Hello, the purpose of this post is to support Football Manager 2020 players when embarking on a South American save. The various league systems & continental nuances can be quite unfamiliar to those outside of the continent due to changing rules/regulations between each FM and also year-on-year within the game itself.
This is part one of a trilogy of ‘super posts’ on South America. Part One (today’s post) will deal with the league structures whereas Part Two will be a Club Guide for each league. I’ll then be finishing off the series with a ‘Ones To Watch’ post.
Disclaimer(s): To avoid this becoming War & Peace in length, I have only focused on the top leagues of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru & Uruguay. Additionally, I have only chosen these nations because they are leagues that are in Football Manager 2020, which do not need any database edits for players to manage in. It is also worth noting that this is for Football Manager 2020, and more specifically from 2019 calendar year onwards. A lot of the information can probably be used in later editions of the game, but year-on-year changes are expected which have yet to be determined at the time of writing.
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CONMEBOL (the oldest continental confederation in the world) ‘govern’ South American football. Generally their decisions are often ill-timed and nonsensical, with rules being put into place year-on-year with little, to no, notice. But I would say the Argentine Football Association (AFA) are a level above this. Domestic Argentine football has undergone a number of drastic changes over the last decade. These changes have placed Argentina at odds with the rest of the South American leagues, as they now run alongside a traditional European calendar (July to May), as opposed to more popular Central & South American calendar model of Apertura (opening) & Clausura (closing) stages.
In the move towards these changes, the league has changed year-on-year and you will find that this is replicated in Football Manager 2020. Below are important details to take note of…
Number of clubs in top league: 24 in 2019/20, then one less team each year until a 20 team campaign is reached in 2023/24.
League calendar: For 2019/20: 23 matches per regular Superliga season (July-February), plus an additional extra 11 games for the Copa de la Superliga (February-May). Please note, the results from the Copa de la Superliga will influence the Average Points table and Annual Overall Table (from 34 games) which decides relegation (over a three year period) and also the continental qualification.
Important: Argentina is different every year, so expect the unexpected. In 2020 Copa de la Superliga has unsurprisingly changed after it's inaugural season. All 24 teams competing in the regular Superliga season will be split into two groups of 12 teams. The top two of each group will play a two-legged semi, before the winners play one another in a one-legged final at a neutral venue. The finalists earn a Copa Libertadores spot (for the champion) and the runner up with a Copa Sudamericana spot. As it stands, the Copa de la Superliga is only active for the first two seasons in Football Manager 2020.
From the 3rd season in Argentina (2021/22), the Copa de la Superliga will lie dormant. In its place, you will get two league phases: 1st (August to December) & 2nd (January-May). This structure is actually more simplistic with teams playing each other twice home and away, when you look at both phases as a whole. This does however result in more domestic games from 2021/22, so you may wish to flesh out your squad with a few extra players in order to cope. Once the 5th season is reached (2023/24), the Argentine Superliga will consist of a 20 team/38 game season league…one of AFA’s long-term ambitions finally delivered!
Transfer windows & restrictions: (1) 11 December 2018 to 24 January 2019, (2) 01 July to 08 August 2019 (foreign signings can still be announced until 16 August 2019). Maximum of 6 foreign players.
Continental qualification: Copa Libertadores Group Stage (1st-3rd), Copa Libertadores Qualifying (4th) and Copa Sudamericana (5th-9th) from the Overall Table. Copa de la Superliga Winner gets Copa Libertadores and Runner Up gets Copa Sudamericana. Note - it’s worth noting that this is qualification for the following year, as the Argentine league ends at the mid-way point of the continental season. Awfully stupid, I know.
Top players: Daniele De Rossi (Boca), Franco Armani & Juan Fernando Quintero (River)
Young starlets: Nicolás Domínguez (Vélez Sarsfield - on loan from Bologna) & Thiago Almada (Vélez Sarsfield) & Exequiel Palacios (River).
Club recommendation: Vélez Sarsfield - they’ve been my recommend Argentine club for a few seasons now. With an incredible youth system, Vélez have a generation waiting to take centre stage. 20-year-old Maximiliano Romero has also returned on a season-long loan.
Over 2 million footballers are registered to play football in Brazil, to put the enormity of that figure into perspective consider that fiercest rivals Argentina 'only' have 300,000 registered players and a neighbouring country like Uruguay has 3 million inhabitants! Brazil is a juggernaut on the footballing scene and the conveyor belt of talent is evident when looking at Europe’s top leagues. This is also the richest South American league too, so you can easily cherry pick the continent's best talent and build a squad to compete with the teams across the Atlantic in Europe.
In Brazil you will find a gruelling all-year-round domestic calendar with national and state championships to ensure you will never get bored. But the challenge here will be to rotate and manage your squad in a way to ensure you last the distance…
Number of clubs in top league: 20
League calendar: 38 matches per regular Serie A season (April-December), the an additional 10+ games within state leagues (January-April), Copa do Brasil runs from (February-September).
Important: The regular 20 club Serie A campaign is similar to European Leagues; each side plays one another home and away and this decides both continental qualification and relegation. However it's the state leagues that make Brazil standout as a unique challenge in Football Manager 2020.
Due to economic and geographic problems within a country as vast as Brazil, both clubs and fans have placed great importance on state based football. Each of Brazil's 26 states has its own league that will run in the first quarter of the year. You will play your geographical rivals and although it’s a chance to rotate your squad (with the national league and continental competitions in mind), there will still be an expectation to perform in the big derby games.
Transfer windows & restrictions: (1) 29 December 2018 to 06 September 2019 (domestic transfers only), (2) 01 January to 30 April 2019 (foreign transfers only) and 12 July to 15 August 2019 (foreign transfers only). Maximum of 5 foreign players in the match day squad.
Continental qualification: Copa Libertadores Group Stage (Positions 1st-4th in Serie A + Winner of Copa do Brasil), Copa Libertadores Qualifying (5th & 6th) and Copa Sudamericana (7th to 12th). Note - from Serie A, not the state leagues.
Top players: Everton (Grêmio), Gabriel Barbosa & Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Flamengo).
Young starlets: Reinier (Flamengo), Bruno Guimarães (Athletico Paranaense) & Yeferson Soteldo (Santos)
Club recommendation: Flamengo - I really like the thought of De Arrascaeta behind Gabigol, plus one of the FM20 wonderkids…17-year-old Reinier Jesus Carvalho.
The last 10 years have witnessed a Golden Age for Chile on the International scene. However, beneath the glitz of their La Roja stars sits a domestic league desperate to find and develop another generation to pin their hopes on. Football Manager 2020 will give you the chance to unearth those hidden talents. Natural barriers have made Chile feel remote. Whether it’s the Pacific to the West or the Andes to the East…Chile has always been allowed to develop within its own little bubble. It’s yours to discover.
Since 2018, the Football Federation of Chile have revised the league structure to a simple 16 club single tournament (replacing previous Opening/Closing formats). European FMers should find Chile no problem adjusting to.
Number of clubs in top league: 16
League calendar: 30 matches per regular league season (February to December) in an easy to understand revised Primera División containing 16 teams. Two teams are relegating, no average points. Plus a Copa Chile cup competition that has two-legged ties running from March to November.
Transfer windows & restrictions: (1) 31 December 2018 to 17 February 2019 and (2) 04 June to 19 July 2019 (maximum of 3 players). Maximum of 9 foreign players (only five over-21 years).
Continental qualification: Copa Libertadores Group Stage (1st & 2nd), Copa Libertadores Qualifying (3rd & winner of Copa Chile) and Copa Sudamericana (5th, 6th & 7th).
Top players: Diego Buonanotte (Universidad Católica), Carlos Carmona & Julio Barroso (Colo Colo)
Young starlets: Yerko Leiva (Universidad de Chile), Branco Provoste (Colo Colo) & Jeisson Vargas (Universidad Católica)
Club recommendation: O'Higgins - a lovely little throwback to Irish heritage here, as O’Higgins was named after Bernado O’Higgins…a descent of the noble Irish Family. The modern day MVP could well be Facundo Castro, after a poor spell in Mexico, he’ll be looking to lead Chile’s scoring charts.
There was a time when the Colombian league was one of the wealthiest in the world. Attracting the best players from all over the continent and even Europe. By 1951 over sixty percent of the league were foreigners and many Colombian sides opted to leave their own FA in favour of playing glamour ties around the world. Colombian football had become a circus and FIFA would eventually intervene.
Fast forward a few more decades and there was another problem in Colombia: drug cartel ownership of some of Colombia’s big clubs. The league would eventually be hit by those clubs being placed on ‘The Clinton List’. As part of a war on drug trafficking, this was a tool that blocked a group of people in a financial world, prohibiting them to do business with US companies.
The modern day Colombian league is more homogeneous and not as controversial than the bygone eras. Nevertheless it continues to produce good players: Falcao, Jámes Rodrigues, Davidson Sanchez et al. Can you develop the next crop of Colombian worldies?
Number of clubs in top league: 20
League calendar: 20 game Apertura (January-May) followed by a 6 game Apertura-Quadrangular (May-June) & 20 game Clausura (July-November) followed by a 6 game Clausura-Quadrangular (November-December). Copa Colombia cup competition also runs throughout most of the year (February-October).
Important: Colombia has a classic South American Opening & Closing system, whereby the league campaign is split into two halves. After each half (Apertura & Clausura), the top eight teams are separated into two groups of four who will play one another twice home/away (the top 2 teams from Apertura and Clausura will be separated, but the other 6 teams are drawn into each group). The winner of each group (Quadrangular) will then play one another (again home/away) to see who is crowned league winner. This means there will be two league champions each year.
From there, the winner from each or the Apertura & the Clausura will go on to play in a grand final. This game is played in the last week of January and can almost be seen as the following season’s opener (think: English Community Shield). Some teams will still count this as a trophy and place more importance to it, but it is acknowledged that there are two league winners every year from the Apertura/Clausura-Quadrangular (rather than one overall winner).
Note - the additional 20th match is a reverse home/away fixture with a local rival. This extra regional derby matchday in the first stage of both the Apertura & Clausura tournaments and has been re-introduced in 2019. The reasoning behind this tie is due to the Colombian Football Federation's desire to get more games that matter and to build hype and momentum into the domestic calendar.
Transfer windows & restrictions: (1) 11 December 2018 to February 2019 and (2) 03 July to 31 July 2019. Maximum of 4 foreign players.
Continental qualification: Copa Libertadores Group Stage (Winners of the Apertura/Clausura Quadrangulars), Copa Libertadores Qualifying (next best place team in the annual aggregate table & winner of Copa Colombia) and Copa Sudamericana (5th, 6th, 7th & 8th in annual aggregate table).
Top players: Mati Fernández (Junior), Germán Cano (Independiente Medellín) & Daniel Bocanegra (Atlético Nacional)
Young starlets: Luis Sandoval (Junior), Agustín Palavecino (Deportivo Cali) & Wuilker Fariñez (Millonarios)
Club recommendation: Junior - If you can keep both Mati Fernández & Teófilo Gutiérrez fit, then Junior is the team to be in Colombia. A potentially golden partnership who are in the Autumn of their careers, somebody please manage these two and make it happen!
Football in Peru took a while to get going, partly due to the devastation The War Of The Pacific (1879-1883) would bring. Peru, bound by a pact to protect Bolivia against Chile, would have its capital Lima occupied as Chile forces gained both Bolivian & Peruvian territory by the war’s conclusion. One hundred years later and Peru had its golden generation of players, who reached the 1970 World Cup Quarter Final which was notable for Alianza Lima youngster Teófilo Cubillas winning the Best Young Player Award with 5 goals. Five years later Cubillas, known as El Nene (The Kid), and Peru were Copa América winners.
Reclaiming the 1970s heights for Peruvian football, whether club or country, in Football Manager 2020 will be a challenge. The poorest and the weakest of the out-of-the-box South American leagues, you will need shrewd management to be a success here. Please note - Peruvian domestic football changes annually, so the below is what we know for the 2019 calendar year only.
Number of clubs in top league: 18
League calendar: Two domestic tournaments (34 games) before a four-team playoff to decide national champion. Copa Bicentenari - a recently launched domestic cup competition played between the two top leagues in Peru. Ties are played June to November.
(1) Apertura (Opening) from February to June. Eighteen teams playing each other once.
(2) Clausura (Closing) from July to November. Eighteen teams playing each other once (with home and away switched from the Apertura)
(3) Championship Playoff in December. Four teams contest to decide who is the national champion: winners of both the Apertura and Clausura plus the two leading teams in the aggregate table play a two-legged semi-final (home and away). Each time, the side with the most points in the aggregate table will choose the order of their home leg. No away goal ruling in the final, so in the event of the stalemate the tie will be decided with a third game at a neutral venue which decided the national champion.
Important: If a team wins both the Apertura and Clausura, the playoffs will not be played and that team will be declared as champion. Relegation is decided via the annual aggregate table, with two sides going down.
Note - 2019 sees the first year of a new ‘Copa Bicentenario’. The participants are split into eight groups who play one another once. The top two teams will progress into the last 16 where it becomes a traditional knockout competition. The winner will be granted entry into the Copa Sudamericana.
Transfer windows & restrictions: (1) 07 January to 29 March 2019 and (2) 13 June to 12 July 2019. Maximum of 5 foreign players.
Continental qualification: Copa Libertadores Group Stage (Top two teams in the annual aggregate table), Copa Libertadores Qualifying (3rd & 4th in the annual aggregate table) and Copa Sudamericana (5th, 6th, 7th & 8th in annual aggregate table and the winner of the Copa Bicentenario).
Top players: Aldo Corzo & Alejandro Hohberg (Universitario) & Wilder Cartagena (Alianza)
Young starlets: Jairo Concha (San Martín), Henry Vaca (Universitario) & Andy Polar (Binacional)
Club recommendation: Universitario - The biggest team in Peru might seem like a cop-out here, but the real challenge will be in the Copa Libertadores. Can you make use of the 80,000 capacity stadium and finally win South America’s greatest club prize?
Uruguayan football is a miracle. With just over 3 million inhabitants, how can this small country have won so much on the International scene? It’s not only La Celeste that have punched above its weight, in the continental Copa Libertadores no Brazilian team has won the elite club title more than Peñarol (5 titles) or Nacional (3 titles).
The country is a hotbed for developing warriors with guile, and every generation has its heroes: Enzo Francescoli of the 80s, Álvaro Recoba of the 90s, Diego Forlan of the 00s and present day Luis Suárez. Can you develop the next World Class Uruguayan for the 2020s?
Number of clubs in top league: 16
League calendar: Three domestic tournaments (37 games and possible +2 games extra for finals):
(1) Apertura (Opening) from February to May. Sixteen teams playing each other once.
(2) Intermediate (mid-season tournament) from May to July. Sixteen teams split into two groups of eight - those finishing in odd positions in Apertura in one group and evens the other. The group winners play each other in a one-legged final to determine the mid-season Champion.
(3) Clausura (Closing) from August to December. 16 teams playing each other once (with home and away switched from the Apertura)
Important: despite there being three separate tournaments, there is an overall table of which points from all three tournaments are collated. The reason is that the overall table has a say in who gets to be crowned the Uruguayan Grand Champion (see below) for that calendar year and also decides who gets relegated.
Grand Champion: the winner of both the Apertura and Clausura play one another in a Semi Final. The winner plays the team in 1st place of the overall table in a Grand Final. There are occurrences where either the Semi or Grand Final never happen, e.g. a Semi Final winner topping the overall table meaning no Grand Final OR a club winning both Apertura & Clausura AND heading up the overall table, meaning no Semi Final.
Relegation: Bottom 3 teams in the overall table go down.
Transfer windows & restrictions: (1) 01 January-02 February 2019 (unlimited) + (2) 11 June-20 July 2019 (maximum of five). Note - Free Transfers are unlimited and can be signed any time. Maximum of five players on loan at any one time. Maximum of 6 foreign players.
Continental qualification: Copa Libertadores Group Stage (1st & 2nd), Copa Libertadores Qualifying (3rd & 4th) and Copa Sudamericana (5th & 6th + winner of Copa Uruguaya). Note - from overall table.
Top players: Cristian Rodríguez & Lucas Viatri (Peñarol), Matías Zunino (Nacional)
Young starlets: Bruno Veglio (Wanderers), Nicolás Acevedo & Sebastián Cáceres (Liverpool)
Club recommendation: Liverpool - A fairly young team surprised Uruguay this year by winning the Intermedio. Ex-Football Manager Wonderkid, Óscar Ustari is the reliable man between the posts, with two potentially sound youngsters in Nicolás Acevedo & Sebastián Cáceres to call upon too. YNWA.
I have given a brief overview of the continental competitions below. There is probably merit in dedicating a stand-alone guide for the inner-workings of these competitions but, as I said in my introduction, I don’t want this to be War & Peace. So here goes…
Copa Libertadores - South America's most reputable trophy, which runs throughout the calendar year (January to November). 47 teams participate in three stages: Qualifying, Group Stage and Knockouts. Knockouts are two-legged home & away ties with away goals…until you get to the final, which is played as one tie at a neutral venue (2019 will be held in Santiago, Chile). I'm fairly critical of CONMEBOL's decision here, fans will have to travel vast distances across South America to see their team play a final. It worked perfectly fine as a two-legged home & away system, so in true South American fashion, expect changes in the future as I see this one failing massively.
Winning the Copa Libertadores will mean you qualify for it once again. The winner will also enter the FIFA Club World Cup (which is played during December) & the Recopa during the next calendar year (see below entry).
Copa Sudamericana - South America's second continental competition, which also runs throughout the calendar year (February to November). 44 teams enter in at various stages to a knockout competition. Games are two-legged home & away ties with away goals…until you get to the final, which is played as one tie at a neutral venue (2019 will be held in Asunción, Paraguay). The winner will qualify for the subsequent Copa Libertadores campaign and also enter the Recopa (see below).
Recopa Sudamericana - This is the South American Super Cup: winners of both the Libertadores and the Sudamericana face-off against one another over two legs home & away. Ties are usually played in the South American mid-Winter (May). If tied on aggregate, the away goals rule would not be used, and 30 minutes of extra time would be played. If still tied after extra time, a penalty shoot-out is used to determine the winner.
Although not as prestigious as the Copa Libertadores, clubs and fans will still place a great deal of importance on winning this trophy. In my opinion, the move towards neutral venues in both the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana may also heighten the excitement for the annual Recopa tournaments. As it would give more fans the chance to see their clubs win continental honours live in the stadium over the other two tournaments.
As previously mentioned, I hope you found this guide useful. If you do plan to play Football Manager 2020 in South America, I would genuinely love to hear from you. I would like to thank Brian, Mike & Vincent for their help with sense checking a few details for me during the production of this post. It took a while, but I think it’s been worth it.
Thanks for reading,