How the opponent’s squad value influences your chances of winning


Spence Purnell shares his views on how heavily the squad value of the opponent influences your chances of winning the match.

I’ve been playing FIFA UT for over 2 1/2 years, mostly in seasons.  During that time, I’ve read every and anything I can about the “Scripting” issue and people’s frustration in feeling like EA controls their online gaming destiny – and for full disclosure I have been on both sides of the debate.  At one point I was certain scripting was real; however, we have enough evidence to prove that it probably isn’t a factor.  We know that streaks can occur due to random chance (in large part thanks to the efforts of this blog) but I suspected that the occasional “uphill” feeling that people sometimes get might have another factor at play as well:

Team Transfer Market Value.

According to my small sample, which I admit is not representative of everyone’s experience, but is a sufficient sample of my own experience, FIFA UT matches you against substantially more expensive squads.  Let’s explore.

The experiment

Here is my experiment – I’ve played roughly 600 games on FIFA UT Seasons 17, and I decided to take a sample of 33 games (33/700 =  roughly 5% of my matches) from my playing record.  For each game, I recorded:

  • Win, Loss, or Draw
  • My Squad transfer market value according to FUTBIN lowest current bin
  • Opposition Squad transfer market value according to FUTBIN lowest current bin

In the sample, I was left with a record of 10- 7- 16. What’s more, the average opposition squad was worth 4 x more than my squad on average. (~100K).

For reference, that average difference of 300K basically means the opposition has a player in this range and you don’t.  Or you could imagine it spread out over the squad, it doesn’t really matter. Either way, it’s an incredibly substantial difference.

I lost more against more expensive squads

Look at the following chart which shows the average squad value differential in correlation with losses, draws, and wins.

You know that on average I was giving up 300k coins, but that number jumped to 500k when I lost.  You can see that the coin value differential gets smaller as you move towards draws and wins.  In other words – When I played squads that were heaps more expensive than mine, I lost more often than not.  When I played squads closer to the value of my own, I won or drew more often than not, which makes total sense.

Squad rating is a strong determinant

Elo matches you against a similar skill level, but does it consider squad value?  We don’t know. However, this data show how powerful an effect squad value has in determining your FIFA destiny.  It is simply much more difficult to win against more expensive teams even if they are the same star rating as you.  To demonstrate:

Assuming ELO has matched 2 opponents (player 1 and player 2) of similar skill, a simple squad building exercise can show how player 1 with team x and player 2 team y  could be seen as equals in the eyes of the ELO machine, but dramatically different in their actual transfer market value.   Both are 5 star squads and only 2 overall rating points difference.  With the major difference being:

  • Team X Market Value: $89,000
  • Team Y Market Value: $2,800,000
    • Team Y Market Value Advantage = $2,700,000

That is an incredibly substantial gap in terms of the quality of the cards on the field.  It’s not a difficult theoretical leap to argue that the more quality team has a distinct upper hand, player skill held equal.  Despite the fact that these players are similar in skill and star rating, as my data show, that market value advantage is important in determining who has the upper hand in that match.

As this blog has discussed, It makes theoretical sense to argue that players of equal skill all share a 40% chance of losing their matches in the long run for natural reasons.  However, if players are being matched on skill but not on squad transfer market value, those players with the expensive squads have an advantage going into most matches.  To the contrary, players with less expensive squads have a higher chance of facing an opponent with a more expensive squad, regardless of their skill level – thereby increasing your chances of a loss, perhaps above 40%.

So, if you are consistently playing more expensive squads (like I am) even if ELO is matching on skill, it can feel like you are playing uphill.  For other players who feel like they have this experience, here is the only explanation I can come up with for why you would be playing more expensive squads more often than not.

EA is bad at enforcing illegal coin buying and filtering out unrealistically good squads.  The total number of $400k+ squads in the matchmaking universe due to coin buying and not true coin earnings increases your odds of playing one of these teams.  If this theory is true, EA has no choice but to match honest users against coin buyers a good amount of the time.

Statistically speaking, the coin buyers should have a normal skill distribution just like the total population.  Thus, ELO can’t match expensive squads against only expensive squads because the skill differences at the opposite ends of the skill distribution will be far apart.  So it naturally sends these expensive squads down to play against less expensive squads but closer to similar skill level.  But as my data show, that value advantage is a powerful predictor of who will win the match.  Thus, it might be an underlying cause for why people feel as though they are sometimes fighting an uphill battle.


In Conclusion and Possible Recommendations for EA:

To be clear, I am not arguing that FIFA has any in-game “scripting”  where player attributes are downgraded or upgraded during the game.  Nor am I arguing that ELO is ineffective in terms of matching players of similar skill across divisions.

What I’m saying is that even under those pretenses, squad value differentials could have a powerful effect in determining your W/L record by matching you against ridiculously more expensive teams.  EA should consider this fact in ELO matchmaking.

ELO was developed from the game of chess and it works for chess because the abilities of the pieces on the board never change.  Rooks can go straight and sideways, kings in any direction for one square, and so on.  These abilities are set.   It therefore is easier to match players based on skill levels and relative performance against competition.   Unfortunately FIFA is not the same.  Both player skill and the “pieces” on the board (cards) vary greatly.  My data in combination with other articles in this blog present an intuitive theory showing that both skill level and squad value matter in determining outcomes of matches.   If ELO matchmaking is not taking squad value into consideration, perhaps it should.

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