My favorite part of FIFA 17 is building squads and competing in Weekend League Qualifying tournaments with squad restrictions. An unpopular opinion I know but there’s something refreshing about using different squads and searching for hidden gems you wouldn’t normally play with. The no requirement tournaments are a free for all of who can spend the most coin and that just doesn’t tickle my fancy. Lately the restriction that I’ve fallen in love with is a 3.5 star maximum team with only silvers on the bench.

The bench is obviously not negotiable it must be all silvers so there is no strategy there but the Starting XI you can use different tactics. I’ve seen three methods that teams have used, two are successful and one is an abject failure unless you’re a very high quality FIFA player. Just note the obvious, Gold cards are worth more than Silver cards and Rare cards weigh more heavily than Non-Rare cards.

The first instinct to building a 3.5 star team would be to insert all silver players into your line-up and while that would meet the requirements you’re leaving opportunity on the table. A 3.5 star squad does allow for a mix of gold players as long as you balance your player’s overall ratings and Rare/Non-Rare combinations correctly. So below are the approaches I’ve seen (spoiler I endorse Option #3).

As a disclaimer I tend to skew towards Premier League teams because there is the most depth available in card ranges/types and let’s be honest EA Sports skews towards a PL bias like most of the soccer world. Think about it they do a monthly SBC for the Premier League Player of the Month but don’t do it for any other league. You can try and replicate these squad options in La Liga, Calcio A or Bundesliga but I don’t think there’s enough card variety to be successful. The one league that I do think it’s possible to recreate is the Ligue 1 which has plentiful options in the silver and low gold variety.

Option 1 – Olympic Podium

This method, in my opinion, is a bit douchebag-ish. I’ve seen two players roll with this tactic and each game I crushed them because I was motivated a bit more. The “Olympic Podium” team is a combination of Gold, Silver and Bronze. Yes if you bring Bronze into equation it will allow you to insert a higher quality gold player into your Starting XI. If you want to go big and insert a Gareth Bale (90) or Neymar (92) then multiple bronze players will be the only way to counter-balance those hefty ratings.

Again I don’t like this approach at all. It fits within the letter of the law but to me it goes against the spirit of the law. When I see a 3.5 star team I’m not expecting to see SBC Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani but in one such match that’s exactly what happened. Sure he got his star forward into the squad but the bronze players were over-matched and I took advantage for an easy 3-0 victory.

If you’re a really skilled FIFA player you might be able to pull this off with the right bronze players strategically put in the right positions. If you’re a casual player do not try this at home. IE: I wouldn’t mess around putting bronze players at Goalkeeper or central defense, those spots are too valuable to be rolling with 63 overall rated players. But putting a winger or central mid just might work depending on your style of play.

Option 2 – Goldfinger

I didn’t think it was possible but indeed it is possible to field a 3.5 star team with almost all gold players on the Starting XI. With that said the quality you’re going to get in this squad will leave something to be desired. All the players will be non-rare and the overwhelming majority will need to be rated a 75 or 76 overall. This method will give you a broader range of quality across the board, and while in theory this is a good idea, you won’t have any singular position that will stand-out. Chances are you will lose individual match-ups if you come across a team employing Option #3 below.

We’re also under the assumption that a 76 non-rare gold card has more value than a 74 rare silver card and that assumption is definitely wrong. There are high ranking silver players that have much more skill and value than lower rated golds. So don’t fall in love with the color of the card. Look at their traits and skill set, that is the most important part.

Option 3 – Hybrid

Which brings me to my approach, a hybrid approach. Like everything in life consume in moderation. Do not saturate your life in one thing(s) above all else, practice balance and the results will speak for themselves. My approach to a 3.5 star squad is simple. Find the best fitting lower rated gold players I can find (I’ll give you a list below), put them in the most valuable positions, link them with full chemistry and balance that with the best silver cards FUT coin can buy. It’s not rocket science.

On my squad I use 5 gold players in the starting XI with 6 silver players. Each gold player is put in a position, based on the way that I play, that is the most critical. One is a striker because without goals you obviously can’t win, another is a goalie because if they don’t score they can’t win, and the others are flanked the left side of the field which I have a tendency to play towards. So by stacking the golds towards my strengths I’m putting my best players in a position to succeed.

Gold Players

Gabriel Jesus (78 ST) – I absolutely believe in Jesus, this guy has been incredible since his introduction in FUT just a month or so ago. I’ve used him in 39 games scoring 31 goals w/9 assists all versus online competition. His 86 pace makes him a lethal break away threat, his 85 dribbling means you never need to worry about his “handles” and if you like flair then you’ll love his 5 star skill moves and 4 star weak foot. His 76 shot rating appears pedestrian but if you throw the “Hunter” chemistry style on him he transforms to an unworldly striker especially at a 78 overall. He goes to 98 pace, 99 acceleration, 97 sprint speed, 85 shooting and 90 finishing.

Victor Moses (78 LM) – Moses fits a dual purpose at LM on this squad. Not only is he the best non-rare gold player available at the position (you could argue Marco Alonso and I wouldn’t fight you) he provides a Nigerian nationality link with my silver striker in Iheanacho. I like Moses’ 82 pace which is a necessity when running a 4-4-2 formation, that multiplies up to a 94 when you give him the Catalyst chemistry attribute. His defending is a liability but he’s a well balanced attacking option on the left flank.

Nampalys Mendy (78 CM) – If you don’t know N’Golo Kante in FIFA 17 then you must be living under a rock. If you know Kante then you know he’s one of the most valuable players in FIFA Ultimate Team. If you love Kante then let me introduce you to his value alternative, Nampalys Mendy of Kante’s former club Leicester City. Mendy is a mini Kante in every way: he’s fast, he’s an exceptional defender with above average passing. I assign Mendy the shadow card and he morphs into a clone of Kante with 87 pace and 89 defense.

Van Aanholt (75 LB) – More times than not speed is more important than anything else in FUT. If you have pace then it will make up for other sins/holes you may have in your game. I love Patrick Van Aanholt at LB because of his speed. His base card with basic chemistry style is 88 pace, 71 defense and 73 physicality. By giving him the anchor chemistry style those ratings jump to 96-80-80 respectively. He’s not the most technical player in the game but his high pace, high stamina and exceptional tackling ability make him a lock down piece on the left side.

Vorm (80 GK) – I never like to short myself at goalie so I’ll always plug in the best keeper available. Sometimes FIFA is a game of luck and I would like to at least think my luck will improve with the best goalkeeper between the woodwork. The highest rated gold non-rare goalies in the Premier League are Foster and Vorm and the latter provides a Dutch chemistry link with Nathan Ake at CB. I’ve always liked Vorm as a cheap option in FUT dating back to FIFA 12 with his 82 IF card. I have a comfort level with him and that’s critical for your psyche in FUT.

Other solid gold options: Heung Min Son (78 LM), Ahmed Musa (78 ST), Sadio Mane (79 RW), Leroy Sane (79 RW), Simon Mignolet (78 GK), Marcus Rashford (76 ST), Abdoulaye Doucoure (78 CM), Luis Hernandez (78 CB), Fabian Delph (78 CM), Marcos Rojo (78 LB), Oumar Niasse (78 ST), John Stones (78 CB), Christian Kabasele (76 CB)

Silver Players

The silvers aren’t scrubs by any means on this quad…I have more fun playing with silver teams than any others. I think by eliminating the “superstar” ability of players like Messi, Ronaldo, Hazard and others, it becomes truly about who is a better FIFA player than your opponent. You don’t have the magic of those cards, it’s about execution and skill and of course luck because we all know scripting is real right?

Kelechi Iheanacho (74 ST) – If you’re searching the FUT database for Iheanacho then you’ll notice he has two cards a 74 Silver and a 76 gold, go with the silver option. While the overall rating disparity is two points, the only change in his card is +2 shooting and +1 dribbling. Not a material change and his silver card provides more value and flexibility in restricted squad situations like this one. The left foot striker (make sure he’s on the left to shoot across goal) has very nice pace and is sneaky good around the net. He’s not a long distance finisher but inside the box he’s very effective.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah (71 CM) – Immediately his 80 pace rating for a central mid at 6’2” is going to jump off the page. He’s a well balanced CM who skews more towards a CDM than a CAM but if you throw an Engine chemistry card his pace will increase and his offensive traits get a boost making him a dual threat. His Futhead beast rating is an 84 and he absolutely battles in the midfield. I love his aggression (83 overall) and he’s a perfect compliment to Mendy. Both create a lock down midfield and for my money a smothering defense in FUT is the way to win.

Matt Phillips (74 RM) – Phillips has the bizarre honor of having an In-Form card rated the same overall as his base level card. Both are 74 overall but his IF boosts some heavy duty stat increases. For this purpose we’re rolling with the base card because it does the job and unless you’re playing competitively with silver teams it probably isn’t worth the additional investment. Phillips is everything you want in a winger with a 442 formation. You need speed, dribbling and good cross ability, all get additional boosts (96-75-82) with Engine chemistry card. He reminds me a bit of Lucas from Paris St. Germain, I really like this card and I’m going to keep on an eye on him the Premier League going forward.

Moses Odubajo (72 RB) – Everything I said for Patrick Van Aanholt holds true for Moses Odubajo at the RB position, they’re almost mirror images of one another. Odubajo’s base 87-70-75 ratings for pace/defense/physical upgrade to 94-79-83 with the anchor chemistry card, same as Van Aanholt. He’s unquestionably the fastest at his position among the silvers with a 70+ defensive rating. He’s got that hidden “OP” trait somewhere in his DNA.

Nathan Ake (74 CB) – I broke the bank (50K) on this one because I tried out a few other center backs and I wasn’t getting the results I was looking for. Either they weren’t quick enough or they would frequently drift out of position. So I bought the best, the In Form version of Nathan Ake with an absurd 80 pace rating for a CB. He reminds me in some ways of David Luiz where he’s very good offensively despite being a central defender. In late game situations that’s helpful if I need to have Ake push forward and create opportunities with his 72 passing and 70 dribbling. Not so coincidentally he slots perfectly between Van Aanholt and Vorm with that double Dutch chemistry linkage.

Jason Denayer (74 CB) – This guy may look like Joakim Noah but he’s a very smooth central defender. Man City owns his rights but have sent him on loan to Celtic, Galatasaray and Sunderland in consecutive seasons. They might be wishing they had him back right now. I feel like I’m beating this point to a pulp but pace is so important in the defense and his 78 pace and 74 defensive ratings change to 91 and 88 respectively with the all powerful Shadow chemistry card. I previously paired Denayer with Kabasele going full Belgian linkage but for whatever reason these two didn’t play well off each other. Denayer and Ake have been a dream in my defense pitching a pair of shutouts in this past tournament limiting two different teams to zero shot attempts.

Additional Silver options: Iwobi (73 LM), Chester (73 CB), Afobe (74 ST), Mings (71 LB), Onomah (70 CAM), De Laet (73 RB), Hanley (73 CB), Gayle (73 ST), Ndong (74 CM), Simpson (74 RB), Kenedy (73 LM) and King (72 ST)