<
>

Breaking down the ESPN Fantasy Soccer scoring system

ESPN Fantasy Soccer has finally arrived! It's easy, fun and free to build your team and compete, but before you start picking players, let's go over the scoring system, because there are a lot of ways to rack up points:

Goal: 10 points. At the end of the day, it's all about putting the ball in the back of the net, so goals are naturally the most valuable commodity in our fantasy game. Lionel Messi was the top scorer in Spain last season with 34 goals for Barcelona, while Mohamed Salah led the way in England with 32 for Liverpool.

Assist: 5 points. The next best thing to a goal is a pass that leads to a goal. Messi was also tied for the league lead in this category, alongside teammate Luis Suarez and Villarreal midfielder Pablo Fornals, with 12. The top four in England were all from the reigning champions, Manchester City: Kevin De Bruyne (16), Leroy Sane (15), David Silva (11) and Raheem Sterling (11).

Shot on goal: 2 points. You can't score if you don't shoot, but not all shots are created equal. Shots on target -- that either result in a goal, or a save by the goalkeeper -- are worth a lot more in our game. Messi had 96 last season -- 19 more than anyone else in La Liga (see a trend, anyone?). Harry Kane of Tottenham Hotspur was tops in the Premier League with 76, nine more than Salah.

Chance created: 1 point. A chance created is a pass that leads to a shot. Messi and De Bruyne were the leaders in this category with 87 and 106, respectively.

Appearance: 1 point. If a player appears in a game -- as one of his team's 11 starters, or as one of three possible substitutes -- it's worth a point.

Shot off goal: 0.5 points. These shots -- ones that are not blocked, but off target -- will net you something, but not nearly as much as shots on goal. Cristiano Ronaldo and Kane were the leaders in this category, with 63 and 60, respectively.

Tackle won: 0.5 points. If a player steals the ball off an opponent cleanly, that's worth half a point. Here's where we start to move away from the likes of Messi, and see lesser known players top the leaderboards. Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid made 132 successful tackles last season, 21 more than any other player in La Liga. Fellow midfielder Wilfred Ndidi of Leicester City was tops in the Premier League, with 138.

Interception: 0.5 points. This category is pretty self-explanatory, and the league leaders last season had similar totals to the league leaders in tackles. Celta Vigo defender Jonny made 93 interceptions, 14 more than any other player in La Liga. Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante made 85 in the Premier League.

Block: 0.5 points. Players who throw their legs (or other body parts) in the way of a shot are often unsung heroes, but they'll be rewarded in our fantasy game. Alaves defender Rodrigo Ely had 36 blocked shots in 2017-18, best in La Liga. The numbers were higher in the Premier League -- Brighton defenders Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk led the way with 59 and 58, respectively.

Clearance: 0.5 points. This is when a player boots the ball away from his own goal to eliminate the danger, and it happens much more frequently than a tackle, interception or block. Getafe defender Djene Dakonam made a La Liga-best 186 clearances last season. The numbers were much higher in the Premier League in this category, too, and Duffy was on top here as well with a whopping 326 clearances -- 56 more than any other player.

Completed pass: 0.1 points. You should get something for a successful pass, right? It's not much, but those totals can add up, creating some serious fantasy value. Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic completed 2,253 passes last season -- good for 225.3 fantasy points, the equivalent of 22.53 goals. Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi was the top passer in the Premier League with 2,825 passes completed.

Foul: minus-1 point. A regular foul -- when the referee blows his whistle, but doesn't issue a card -- will dock you one point. Cristhian Stuani had a fine season for Girona, scoring 21 goals, but he also led La Liga in fouls with 88. Luka Milivojevic scored 10 goals for Crystal Palace, but he also committed a league-leading 69 fouls.

Yellow card: minus-2 points. The damage increases when the referee does show you a card. Levante midfielder Jefferson Lerma picked up 16 yellows last season, the most in Spain. Southampton midfielder Oriol Romeu took the "honors" in England with 11.

Red card: minus-5 points. It's much worse when you're shown a straight red card, but you won't see that very often. Only one player received more than one straight red in La Liga last season -- Sergi Roberto of Barcelona -- and no one received more than one in the Premier League.

Penalty kick miss: minus-5 points. It's equally bad when you don't deliver from the penalty spot, but this doesn't happen much, either. There was one player in La Liga who failed to score three times from the spot last season: Getafe forward Jorge Molina. Wayne Rooney did the same for Everton, but he has moved on to D.C. United of MLS.

Keepers

We needed to add several more categories just for goalkeepers, to make that position interesting as well:

Clean sheet: 10 points. A goalkeeper should be richly rewarded for not giving up any goals in a game, right? Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak had 22 clean sheets last season, three more than Barcelona's Marc-Andre ter Stegen in second place in La Liga. Manchester United's David De Gea had 18, two more than Manchester City's Ederson.

One goal only: 3 points. As nice as clean sheets are, they're relatively hard to come by. So we're rewarding goalkeepers who limit the damage to one goal as well.

Save: 3 points. You'll see different names at the top of this list, because bad teams tend to give up more shots on goal. Fernando Pacheco of Alaves made a league-best 123 saves last season, although Oblak did finish third with 109. Jack Butland of Stoke City, who finished 19th and were relegated from the Premier League, was tops with 144 saves. De Gea was tied for fifth (115), and Ederson was way down the list at 18th (58).

Penalty kick save: 10 points. Only two goalkeepers made as many as three penalty kick saves in La Liga last season: Oblak, and Sergio Asenjo of Villarreal. Lukasz Fabianski was the only one to do the same in the Premier League, for now-relegated Swansea City.

Cross claim: 1 point. Goalkeepers do more than just make saves. If a high ball comes into the box and the keeper grabs it, you'll be rewarded. But the leader in La Liga last season, Ivan Cuellar of Leganes, only had 29. The numbers were higher in the Premier League -- Nick Pope of Burnley had 57, and Fabianski finished second with 42.

Cross punch: 1 point. If the goalkeeper punches a cross clear, that's good, too. These were relatively infrequent in both Spain and England last season. The league leaders were Vicente Guaita of Getafe with 22, and Heurelho Gomes and Jonas Lossl with 24 apiece for Watford and Huddersfield Town. In our game, you'll find cross punch and cross claim combined into a single category called "cross defended."

Smother: 1 point. A player is dribbling toward goal, the ball is loose and the goalkeeper pounces on it ... we like that as well. But these are not very common and can just be considered similar to the cross claims and punches as a way to reward proactive goalkeeping.

Misplay: minus-2 points. These are pretty infrequent -- Lossl had the most in the Premier League last season with 11. Leandro Chichizola of Las Palmas (now relegated) had six, the most in La Liga.

Goal against: minus-5 points. Pretty simple, eh? Don't pick goalkeepers on bad teams likely to give up a lot of goals -- like Ruben, who gave up 58 for Deportivo La Coruna (also relegated) last season, or Butland and Asmir Begovic of Bournemouth, who gave up 61.

Note: Yellow and red cards also count against goalkeepers, so be careful!