This article is part of our Fantasy Soccer 101 series.
Fantasy soccer on DraftKings is unlike almost every other DFS site because of it's breadth of offerings. While their main contests are usually for the Premier League (England) and UEFA Champions League, they also offer contests that include matches from Major League Soccer (USA), Liga MX (Mexico), La Liga (Spain), Ligue 1 (France), Serie A (Italy), Eredivisie (Netherlands), EFL Championship (second division in England) and UEFA Europa League, not to mention international competitions like the FIFA World Cup (men's and women's), UEFA Nations League, Copa America, Gold Cup, European Championships, World Cup qualifiers, international friendlies and more. Granted, few people play everything available because of the vast amount of research that would require, but if you're a soccer fan of a popular league and would like to play daily fantasy soccer, there's usually a contest that will satisfy your craving.
As with all sports on DraftKings, the strategies for cash games (head-to-heads, double ups, etc.) and tournaments (guaranteed prize pools - GPPs) are different, though the general rule of focusing on players' floors for the former and ceilings for the latter is consistent. Before we dive into the different ways to attack different contests, DraftKings recently updated their rules to make the scoring in their classic contests consistent with what they offer in showdown, which is their single-game fantasy option. I went into detail about the changes and which players benefit the most in a recent article, but for the purposes of what we're doing here, this is the scoring breakdown:
|Shot on Goal||1.00|
|Clean Sheet (Defender)||3.00|
|Clean Sheet (Goalkeeper)||5.00|
|Win (GK only)||5.00|
|Save (GK only)||2.00|
|Goal Conceded (GK only)||-2.00|
Cash Game Strategies
Similar to basically every other sport on DraftKings, the key to cash games is prioritizing players who score fantasy points on a consistent basis, giving them a solid "floor," which refers to the minimum number of points they tend to score. Specifically, players who accumulate crosses and shots assisted (a pass that directly leads to a shot) are prioritized in cash games because they collectively account for nearly a quarter of all fantasy points scored. Goals are the most valuable stat on DraftKings, both from a per-action basis and cumulatively over the course of a season, but they are also inconsistent and clustered among a few players. Additionally, most players average significantly fewer goals than one per match, whereas players who create chances and send in crosses get multiple in each game.
As you can see in the chart below – which shows all positive action points for outfield players, excluding clean sheets – crosses and shots assisted (also known as chances created or key passes) make up a good percentage of the total fantasy points scored in the Premier League last season:
|% of Total Points||15.01%||6.42%||13.92%||4.78%||6.21%||13.50%||10.30%||11.06%||8.02%||10.76%|
And since goals and assists are generally inconsistent, removing them from consideration when building cash-game lineups is a popular strategy. There are certainly exceptions to this, such as when a team is a huge favorite and their leading goal scorer has very high anytime goal scorer odds, but the most popular method for building cash lineups is excluding goals and assists to determine the players with the highest floors.
Set pieces are an important aspect of cash-game research, as those players have an advantage of being on the ball in situations that can lead to shots or goals. As such, players who are responsible for taking corners or other free kicks are prioritized in cash games because they provide a solid opportunity for crosses and shots assisted. They are certainly not the only players who can accumulate those stats, but you will consistently see set-piece takers from favored sides highly owned in cash games because of that specific role. RotoWire has a number of tools to help you determine who could be taking set pieces for a certain side, including our DFS cheat sheets that we have for all Premier League and Champions League main slates, but our Team Trends pages will also show you all of the corners taken by a team throughout the season and a breakdown of which players took those kicks (the page is also available for all La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Bundesliga, MLS and Liga MX matches).
Set pieces aren't everything, and there are plenty of players who are very active on the wings and cross a lot even without dead-ball opportunities. These types of players can also be popular in cash games because of their consistent production, and crossing the ball and creating chances at least provides some kind of assist upside, even if they don't happen that often. There are also players who take plenty of shots, which can obviously lead to goals, and draw fouls at a high rate, though the latter stat has no upside since the ball is literally called dead if it happens.
On the defensive side, you'll find players who win a good number of tackles or get some interceptions, but they're usually not as productive as their attacking counterparts; then again, they're also cheaper. Finding a combination of access to attacking points and a defensive floor is always helpful in cash games, though the number of players that applies to is limited.
In the end, cash games are all about getting consistent points, even if they are lower because of a lack of goals. GPPs, on the other hand, require a different mentality.
Tournaments are won with goals, there's no way around it. Yes, you can sometimes win a GPP with a cash-game lineup because of the inconsistencies of goals being scored, but when that happens it's usually because the consistent floor players happen to score goals and not because there were no goals on the slate.
Center forwards usually have the best anytime goal scorer odds on a slate, and GPP lineups usually have at least one because of that. These types of players are usually some of the more expensive ones, at least the ones who are on favored sides, but there are always instances of lower-priced forwards scoring one or two goals and winning GPPs for people who were willing to put their faith in them. Because a goal is worth 12 points (10 for the goal itself plus one for the shot and another for the shot on goal), the fantasy returns of goal scorers tends to be very up and down; some games they'll finish with two points because they didn't score a goal, but then they could have 30 the next game because they happened to connect twice and win a few fouls. Their variable scoring is what makes them less viable for cash games, but because literally anyone on the field can score a goal in the right opportunity, the available options for GPP lineups is greater.
Correlation plays are also popular, similar to many other sports, so you could see a set-piece taker and a center forward together, with the idea that one player is sending in a free kick and setting up a goal for the other. Attacking fullbacks (defenders on the left or right wings) are also popular because of their ability to send in crosses and possibly assist on a goal, while center-backs can be big targets near the goal on dead balls. Fullbacks are usually more consistent with their fantasy points and more popular in cash games, while center-backs are more GPP-friendly because their floors are low but they can still score goals.
Overall, successful GPP lineups tend to have a combination of consistent cash-game players and those who have better goal upsides, and because soccer tournaments are not nearly as big as those we see in NFL, NBA or MLB, finding significantly low-owned players isn't as necessary. Obviously getting a two-percent-owned goal or brace is helpful, but there's really no need to go overboard to roster five or six two-percent-owned players because there are usually no more than 10,000 entries in soccer GPPs, and they're more consistently below 5,000. Simply put: the risk to targeting so many low-owned players who likely won't all score on the same day isn't worth the potential payoff.