Up & Down With FUT Seasons

FUT 16 Seasons - FIFA 16 Ultimate Team

FUT 16 Seasons - FIFA 16 Ultimate Team

FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) is the most popular game mode in FIFA, with ‘Seasons’ being the most popular game mode in FUT. However, it’s also the most frustrating! As opposed to a real divisional structure, seasons feels more like a ride on an elevator – you’re up, then you’re down. The Internet is full of depressing stories about people being relegated all the way from division 2 to division 7, in a duration of 10 seasons. Something like this would never happen in the real world of football, unless there was a bankruptcy involved. So, why does it happen in FIFA? I decided to figure this out, and here is what I found out…


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What is a season?

In real life football, a typical division consists of roughly 20 teams, which play each other twice a year. That’s 38 matches in total, and all teams generally face the same, if not a similar level of opposition.

FUT seasons has to be different, since you can’t play all the 200,000 other people currently residing within your division during a year. Instead, the game picks 10 random opponents for you, meaning that you have your own little tournament going on.

As for whom you get to play, it’s a bit of a mystery. We know that some of the criteria are (1) timing (the other user has to be around at the same time as you), (2) connectivity, (3) divisional status and presumably (4) ELO rankings when selecting your next opponent.

Another essential difference is that relegations and promotions aren’t decided by your final position in a table. Since there is no table, your fate is decided by your ability to make enough points to make it above three thresholds: Stay, Promotion and Title.

If we were to project this on to real life, we would have a team playing 10 matches against random opponents picked among the 98 clubs currently residing in the five big, European leagues. In order to stay in your current division, you would need at least X points. Almost no matter how good you are, it becomes crucial whether you have a lucky pull or not… Sometimes, you get all the relegation candidates. Sometimes, you get ten opponents from the upper layers.

Luck 1 – Skill 0

A season consisting of just 10 matches against random opponents is a very small sample, and the problem with small samples essentially applies here as well: They are unreliable!

You may win 7 out of your next 10 matches but lose 60 out of your next 100 matches, meaning that there is a large risk that a season isn’t representative to the player’s actual capability. As a consequence, it becomes quite random whether you get relegated or promoted.

To illustrate how much this actually matters, I ran a small simulation in a spread sheet for five different player profiles. Each player profile has a certain skill level characterised by a certain set of win / lose probabilities, which for the sake of simplicity remains constant, no matter which division the player is in.

As seen below, most profiles with the exception of Eric, the beginner, will experience between 9 and 12 promotions or relegations througout 20 seasons. This is of course in direct contrast to real life football where the majority of the teams won’t get promoted or relegated at all in 20 seasons.

Skill levelExpertAbove averageAverageBelow averageBeginner
Win chance745041349
Lose chance1034435075
Relegations / 20 seasons0,02,03,03,91,3
Promotions / 20 seasons9,010,29,37,81,4

So, you’re in division 2?

Earlier I mentioned that promotions and relegations are decided by whether your point earnings within the current season meets certain thresholds. Considering that these thresholds increase between division 10 and division 1, the natural expectation would be that they would make division 4 harder than division 6 and so on. While this may be true to some extent, the fact remains that the thresholds for division 4 and division 6 are exactly the same.

DivisionRelegation Promotion
10>= 9 points
9<=5 points>=10 points
8<=7>=12 points
7<=7>=14 points
6<=9>=16 points
5<=9>=16 points
4<=9>=16 points
3<=11>=18 points
2<=11>=18 points

On top of that, there is an even weightier issue: Please take a look at the relegation criteria for division 6 and division 2. You will notice that it takes 12 points (4 wins per 10 matches) to stay in division 2 and 9 points (3 wins in 10) to stay in division 6.

In truth, it only takes a minor drop in performance or bad luck to plummet from division 2 back into the lower divisions.

And it’s the same for everybody else…

Luck in matchmaking is a crucial factor in determining your divisional status, and small deviations in matchmaking-luck or performance may cause streaks of promotions or relegations, meaning that it becomes quite random where you end up. Needless to say, the same goes for almost everyone playing FIFA: Independent of their actual skill levels, the majority of FIFA players will cycle up and down between various divisions.

To understand the full implications of this, take a look at the simulation below, which covers 100 average players (i.e. players like Chris above). The natural expectation would be that all the Average Chris’s of this world would end up in roughly the same division, and more specifically division 5. As it turns out, they don’t…

Distribution of average players after 150 matches
Distribution of average players after 150 matches

The chart above illustrates an important point: Players with similar skills will be spread over a considerable amount of divisions.

Firstly, this means that divisions will become more similar to each other difficulty-wise than you would usually expect, and secondly, they will also become more internally diverse difficulty-wise, because they will contain players from many different skill segments.

My first season, your fifth

Needless to say, the probability of being in division 1 increases over time due to the fact that you start in division 10. Since players don’t complete their seasons in the same tempo, players with similar skill levels will be spread even more across the various divisions. Below, I ran the same simulation as above, but this time I let 100 players with each of the player profiles complete a random number of seasons between 0 and 30.

The picture below is probably fairly realistic when it comes to illustrating the actual distribution of players within divisions.

How different player profiles will spread after a random number of completed seasons
How different player profiles will spread after a random number of completed seasons

A few final thoughts

To summarise, here are a few recommendations:

  • Don’t expect seasons to be consistent.
  • Don’t assume that your divisional status tells anything about how good you are.
  • Don’t expect FUT’s divisions to be anything like real divisions.
  • If you want to be in division 1, continue playing. You will get there sooner or later, if you have the required skills.

Is it a problem that seasons is like an elevator ride?

Personally, I think it is. I would prefer to see my divisional status depend less on skill and more on my personal capability. The easy way to solve this would be to increase the season length. This would make each division more consistent and also increase the gap between divisions. There could be other options as well, so please feel free to share your thoughts, questions and comments.


  1. In Fifa 15 I tried to track who I actually played against over a couple of seasons by looking at their profile in the FUT club menu afterwards. I was usually between 1st. and 3rd. division, but to my surprise the people I met in a single season could range anywhere from 1st. to 4th. So this adds even more to the randomness you describe. FUT matchup allegorithms must weigh things like geo location and so on over divisions. I am from Denmark and meet Danish people in a huge part of my matches (know them by their name or Danish fut kit choice)

  2. Also the issue with the fact that Ultimate team is scripted, and it ruins it. Much like rubber banding in racing games, the same effect is in place for ultimate team – if you have a 79 rated team against an 84 rated team, you’re practically guaranteed the win and the same vice versa. It ruins the game and makes it pointless having an amazing team – I have far more chance with my second team than my first.

  3. Also the issue with the fact that Ultimate team is scripted, and it ruins it. Much like rubber banding in racing games, the same effect is in place for ultimate team – if you have a 79 rated team against an 84 rated team, you’re practically guaranteed the win and the same vice versa. It ruins the game and makes it pointless having an amazing team – I have far more chance with my second team than my first.

  4. I would also like to see a more fair way of leveling up as well. I’m not so sure how lengthening the seasons would solve this because you are still at the mercy of the same system. The way that people are matched against higher and lower level players seems to negate a players skill level at fifa. If I play in D 6, and face players in D 4, D 3,mostly, I am predetermined to loose it would seem. Does it even out because you play people in D 7 as well. I get Divisions 10-7 playing each other to have a bigger playing field, but it should be more strict beyond this level. Then maybe D6 and D5, then D4, & D3, then D2 & D1 totally separate. I don’t know I just wish it were a more level, and fair playing field which would more accurately represent ones skill set with in the FIFA gaming world

    • Rather than using divisional matchmaking, Fifa uses ELO matchmaking. This implies that you are matched with opponents at your own level +- but not necessarily from your current division. Divisional matchmaking would imply an even bigger variety in difficulty due to the fact that a player’s current division is decided by coincidence to a large extent.

      Read more about ELO in fifa here:



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