What your current division tells about your skill level


It is a common understanding that a division 1 player should be able to win against a division 5 player most of the time. After all, this would correspond to Chelsea playing Bromley. Following the same line of reasoning, a match between two division 4 players ought to be more equal than a match between a division 1 and a division 6 player. However, that’s not quite how FIFA works. In this article, we look into the FUT Seasons’ divisional system and explain why your current division perhaps doesn’t tell that much about how good you are.

Relegation and promotion

A key concept to grasp in relation to FUT is it’s relegation and promotion system. Real football clubs typically spend their entire lives in and around one specific division. FUT players aren’t quite as steady going.

In fact, an average FUT player starting out in division 10 will get relegated or promoted around 21 times if he plays 40 seasons.

The chart below illustrates this by a couple of examples, where we have plotted the current division for each season for two average players throughout a career of 40 seasons.

Promotions and relegations during 40 seasons
Promotions and relegations during 40 seasons

What you should note here are mainly two things:

  • Despite having the exact same win / draw / loss ratio, the two players are only momentarily in the same division
  • Despite maintaining the same chance of winning and drawing, the players fluctuate up and down across numerous divisions.

The reason why it works like this is that your fate in FUT seasons to a large extent relies on whether you are lucky enough to get matched up against the necessary number of inferior opponents. Obviously, some players need more luck than others. The amount of luck needed can be expressed in two numbers: Your win rate and your draw rate. The win rate expresses the percentage of your matches where you will get 3 points. The draw rate expresses the percentage of your matches where you get 1 point.

If you for example start out in division 5, you need minimum 10 points to stay and minimum 16 points to get promoted. If your win rate is 40 % and your draw rate is 16 %, we would expect you to get a total of 13.6 points per season on average, but since this only is an average, the actual number of points in a specific season will vary.

Due to that a season lasts no more than 10 matches, the difference between staying, getting promoted and getting relegated is very small in terms of how much additional bad luck it takes to turn things upside down. There is definitely a chance of winning the extra match, which will grant you promotion. But he same unfortunately goes for the chance of losing two extra matches, which will lead to relegation.

If we look at 100 players with a win rate of 40 % and a draw rate of 16 %, some will stay, some will get promoted and some will get relegated. And this is exactly why the two players – red and blue – are up to 4 divisions apart despite having the exact same skills and hence win / draw ratios.

A look at the actual FIFA population

We have seen that players with similar skills don’t end up in the same division, but to what extent does that apply to the entire population if FIFA players? The reason why this is an interesting question is that it will tell us something about to what extent a player’s current divisions in fact does tell something about his level of capability. If certain divisions are for the chosen few, then being in that divisions means that you are among the chosen few, but if all divisions are for everyone, then current division becomes completely irrelevant when trying to assess the capability level of a player.

During the year, we have collected statistics for 3200 real FIFA players via the Web App’s game data section. This implies that we know the win / draw / loss ratio, number of completed seasons and the best complete division for all those players, but we don’t know their current division.

So, what we decided to do was to simulate the full career for every single one of the 3200 player. We ran the simulation using their actual win / draw / loss ratios  as probabilities used to decide the outcome of each match. We used their number of completed seasons to determine the number of seasons completed. We then plotted each of the players in a chart, using as X-coordinate their W / L fractile (the percentage of players they are better than), which is a measure of skill, and as Y-coordinate their simulated, current division.

Actual distribution of skill across divisions
Simulated distribution of skill across divisions

What does this chart show?

Briefly put, this kills the expectation that FIFA’s divisional system divides people in divisions according to skill.

In a real life divisional system, we expect the 20 best teams to be in the top division, teams from 21-40 are in division 2 and so on. In FUT, it’s a completely different situation: Aside from divisions 8, 9 and 10, all divisions overlap significantly. In particularly, the big group of average players (around 2/3 of the population have win ratios between 35 and 45 %) are spread across roughly all divisions.

FUT's not so divided divisions
FUT’s not so divided divisions

Some good news and some bad news

We start with the bad news: The fact that you reside in division 1 doesn’t prove that you are among the 10 % as you might have hoped for, but rather that you are among the 85 % best players.

The good news on the other hand is that the fact that you perhaps on a later day may get relegated to division 7 doesn’t prove that you are among the 40 % worst players in the game. Although the 25 % worst players are the most frequent in division 7, players from all parts of the range risk going there.

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