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What the new scoring rules mean for your MLS Fantasy strategy

The Major League Soccer season kicks off March 6, and the official fantasy offering is now available for you to make your initial selections.

Exciting times ahead for the MLS Fantasy game. Keep an eye out for our league codes!
Exciting times ahead for the MLS Fantasy game. Keep an eye out for our league codes!
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Following up on a very positive 20th anniversary season that included the expansion of the league to include 20 teams and a number of high-profile signings, Major League Soccer is closing in on a new campaign. The league continues to grow and attract new players, ownership and fans, and along with it comes the added exposure for the booming fantasy sports market.

The official MLS Fantasy game continues to grow as well, and today released a series of articles in conjunction with the game going live for the 2016 campaign. Along with a general overview and detailed breakdown of the transfer market, there came the announcement of an updated scoring system.

Here's a brief rundown of the new additions you should be aware of before creating your Week 1 team:

Increased Attacking Bonuses

In addition to the reward of points for successful crosses, key passes and chances created, there will now be the ability to earn points for taking shots, winning fouls and completing a high percentage of passes. Players will earn one point for every four shots taken, as well as a point for every four fouls won. One point will also be awarded for maintaining an 85% pass completion percentage or better for every 35 passes. For example, completing 32 of 35 passes will result in 1 point, while 65 of 70 will result in 2.

Expanded Defensive Metrics

In seasons past, defensive contributions were grouped together to be awarded as CBIs (Clearances, Blocks and Interceptions). That statistic is a thing of the past now, as the CBIs have been broken out into individual scoring categories, and are joined by Tackles (attempted, even if unsuccessful). Players will earn a point for every 4 clearances, a point for every 4 tackles attempted, a point for every 4 interceptions and a point for every 2 blocks.

What do these changes mean for your fantasy team?

The adjustments bring a bit more balance to the game, making traditionally overlooked positions like holding midfielders much more valuable, while also making shoot-on-sight attacking players a lot more attractive. There is the potential for a negative effect on the defensive side, though, with the threshold for earning points much higher than they had been for the combined CBI metric. This means you'll need to be strategic when determining which players to choose to fill your team.

Attacking Focus

On the attacking side, it's not too common an occurrence that a player wins four fouls in a game, but tricky players, particularly those occupying the wide roles with less likelihood to draw penalties, should be viewed a bit more favorably. Sebastian Giovinco doesn't really need much more upside to convince you to buy in, but I imagine he'll be one of the regulars earning points in this category.

The bigger changes are the shot attempt and pass completion points. Pass completion adds value to central midfielders who are heavily involved in building play from defense to attack, but we could also see upside here for defenders, particularly center backs who fill a similar role. In teams operating with a double pivot in central midfield (without a designated holding midfielder), the center backs could be expected to play more of a role in recycling play and are therefore more likely to rack up enough passes to have a chance at qualifying for the accuracy bonus.

Shot attempts are pretty self-explanatory, but it is worth noting that this is not just for shots-on-target, but instead includes ALL shots taken (including those that are blocked). There is a massive potential here for additional points for set-piece takers, as even shots into a defensive wall will count toward their shots tally. Someone like Steven Gerrard ticks both boxes for passing accuracy and shot attempts. Look to players who fill a similar role for their teams and you could be well on the way to a big points haul.

Defensive Focus

As mentioned previously, there's a lot of upside here for a massive score, but also the potential for certain defenders to be less valuable than in seasons past. Center backs continue to look more appealing from a defensive standpoint, with a much higher likelihood to rack up blocks (the metric with the lowest threshold for earning defensive bonuses). Add the aforementioned potential for pass accuracy bonuses and fullbacks will be hard-pressed to keep up with the central defenders, and that's not accounting for the shot attempt potential from set pieces. Laurent Ciman was a CBI machine last season, and given his all-action performances he should be a prime selection with the new scoring rules.

Of course, there are still likely to be a few fullbacks who get into the attack often enough to make selecting them worthwhile, particularly if they also take set pieces and track back effectively. Joevin Jones is one to watch after his off-season move to the Seattle Sounders, where he looks set to play a vital role for both attack and defense.

What do you think of the new scoring changes? If you've played the MLS Fantasy game in the past, are you looking forward to the updated rules? If you haven't played before, are you more interested in playing with a more well-rounded scoring system? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Keep an eye out for a league code this week to join our group ahead of the start to the season! Looking forward to seeing you all there!