When you take over a team, you will be in full control. The bottom line of your performance, however, will be in your role as owner: the person who pays the players and earns the proceeds. If you do well, you will have more money to spend in future seasons. If you do poorly, you will be hamstrung by budgets in the future.

The income and expenditures of a team is fairly straightforward. For income you earn a fixed amount of money through TV revenue, and a variable amount of money though ticket sales. The amount you are expected to earn in ticket sales is displayed during the ticket price setting screen. The expenditures are rent and player salaries. These amounts are determined for a full season, not including playoffs. If your team makes the playoffs, you will have to pay additional salaries for each game, but will make more in ticket sales and TV.

The general manager, or GM, is the person responsible for making sure the team has good players. The means to accomplish this are drafting, free agent signing, and trades. Times to do these are obvious during the offseason, but can also be done during the season by selecting "GM" after any game.


Your Budget

At the start of every season, the game will determine a total budget for your team. This is the total amount that can be spent on player salaries, bonuses, and given away in trades for the season. This limit can never be exceeded, and you may find that you cannot sign all of the players you want if you are spending too much money.


Contracts

At the start of the offseason, you get to negotiate a new contract with all returning players whose contracts expired at the end of the previous season. The contract negotiation screen you use here is similar to those you will use for free agent bidding and contract renegotiations.

When entering a contract, you will have a screen showing what value contract the player will accept, how much money you can spend, and options for entering the contract. The value is how valuable the contract is, and is equivalent to the annual salary with no bonus. By adding a bonus you can decrease the amount you are spending while keeping the value the same (but of course you guarantee payment to the player, even if he is cut). The bonus amount of the contract is 30% of the total value, and can either be up-front (pay now) or pro-rated (pay over the lifetime of the contract). An up-front bonus reduces the total cost of the contract (salary plus bonus) by 30%, a pro-rated bonus by 20%.

There is a limit on the duration of a contract, and it is five times the contract level (round down, but of course never less than 1). So a contract with a level of $0.96 million would have a maximum length of 4.8 years, which rounds down to 4 years. This is the only time in which you might want to pay a player more than he is asking, if you want to tie him up long-term.

The commands for changing the contract are + and - to change the value; b to toggle the bonus type; Y and y to raise or lower the contract length; and s lower the salary at each year; shift-b and b to raise or lower the signing bonus; l to adjust the salaries so the level will equal the level the player to view the player's stats. If you do not wish to sign the player to the level he wants, you may cut him by pressing c.

You will also be able to renegotiate contracts throughout the offseason and the season. If you are renegotiating a contract, you must offer the player a deal which is at least as good as his current deal AND at least as good as he thinks he deserves.


Ticket Prices

Before the offseason (when the draft occurs and free agents are signed), you are asked to set your team's ticket price. You are shown the estimated income with as you change the ticket price, so in general you should just choose the price with the highest predicted income.


Stadium Options

Stadium options can be set in baseball and soccer, where you can change certain aspects of the field to alter how the game is played. Baseball allows you to change the centerfield fence distance, as well as the turf type. In soccer, you can change the dimensions of the pitch and the grass length.


Free Agency

Free agency is broken into two periods. The first is before the first draft round, the second is after the first draft round. During the first period, a free agent selected to be signed must be bid on. After the team selecting the player makes the bid, all other teams (including computer controlled teams) will place bids on that player. If a team does not wish to make a bid, the GM may bid 0 or press Esc. The free agent will then go to the highest bidder.

When making free agent bids you will see a screen much like the contract negotiation screen, with a few minor exceptions. First is that instead of having a player-dictated salary level, you may change the level of the salary you are entering. Note, however, that the level it begins at is the level the player is asking for, and he will not sign to a lower contract. The other difference is that, instead of pressing c to cut the player, you may press Esc to cancel the bid.

Immediately before the first draft round, the computer-controlled teams will bid on any players they want, but your teams will be left out of the bidding. So it is important to sign any players you want before you start drafting.

After the first round of the draft, any team may claim free agents by simply selecting them. There is no bidding; the free agent is signed for his listed salary for one year. This is also how free agents get signed during the the regular season. Computer-controlled teams will only attempt to sign after you have made any cuts. This automatically happens after the first game (due to the final cuts), but can happen after any game or immediately before any draft round.


Draft

At the beginning of the season, a new group of college seniors is created, which are formed into teams and play games to generate stats. (This is why season initialization may take some time.) These players are then drafted into the league. Drafting is done normally, with the teams with the worst records getting the best picks and the teams with the best records getting the worst picks. Ties are resolved by the computer ratings.

If any of your players have retired or been cut, you may need to draft players in certain positions, but the computer will inform you of that need so don't worry about making sure you have enough players in each position. You also get an extra draft round for each player that retires. The number of draft rounds you get depends on the number of players you have before drafting. The maximum roster sizes are 50 in football and soccer, 55 in baseball and hockey, and 15 in basketball.

If you do not wish to make draft choices yourself, you may let the computer choose for you by selecting "Computer" when your team's pick comes up. This is useful in the later rounds, when there are no good players left.

Note that in soccer, there is no draft. Instead, players from your (invisible) junior program are added to your roster at the start of each season.


Trades

Trading is quite simple. You merely select a player you wish to trade away, and the players you want in return. If this trade is with another user-controlled team, the game will ask to confirm the trade. If not, the computer will inform you if the trade is approved by the computer GM. Note that players who are involved in trades (successful or not) will be automatically moved to the bottom of the roster during the season, so you may need to change the depth charts afterwards.

About three-quarters of the way through the season, you will pass the trading deadline, after which point no trading is allowed until the next offseason.


Cuts

Cutting players is rather simple. You select who you want to cut and he is removed from your roster. If the player had a signing bonus, you will still have to pay it unless they get signed by another team. You can cut players at any time during the offseason.

At the end of the offseason, you will be forced to cut your roster size down to the level for the season. This size is 50 for football, 50 for baseball and hockey, 44 for soccer, and 15 for basketball. Cut players will become free agents, although those sports have minor league teams (selected after you make your cuts) where you can send your players.


Minor Leagues and Training Squads

In Manager, Hockey, and Soccer, there is a full minor league team for each major league team. After training camps, you must decide which players you want to send to the minors. At any time during the season, you can bring players back and forth between the squads in the GM menu. After the season end, all players return to the major league roster to make offseason moves a bit easier.

In Coach and Basket, players assigned after training camps will instead head to the training squads, where they spend the season playing pickup games. (You may notice that there is a pause after the last game of the day; these games are being played then.) As with minor league players, they will return to the team at the end of the season. The difference is that you cannot recall them to your team; once sent down they remain there for the season.

Following the assignments to minor leagues or training squads, training camps will be run. Training camps generate sample stats for the players, and frequently improve their skills in one or more areas.


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