The Master League has always been an iconic and integral part of Pro Evolution Soccer and we, as many others, have over the years poured in many hours into this addictive mode. Although not a lot of changes have been made to the mode in the last years, it's still one of the most popular modes in the game. This year, in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, we get a couple of small improvements to the classic manager mode, with improved transfers and a more challenging experience.
To get the most out of the Master League we made a Beginner's Guide with the best tips to help get you started.
Setting up your team: Before diving into formations, squads and training, the first thing you have to do is to decide how you are going to play in this mode. Master League isn't one where you just play one or two times, it's a mode you play for weeks, months or even longer. With that in mind, it's good to know that Konami added the option to choose between a Classic or Challenge mode for Master League.
The first is as we've always known, the later adds more obstacles. Players will be tougher to deal with and contracts harder to negotiate. Poor results or trouble with your team can lead to players leaving for other clubs or even getting the sack. The Classic gives you an easier start, but after just a few years as a manager it can get overly easy, with no competition at all from other teams. Pick the Challenge mode.
Next up is another important decision which lets you use the current squad of a club or start out with the classic Master League players. Again, if you're looking for an easy start and just want to enjoy a season or two with your favourite club and star players pick this one. If, however, you're looking for a longer and more satisfying experience pick the second option. This will set you up with a squad that consists of players with players rating between 55 and 70.
That's fine, for now. If you're playing at a higher difficulty level it can, however, be very hard to get a foothold if you jump straight into a top-tier competition, like the Premier League. Instead choose one of the lower division leagues, like the Championship. With the Master League players this will be a challenge by itself. Also if you haven't yet updated your squads, do that first, because once you start you will not be able to change the user database.
Building your squad: Once you're set up, the first thing you have to do is pick your starting eleven. This basically means choosing your favourite formation and putting in the highest rated players for every position. To do this fast you can use the auto line-up (Support Settings > Auto Lineup Select > No Preference), which is also recommended in other game modes, like playing online matches with a time limit when picking your formation. If you picked the Master League original players it's good to know that there is some talent in your squad. Players like L. Giorza, E. Castledine, Q. Arcas and T. Matthiessen are young talents who can develop quickly if you use them correctly.
You will end up with five reserve players, the five worst, which you can put on the transfer list. After this the first thing you want to do is look in your Youth Team for players that are better than the players sitting on the bench and sign them for the first team, this will also lead to some extra players that you can also put on the transfer list. It's also much cheaper to get talent from your own squad, instead of paying a transfer fee for players from other clubs.
The next thing you'll want to look at in your formation is Player Settings. Here you can select who will take the free kicks, corners and such. Selecting a Captain can be important, as players with the Captaincy skill (which can be viewed on the last tab when checking player stats) who are selected as the captain can reduce the effects of fatigue for the whole team.
Pick freekick takers logically: a defender or defensive midfielder for taking Long FK (so attackers can be reached) and midfielders or attackers taking the Short FK (letting a defender take this, will take him out of the defence and can be dangerous against counter-attacking teams). Choose smaller (in height and strength) players for taking the corner kicks, so the stronger and bigger players can be in front of the goal mouth.
You should also pick one (or two) of your big defenders as Players to Join Attack, by doing so you will assure the best headers of the ball are in the box during set pieces. Players with the Heading skill should always be picked for this, because their headers have better accuracy and the frequency of downward headers (which lead to difficult balls for the keeper to deal with) is also higher. Don't forget to save your formation settings (Data Management > Save) so you won't have to do all of this every match; of course, sometimes you need to change some settings if you put in differerent players.
Team Roles and Spirit: One important element in Master League is the Team Spirit of the whole squad. This number changes over time, but also by using different players and different roles. It's better to have higher Team Spirit than having the best-rated players on the field. There's even synergy by using players from the same nationality, which for example promotes having more English players in your team instead and adds some novelty to the experience. This is why it's import to have a squad of players and a bench. By playing with each other the Team Spirit slowly rises, better performances help with this, but also the individual Team Roles have to be taken into account here.
You can check all the different team roles and what they do in the Team Role List (My Team Info > Team Role List). This also shows every player in your squad with their role. If you are using the Master League original players, for example, L. Vrany's role is Team Player, which increases the overall Team Spirit if you put him in your squad. Other examples are Protégée E. Canning, which gives you more experience points during a match, and Risk Taker T. Matthiessen, which increases the Team Spirit if players are in good condition.
There's a lot of different Team Roles to explore and players can also develop these over time, and there are even some fun ones, like Bad Boy. This is why you should also check out the training options (Team Management > Training). Here you can, and should, select specific training programs for eacg player, which lets them develop a certain role or skill (> Skill Training). So be sure to check this all out when considering your line-up.
Expanding your squad: You're almost ready to get started by now, but maybe you still want to add some new players to bolster your squad. If you've already snatched up some cheap youngsters from your own team there are other ways to get some bargains, especially if you are playing with a big club and the current squads. Because some players aren't signed to any team yet, these are mostly players from the Bundesliga, as teams like Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen are missing.
Top players like Lewandowski and Robben are up for grabs, but also young talents like Renato Sanches and Julian Brandt can be picked up if you have a worthy team. You can find these players by using Advanced Search > Special Search > Others. It's important to do this during the first round of Master League, because other clubs will snatch them away otherwise.
Special Search is your friend in Master League, because it also lets you look up Free Agents. These are mostly older players without a (new) contract that can be picked up without a transfer fee and can be a good way to earn some cash. If you plan to stay at a club for a longer period sign these "free" players and sell them at the first chance you get. They usually do have higher-than-normal salary demands, but later in the game, it's a great way to make money.
If you're not planning to stay at a club for a long time - it usually takes one or two years depending on your results to get an offer from a good club - it's a good idea to sell expensive (salary-wise) players and get some loan players in instead. Yes, if you leave the club and the loan period ends, they will be stuck with a battered squad, but oh well. When signing players it's important to negotiate a couple of times. The new transfer system shows clearly how high the chances are of making a deal with the club and signing the player; so it's really easy to get the best deal if you have some patience.
Yes, have some patience and don't rush into Master League. It's a game mode made for the long haul and if you start off on the right foot (and by using our Beginner's Guide) it won't be long before you will enter the Champions League with a team full of talented fresh players that you have moulded with your own hands and can be proud of. Maybe you can even take up the role as coach of your national team, select one of the rising stars you've guided so far, and make your way into the history books. It's all here, yet again, in the Master League mode in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018.