FIFA Pro Clubs: ACL Week 1 Preview

The 12th season of the American Club League’s 1st Division is just hours away. Last minute preparations are being made, managers are setting up their lineup cards as we speak, and players are charging their controllers.

Defending champions Viva Futbol were ferocious in their quest to add another title to their trophy case. Finishing 7 points above 2nd place finishers FC Dragonz, they would go on to win the league finals against Dragonz, on aggregate score 7-0 (5-0 and 2-0). Free agent signing Viva Calvo combined with Draxler x10 in a partnership that gave Viva Futbol 45 goals across 40 games helping their team to the championship.

So many questions that need to be answered, and so many more questions that will emerge over this 34 game season. Can Viva Futbol continue their dominance on FIFA 16? Will FC Serenity’s alliance of top players hold together long enough to grab them a 3rd title? Can a revamped Empire Football, formerly FC Dragonz roster make it back to the mountaintop? Which one of our newly promoted teams will make a splash in the league? All of these will be answered in seven weeks.

 

ACL-Featured-Matchup

FC Phoenix (Home) v. Empire Football (Away) – Two of last season’s Semifinalists clash in the 1st game of the season. This is the first of several challenging games for both teams this week. A win for either side could set them on a course for success, or put them in a hole that may be difficult to climb out of.

FC Phoenix won the Division 1 Preseason Tournament, besting rebranded Eclipse CF in the Finals with a score of 2-0. Their successes over the last couple months make them a strong favorite to repeat in the top 4, and make a challenge for the title. Midget l 23 of Phoenix produced 9 goals and turned in 3 assists over 8 games. His gameplay will be crucial in the upcoming week, and for the rest of the season as well.

A finalist from ACL XI, Empire Football returns to attempt to join the elite core of teams at the top of the league. Their quest to bring home a title will depend largely on their attacking duo of Cheeks McFly and Viva Reyes. Viva Reyes, the returning Golden Boot winner will need to continue his goal contributions if his team is to return to the finals. Their defense, and goalkeeper situation raise questions long term for them, as producing a consistent string of clean sheets is always crucial in doing well over the long season.

FC Serenity (Home) v. Eclipse CF (Away) – Two sides that had some serious makeovers faceoff in a Wednesday night clash. FC Serenity will be looking to get back to a final and earn another title for Managers LickMyBalotelli and Gordon23 x. This is a game that has a lot of intrigue to it, and could be a real spectacular affair.

The union of LickMyBalotelli and streets1014 produced a title under FC Serenity the last time these two formed a partnership, and that history surely bodes well for them here. This team has superstars up and down the roster, it also has acquired several big name free agents that will allow this team to compete against the defending champions, and the rest of the league’s best.

The squad FP United has been rebranded, and emerged as Eclipse CF under the management team of Alexandre l 7 l, l Marvinho l, and Air Japes. The side finished 2nd in the Preseason Tournament and are strong favorites to finish in the top 5 of the league. Only time will tell us if a joining of the core of FP United with the arrival of strong free agents will produce a winning formula for this side.

Empire Football (Home) v. Viva Futbol (Away) – The FIFA gods drop a gift into our laps in Week 1, as we are given a Wednesday night clash between the two finalists for ACL XI. Empire Football continues their tough week of matches here, and will hope to have some Tuesday night momentum as they roll into midweek.

Empire Football were positively obliterated in the ACL XI finals. That is the only way to put it. Seven goals scored over two games with no answers, left us with no doubt that Viva Futbol were the best team that season. Several departing free agents have left Dragonz with some questions in the back as their entire starting group of centerbacks departed for other squads. A real test for them in this game against a strong overall side. Their ability to do well here is paramount to the rest of their season, win or lose.

Viva Futbol quietly has a difficult week ahead of them, with 3 teams who are gunning for top 4 glory all piled in on different nights of the week. This team has kept its core group of players together for a long time and across several generations of Xbox. The chemistry between their midfield starters is unquestioned, their abilities even more so. Empire Football is one of the first roadblocks in their way, and a strong showing could send ripples across the league about what this season will be like facing Viva on the pitch.

American Outlaws (Home) v. FC Phoenix (Away) – A strong game between a perennial Top 8 finisher, and a young emerging side ready to continue their rise up the ladder of FIFA history. One team wondering if this will be the year they finally find the right mix, the other looking to show that ACL XI was just the start.

American Outlaws has been in this league a long time, they have seen many changes in management, many players come and go, and even a rebranding at one point. This year is the year I question their abilities to reclaim a playoff spot. They failed to make it past the Quarterfinal Round last year against FC Serenity, and they had a stronger roster then they do now. A reshuffling of starters up and down the pitch puts so many questions in the air about this team, and this is their first true test of the year.

FC Phoenix continues a run against ACL XI playoff teams in this Thursday night showdown. Their Week 1 schedule is biting, but my belief in their ability to come through with double digit points after Thursday night is strong. They are the clear favorites in this matchup, and all the pressure to do well is on the other team. A roster that is hungry to challenge the best is hoping they can turn a band of Outlaws into a box of kittens.

FC Phoenix (Home) v. Viva Futbol (Away) – If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. The classic euphemism will be on display Thursday night, as FC Phoenix battle defending champions Viva Futbol to close out the week for both teams. Both teams finish somewhat difficult weeks with one of the best possible matchups you could ask for to kick off the season.

FC Phoenix will need to walk the walk against Viva Futbol here. All hands on deck will be required in this one, as they look to establish themselves following their successful preseason. Look to see if their midfield can hang with the elite group of Viva’s. Possession in the middle third will be key, as will taking the few opportunities Viva gives them into the back of the net for goals. Midget l 23, and iFarrell are the most important players in this one for Phoenix.

Viva Futbol ends their opening week with a tough. Looking to grab back-to-back titles, they will need to a strong set of results in Week 1. While an undefeated week seems doable, Phoenix are likely the strongest test for VF in earning that honor. If Viva is capable of penetrating the midfield of Phoenix, they likely will be able to run roughshod over this team and overwhelm the defense with their scoring opportunities. Viva Calvo’s ability to poach goals will be crucial here to achieve 3 points for his side.

 

Games-of-the-Week

Empire Football (Home) v. Viva Futbol (Away) – Even with the departure of key free agents from Empire Football, this is still a matchup worth watching. Both teams should find themselves in the Top 5 of the standings by the end of Game 34, and FC Dragonz will be hungry for revenge. Whether a Dragonz win is a fluke or not will be debated for much of the year, but I do not think we will have that problem. I foresee a dominating performance by Viva Futbol, and I am not sure what will be left to play for come halftime in this game. Prediction: 3-0, Viva Futbol

FC Phoenix (Home) v. Viva Futbol (Away) – Phoenix is one of my dark horse favorites to make it to the finals should either Viva Futbol or FC Serenity falter on the way. Establishing a strong foundation of games to build on is paramount to that goal, and a win for Phoenix at 10:45pm ET on Thursday night will be a capstone for their difficult week. Viva Futbol could be entering this game with a perfect 6-0 week on the line here. This one seems super close, and could require some FIFA magic for either team to win it. Prediction: 2-1, Viva Futbol

 

Preseason Power Rankings

  1. Viva Futbol – Defending champions. Viva Futbol appears ready to dominant FIFA 16, a second 2nd on the game may provide them with another set of back-to-back titles. They are the team to beat. The bar is set with them.
  2. FC Serenity – A ferocious free agent recruiting drive, led to FC Serenity having the looks of a super team about them. Their ability to gel will be the most important factor in deciding if they remain the likely contenders to meet Viva in a championship final or not.
  3. FC Phoenix – A preseason title was not enough for me to warrant Phoenix in a Top 2 slot. It was good enough to earn them 3rd in my first rankings of the season. A spot in the finals should be the minimum goal for this team, and as I have said prior to this, they are one of my two dark horse picks to play in the ACL XII finals.
  4. Eclipse CF – My second dark horse pick is Eclipse CF. They have talent across the board, like FC Serenity their ability to gel new free agents with an old core is going to be a deciding factor in this team’s place in the table. They have the looks of a championship caliber team, but looks never decide finishes. A preseason finals appearance helped secure their Top 4 spot in my rankings for the week.
  5. Empire Football – A freefall from where they finished ACL XI. As I have mentioned multiple times, their defense was hard hit by free agency and questions will need to be answer. This team reminds me of FIFA Harmony from ACL X. All the makings of a great team on offense and a group of big name players with a track record of success. But a big concern when it comes to their ability to keep clean sheets.

 

A Brief Aside

An interesting bit of information regarding past preseason tournament winners. Of the past 6 tournament winners from ACL VIII to ACL XI, only one – FC Serenity in ACL X – has gone on to win an ACL title that same year. Only two winners – FC Serenity in ACL X, and Fc FiFa HoLiCz in ACL VIII finished 4th – made it into the semifinals. Of the past 6 winners – American Outlaws and Viva Futbol in ACL IX, FIFA Harmony in ACL X, and Fc FiFa HoLiCz in ACL XI – 4 have been knocked out in the Quarterfinals. The average finish for a preseason winner is 5th.

FC Phoenix made it into the Semifinals of ACL XI, and their performances to date would indicate they are capable of replicating that performance at the minimum, and very likely improving upon it. There are 34 regular season games, and 6 post season games if a team wants to win it all. Can Phoenix become only the second team to go start to finish as the best team in the league? We will know in seven weeks.

 

The season is right around the corner. ACL XII has seen some of the greatest preseason upheaval of any season prior to it. This creates a lot of unknowns and uncertainties. Hopefully I have given you some insight or at least some things to consider as Week 1 of this season unfolds.