Al-Ahly, Orlando Pirates or Zamalek, but there are so many intriguing options there. In Asia, Sydney FC jumps out as do FC Seoul and Kashima Antlers, but again there’s loads of options. In Europe, Fulham probably stands out as the best team along with Gent as an interesting challenge. In North America, Club América, LAFC and Pumas all stand out. Oceania is the weakest group and I’ll freely admit I’ve never heard of any of them, but managing a team called Ba sounds fun. South America has a wealth of options like Boca, Corinthians, Flamengo, Palmeiras, River Plate and Santos.
Elevation League clubs to manage: At the bottom of the pyramid, the clubs that stand out include América de Cali, Bochum, Salernitana, Toulouse and Vélez Sarsfield.
Who are we going to manage in the European Super League database?
I’m a sucker for a challenge so starting at the very top of the European Super League is not for me. Instead, we’re heading to the lowest playable tier Pepsi Elevation League. Because we’re starting this FM Experiment with Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield.
This is a club with a reputation for producing great young talent and has won 10 Argentinian titles. But that’s now irrelevant as we look to lead Vélez to Super League glory! The club is not in a great place financially but does have a half-decent team compared to the other teams in the bottom tier. So the key is to earn promotion and earn the financial rewards that accompany it.
The best two players at Vélez are centre-backs Lautaro Gianetti (who’s out for 8 months!) and a familiar name in 36-year-old Diego Godín. But most of the squad are 3-star players, which is considered “good” for this standard of football, and there’s plenty of young talent to work with, including 7 youngsters with 5-star potential led by midfielders Mateo Seoane and Julián Fernández. But we added another one as 16-year-old Endrick was available for loan so we snapped him up!
The 44-game Elevation League kicks off in early August and runs through to early May. We are fancied to finish seventh and are15/1 to win the league, with Botafogo, Mallorca, Salernitana, Empoli, Fortaleza and Ceará the bookies’ main favourites. While Goztepe are massive 10000/1 outsiders!
The first-ever Elevation League kicked off with a trip from Portuguese side Marítimo and we drew 1-1 and did so again in our first away game at Estudiantes, with Endrick scoring on his debut. But the games came thick and fast and a first win came with a 3-2 victory over Slovan Bratislava with Endrick scoring again and the 16-year-old made it 5 in 5 as we drew 2-2 at St Pauli, beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0 and suffered a first loss 3-1 at Bochum.
That solid start continued with wins over Olimpia, Cali and Independiente as we faced a run of games against fellow South American teams. That lifted us up into the top 12 automatic promotion places, but 5 points separated 7th from 22nd after 11 games! Endrick continued to bang the goals in with braces in a defeat at Alianza Lima then a 3-0 win at Nacional, which took him to 12 goals in 11 games.
International call-ups saw us drop behind teams in terms of games played, but a 1-0 victory over title favourites Botafogo lifted us into the top 12 after 15 games. And, at this point, 16-year-old Endrick is the top scorer in the league with 13 goals!
We’ll leave this first part of the European Super League FM Experiment there, but join us next Wednesday as we discover whether we can lead Vélez into one of the promotion places. We’ll also explore how those crazy-looking playoffs work and how the rest of the leagues play out / if and how they work!