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Fifa with friends: how to set up your own video game sports tournament

Euro 2020 postponed, Wimbledon cancelled, baseball’s opening day delayed: the coronavirus pandemic has decimated the sporting calendar. Fortunately, if you’re missing the competitive zeal of live sports, multiplayer games such as Fifa 20 enable fans to create their own tournaments – providing both distraction therapy, and the chance to beat your sister to the Premier League title. Here are five recommended multiplayer sports sims, and how to set them up for fierce, sofa-based competition.

Fifa 20 (PS4, Xbox One; £29.99)

One of Fifa’s great strengths is its options for offline tournament play. There are 63 competitions included, such as the English FA Cup and German DFB-Pokal. If you live with 19 other people you can even set up an entire Premier League season, with every club human-controlled.

Best of all is the Custom Tournament mode, where you and three (or seven!) additional family members can go head to head, using your choice of Fifa 20’s 700 teams. Flexible options include two-legged ties and the number of permitted substitutes, plus your choice of trophy and stadium for the final.

There’s sadly no way to set up an online tournament alongside friends, although Co-op Seasons is a fine alternative. Here you team with a mate against similar tandems, with a system of 10 divisions ensuring you’re matched to opponents of equal ability. All results count towards a global leaderboard.

MLB The Show 20 (PS4; £44.99)

The best choice for a living room baseball tournament that won’t threaten your double glazing is The Show’s excellent Home Run Derby mode. It’s available for two, four or eight players, with the simple aim of scoring more homers than your opponent to progress.

The Show features fully licensed players from all 30 MLB clubs, and you can set tournament brackets to feature any of these. There are various time limits, but three minutes feels optimal, particularly when factoring in a cool additional feature: hit two home runs longer than 440 feet and you score a 30-second bonus.

AO Tennis 2 (PC, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One; £47.99)

For the first time since 1945, there will be no Wimbledon champion. In real life, anyway: AO2 enables you to play out the tournament and declare your own victor. While The Championships aren’t officially licensed, the game’s “London” stadium and the “Large Gold 4” and “Medium Silver 17” trophies are clearly inspired by the biggest event on the tennis calendar.
It’s slightly more complex than the other games listed here as custom tournaments require at least eight players, but there’s an easy way to offset this: simply start your competition, then simulate the entire quarter-finals round. You’re now set for four-way action featuring your pick of Rafael Nadal, Gaël Monfils, Ash Barty, Johanna Konta and more.

If you have a few younger players in your household, Mario Tennis Aces (Nintendo Switch) is a lot of fun and allows four-player matches, and it’s portable so you can take it out into the garden.

Rory McIlroy PGA Tour Golf (PS4, Xbox One; £70+)

Five years after release, EA’s most recent golfing effort enjoys a cult following – to the point that secondhand copies start at £70. That’s purely down to its offline excellence. While PGA’s lack of online options disappointed, sofa-based play is of a pass-the-pad nature that immaculately apes the series’ Mega Drive roots.

Up to four players compete over 12 courses, the pick of which is Paracel Storm: a preposterous yet brilliant 18-hole round based on Battlefield 4. Stick-swinging controls suit players of all ages, but Sega alumni can make use of a classic three-tap technique if so preferred.

If you have trouble getting a copy, serious players might want to try The Golf Club 2019, which aims to be a very accurate simulation of the sport. More accessible alternatives include the long-running cartoon-style favourite Everybody’s Golf (PS4) or the incredibly hectic Party Golf (PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch), currently just £2 on Switch.

NBA 2K20 (PS4, Xbox One; £45.99)

Visual Concepts’s basketball veteran goes one step beyond the other games listed. In addition to setting up offline tournaments, you can create online competitions too. Up to 35 friends can join you in playing out a real NBA season with six expansion teams, or a created one that mixes classic rosters with contemporary ones.

If you’d rather stick to home-bound b-ball, the offline Playoffs mode is the way to go: a straight knockout tournament where up to 16 players can be user-controlled. Again, set-up options are plentiful, including a fantasy draft option in case you’re desperate to make Giannis Antetokounmpo a Brooklyn Net.

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