What if… There were 26 World XI’s based on the alphabet

You might have seen this post on Reddit that made “letter based teams”. The concept is that there are 26 teams, one for each of the letters of the alphabet, and each team is made up of the best players with a surname of that letter. It was really well done, and a fantastic read, but left me (and plenty others) thinking “but how would those teams actually do?”. So I made it.

Credit goes to Johhog on Reddit for making the database to start with, found here. I edited quite a few things from the original idea though. Firstly the names were changed to a [City with the biggest stadium] [Common animal] format. So Tehran Tigers for T, or Houston Hedgehogs for H. Kits were pointlessly changed to have their colours representing the letters. A became Auburn and Amber, O became Orange and Onyx. You get the idea. It took a lot of effort, and almost no-one but me will ever see it.

The list of teams used for the league.

Players were allocated on a 3 per slot basis. A formation in Football Manager has 25 possible slots, giving 75 players per team. From there a couple of players were added in based on ability, as well as the best young players for each letter, resulting in team sizes between 95 and 115 for every team. Plenty of players to chose from. The biggest issue comes from Portuguese, Spanish and East Asian names. For consistencies sake “second” names were used for Portuguese/Spanish, so players like Andre Gomes would go to G. East Asian names went by their family name, so Son Heung-Min would go to S. It may not be technically correct, but it’s consistent and easy, so that’s how it is.

Now the league is mostly unedited from the base database. A 26 team double fixture league, resulting in everyone playing 50 games per season. To lessen the load, there’s just one single-knockout match cup between all 26 teams. The league replaces San Marino in Europe, so after the first season, will enter Europe and have all that to contend with. Reserve and U-21 leagues were added to give the massive squads something to do.

The most talented squad at the start, Soweto are the early favourites.

So the stage is set, everyone should be aware of what’s going on now. How about we get this thing started and see which letter will dominate on the world stage? Get a T because we’re in for an interesting ride…

 

2016/17

League Winner: Soweto Spiders
Best Player: Lionel Messi – 8.12
Top Scorer: Alexis Sanchez – 39
Most Assists: James Rodriguez – 21
Cup Winner: Rome Raccoons

From the start, the entire season comes down to a battle between two teams. Ronaldo knocks in 38 goals for Rome, but it’s Soweto that come out on top by a clear 9 points. The pairing of Sanchez and Suarez proves to be lethal, as the pair net 70 goals together in their debut season.

Messi can only guide Melbourne to a disappointing 10th, with the Mice being outperformed by the likes of Tehran, Naples and Jakarta. The trio all outperform their pre-season predictions by 10, finishing 5th, 9th and 3rd respectively. At the bottom Xi’an finish 20 points adrift. It’s clearly to be expected though, as they don’t sack their manager.

The first ever ABC league, and how it all ended. Domination by Soweto.

The top scorer spot is dominated by Rome and Soweto. Ronaldo runs it close, but in the end Sanchez taking it with 39 goals. James Rodriguez plays his part, putting in 21 assists for his Rome teammates. Messi will feel very unsupported though, winning player of the season despite Melbourne’s lowly finish.

Over in the cup, Rome do manage to get some silverware. They face off against lower alphabet rivals Tehran in the final, with their class shining through in a 2-1 victory. A Europa League slot safely cemented.

Melbourne will find some solace in the U21 league win, along with 3rd in the reserves league. Mandzukic, Mata and Mere proved to be the stars of the reserve sides, although the fact they’re down there in the first place may be a sign that Mourinho has lost the plot.

 

2017/18

League Winner: Soweto Spiders
Best Player: Lionel Messi – 8.04
Top Scorer: Edinson Cavani – 27
Most Assists: Eden Hazard – 15
Cup Winner: Jakarta Jellyfish

Soweto run away with things pretty early, leaving the rest of the field to fight for 2nd. Houston, Rome and Dallas all finish within 2 points of eachother, but its Rome in 2nd, and Houston grabbing the Europa League spot in 3rd.

The Soweto team to take the second title. An interesting choice of 4-4-2, but it works.

London improve to take 5th, whilst Tehran drop down to 14th. I wasn’t sure it was possible, but Xi’an and Quito get even worse. They drop to the 10’s in points, a full 30 off the rest of the pack.

Despite a mediocre year for Columbus, Cavani comes out with top scorer, cementing his place as the elite finisher everyone believes him to be. Messi takes another player of the season, despite Melbourne still doing nothing.

Highlighting their improvement this time round, London make the ABC Cup final. There they find themselves big favourites against Jakarta, but Gabriel Jesus has other ideas. The Brazilian fires the first of 3 goals, to give the Jellyfish some silverware.

With it being the second season, we get our first taste of how things are going to look in Europe. In short, utter domination. Naples fall in Europa League qualifying to Villarreal, but Soweto and Rome really turn up. Ronaldo scores 27 goals on the way to an easy Europa title for Rome, whilst Suarez nets 24 to give Soweto the Champions League. It’s almost unfair.

 

2018/19

League Winner: Soweto Spiders
Best Player: Leonardi Bonucci – 7.89
Top Scorer: Luis Suarez – 31
Most Assists: Alexis Sanchez/Thiago – 18
Cup Winner: Soweto Spiders

Soweto take yet another title, which is no surprise to anyone. The interesting stuff is still behind, with Rome, Dallas, Alexandria and Columbus fighting it out. All get into Europe, but its Rome in 2nd place yet again. There’s a pattern emerging here.

London and Naples have fallen back to mediocrity, whilst Edinburgh take a strong 11th. Vienna are doing far worse than their talent suggests they should be, consistently finishing around 20th.

Bonucci claims the highest average rating of the season but gets snubbed for player of the season. I don’t know why, he just did. The award goes to Sanchez, who claims joined most assists with Tiago, setting up Suarez to pip Ronaldo for top scorer again. Name drop.

Soweto become the first team to claim a double. And also the only team that could have so far. Andre Silva leads them to a convincing win over Guangzhou, adding another piece of silverware to the cabinet.

Over in Europe, the coefficient catches up a little, seeing the ABC League rocket up the rankings. Miraculously, ABC teams only get knocked out by other ABC teams. Houston sneak past Jakarta for a Europa League title, whilst Rome get revenge over Soweto on the way to a Champions League win.

The run Rome took to the Champions League title.

 

2019/20

League Winner: Melbourne Mice
Best Player: Lionel Messi – 8.26
Top Scorer: Lionel Messi – 29
Most Assists: Dele Alli – 20
Cup Winner: Naples Newts

Soweto, Rome and Dallas have proven to be strong contenders, but finally Messi and his Mice step up. 29 goals from the Argentinian maestro means Melbourne break the Soweto dominance and claim the title. Rome come 2nd, Dallas 3rd, leaving Soweto a disappointing 4th.

Pyongyang and Tehran outperform their expected levels, with a decent 5th and 6th each. Orlando do the opposite, dropping down to a pitiful 21st, despite the best efforts of Ozil.

Thanks to his top scoring antics, Messi also takes player of the season. He doesn’t even scrape it, with his 8.26 average blowing 2nd place Pique’s 7.73 out of the water. Alli grabs 20 assists in an otherwise unremarkable Alexandria year.

Team of the season for 2019-20. Not sure Hazard is a CM, but sure.

In the ABC Cup, it’s Niang’s and Nastasic’s time to shine. The pair perform well on the way to a Naples Cup final victory over Pyongyang, putting the first trophy in the cabinet.

Another European campaign means two more trophies for the ABC teams. The Europa League sees Dallas squeak past Barcelona 1-0, whilst the Champions League pits rivals Rome and Soweto against each other. It takes penalties to split the two, and Rome walk out with the second CL in a row. The coefficient puts the league in the top 10 now.

 

2020/21

League Winner: Dallas Dogs
Best Player: Leonardo Bonucci – 7.97
Top Scorer: Thomas Muller – 27
Most Assists: Jorginho – 19
Cup Winner: Soweto Spiders

The league ends with a tight race for 2nd place, with 5 teams sitting 6 points apart. Rome take second, closely followed by Kuala Lumpur and a fallen Melbourne. But in 1st? Dybala leads Dallas to an impressive title, ending the season 6 points clear.

So what about Soweto? A poor start sees Simeone sacked, and his replacement Mourinho can only guide to Spiders to a lowly 9th place. Not even Europe for the strong favourites. Guangzhou enjoy a resurgence to earn 5th, whilst Pyongyang sink back down to 17th.

Dallas take their first title ever, but the fight is for 3rd is where it’s at.

There’s a new mixture of players competing for awards, as Muller takes top scorer and Jorginho finishes with most assists. Kane, Hummels and Neymar also have strong seasons, although with reward.

Despite their poor league performance, Soweto fans do get a little to cheer about in the cup. Knockout specialist Andre Silva once again impresses, as the Spiders beat Melbourne 2-1 in the final to lift the trophy.

In the Europa League, Soweto clear Pyongyang and Naples on the way to the title, claiming a Champions League spot. The Champions League proves far less successful, as Athletic put down Rome and Melbourne on the way to the title. They’re not an ABC team so it’s all wrong.

 

2021/22

League Winner: Dallas Dogs
Best Player: Kevin De Bruyne – 7.75
Top Scorer: Marcus Rashford – 31
Most Assists: Juan Mata – 20
Cup Winner: Melbourne Mice

Melbourne take the fight back to Dallas, as Muller and Morata pair up for an almost 50 goal partnership. It’s not enough though, as the Dogs just about win it, with the De Bruyne, De Gea, Dybala trio setting up a second title in a row.

Soweto have risen back to Europe, claiming a Europa slot with 6th. Pyongyang, Rome and Kuala Lumpur all finish on identical points, but goal difference pushes Kuala Lumpur out of the Champions League, and more impressive puts the Pandas 3rd.

A good season for Dallas means their players crop up all over the stats, including De Bruyne as best player. Rashford’s individual performance of 31 goals helps him edge out the Melbourne twins for top scorer.

In a rematch of last year’s final, Soweto and Melbourne clash for the ABC Cup. Things are exactly reversed this time round though, as Melbourne walk out with their first ever Cup title.

In the Champions League, 3 of the 4 semi-finalists are ABC teams, demonstrating why they’ve reached 1st in the coefficient. Rome disappoint by losing to OM, but the French side are put in place, as Dallas cap off an incredible season with the title. Sporting claim two more ABC scalps, beating London in the final to win the Europa League. Booooo.

Dominance for the ABC teams in Europe, with thrashings galore. Apart from against OM, who seemed set on spoiling the party.

 

2022/23

League Winner: Dallas Dogs
Best Player: Paulo Dybala – 7.99
Top Scorer: Marcus Rashford – 35
Most Assists: Paulo Dybala – 20
Cup Winner: Houston Hedgehogs

Dallas once again win it, no build up this time I’m afraid. They do get pushed by a new face, as Tehran do incredibly well to grab 2nd. Rome and Soweto chase up behind to fill the Champions League spots. Further down, Houston do an impressive job to take 6th, only just behind Melbourne.

Rashford has now hit his prime, and aided by an elderly Ronaldo, smashes top scorer. The average age has tipped massively upwards, so it’s players like Icardi and Dybala also step to the fore even more. Bonucci on the other hand, shows no signs of stopping. At 36, he’s still averaging 7.97 a game.

ABC Team of the Season for 2022/23. No place for the likes of Messi and Ronaldo, so times are changing.

To further cement their strong European slot, Houston win the ABC Cup. They do so in style, as youngster Havertz runs rings around league champions Dallas in the final.

On the continental level, Soweto add another Europa League trophy thanks to a victory over Kuala Lumpur. Despite having struggled on a domestic level, Pyongyang come good on the European scene. They beat giants like OM and Bayern on the way to a surprising Champions League title.

 

2023/24

League Winner: Dallas Dogs
Best Player: Leonardo Bonucci – 7.98
Top Scorer: Marcus Rashford – 31
Most Assists: Bernardo Silva – 27
Cup Winner: Alexandria Ants

Despite the best efforts of Soweto and Rome, Dallas claim their 4th title in a row. Players like Diawara, Dembele, Draxler and Dybala are hitting their stride, so this might go on for a while. Edinburgh somehow sneak in and grab an incredible 4th, whilst Kuala Lumpur and Tehran plummet to 17th and 21st.

Rashford continues his scoring spree, although with little reward for now. Bernardo Silva absolutely smashes the assists record with 27, leaving Veratti (huh?) in 2nd. Every player is now over 23, so the young player of the season award has been cancelled. Kai Havertz will be the last to ever win.

Dallas become the second ever team to claim a cup/league double, as Moussa Dembele (the Celtic one) leads them to a penalty win over Kuala Lumpur.

The Champions League proves hugely disappointing. Despite 5 teams entering, not a single one makes it to the semi-finals. They even all fall to non-ABC teams too. The Europa League still sets up an ABC final, with Houston losing to Melbourne, but are cracks beginning to show?

On the international scene, something a incredibly impressive… Players like Winks and Lascelles have started taking on Sammarinese nationality, meaning they’ve become quite decent. Despite being in a group with Austria, Serbia and England, San Marino qualify for Euro 2024! From there they even escape their group unbeaten, before falling to their demise against Portugal. Talk about unexpected.

The group results of the legendary Euro 2024 appearance.
And the squad that did it. None of them are legends on the world stage, but in San Marino, they’re all heroes.

 

2024/25

League Winner: Dallas Dogs
Best Player: Leonardo Bonucci – 7.99
Top Scorer: Andre Silva – 28
Most Assists: Christian Eriksen – 16
Cup Winner: Orlando Octopuses

The title race holds very little surprise. As with most seasons, Rome, Melbourne and Soweto push Dallas close, but the Dogs take it. To be honest it’s not that close, with Dallas winning by 20 points, but you get the idea. London and Houston buck up their ideas a little to claim 5th and 4th, demoting Soweto to 6th.

Despite their 6th place, Soweto players actually put in a strong showing. Bernardo Silva and Sidibe run Bonucci close for best player, whilst Andre Silva finishes as top scorer. Edinburgh make their first appearance in the awards thanks to 16 assists from Eriksen.

It’s utter domination at the top. And at the bottom. Dallas sit 20 points clear, whilst Xi’an and Quito are 13 points adrift.

Orlando attempt to make up for their complete anonymity by making a cup final. There they face the Pyongyang Pogbas in a tight match, but it’s the Octopuses who come out victorious. They book themselves a European slot for what I’m sure will be a distinctly average performance.

A slightly stronger showing in Europe this year, with Dallas being the ones to knock out Rome and Melbourne on the way to the final. There they lose to OM, who’s first 11 has an average value of £48M. Damn… The Europa League is still an ABC affair, although only just. Edinburgh are the only team to make the semi-finals, before scrapping past Chelsea and Barcelona to win it all.

 

2025/26

League Winner: Dallas Dogs
Best Player: Paulo Dybala – 7.96
Top Scorer: Paulo Dybala – 33
Most Assists: Kevin De Bruyne – 20
Cup Winner: Alexandria Ants

Not only has the league become predictable, the awards have too. Dallas wins the league, Dybala takes top scorer and best player, whilst De Bruyne wins most assists. Surprise surprise. The usual M, R, S finish behind them, but there are a couple of surprises as Barcelona and Alexandria qualify for Europe.

Houston have yet another solid season. They add a cup win to their 5th place finish, thanks to a 1-0 victory over Soweto.

Dallas have become ABC’s best hope in Europe. Unfortunately for them, Real Madrid prove too much in the semi-finals, and the last remaining team falls. London clear bogey team Sporting and local rivals Soweto on their way to a close Europa League victory. I’m expecting that to fall to a non-ABC team too soon.

And here we have the Dallas legends. An incredible all-round squad, that by the 20’s has pretty much no weaknesses. Donnarumma barely gets a game.

 

Time to speed things up…

Yup. I’m not going to keep this going on for too much longer. It’ll be until the last remaining real players have reached a retirement age, so only about 10/15 years longer. It’s pretty clear how things are going, so how about we speed it up for the last bit.

 

2026-31

Straight off the bat Dallas stop winning titles, with Melbourne getting in the way. It’s not thanks to Messi, with the 39-year-old Argentinian barely able to move, leaving it to spritely youngsters like Martial. Kuala Lumpur then step up to take two in a row, before Melbourne reclaim the throne in 2030 and 2031. Rome, Dallas and Soweto are still around, but it’s not to the same threatening scale as before. Orlando meanwhile have become a solid top 10 team.

The rare non-favourite win. I don’t know how Kuala Lumpur did it, but it’s a cracking win regardless.

The youngsters of Alli, Odegaard, Dybala, Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva dominate the league, sweeping almost all the awards available. Messi is restricted to the occasional substitute appearance, whilst Ronaldo holds out a bit longer before even his physical godliness degrades. Gorka Iraizoz comes out with the oldest player record, at 48 years, 330 days. Arjen Robben finally finds sweet release, using injury as an excuse to leave the game at 45 years old. He made just 74 appearances in 14 years at Rome.

The cup throws up few surprises, with the likes of Houston, Kuala Lumpur and Rome taking home the silverware.

In Europe, Dallas claims the 2026/27 Europa League, whilst Melbourne makes the Champions League final the same year. Its quiet outside of that though, and the coefficient has slipped to a level where England will overtake in 1 or 2 years. It’s all going to hell.

The sole European win of the era. ABC teams mostly knock eachother out, but the fact it’s the only win isn’t great.

San Marino is still trying to milk the glory days for all its worth. The entire national team is above the age of 30, but it’s still just about working as they qualify for Euro 2028. They even claim a win, something that would have been historic but is now the bare minimum. At least until all their players shrivel up and die.

 

2031-36

Somehow Melbourne are scraping together a team that’s decent and it shows. They take every single title that’s on offer except the last. Emre Mor, Martial, Joao Mario and Mere have become fixtures, with the Mice not dropping below 100 points in any of the five seasons. The 5th title goes to Orlando, who spend a few years in the top 5 before taking 1st.

The Mice’s winning team. Morata is still going, but most of the old legends have been replaced by newer younger models.

The number of goals is way down, with the highest teams scoring around 70 goals in their 50 games. This does lead to an impressive new record, as Meret manages to earn 37 clean sheets in a season in 2034. We get a new age record, as Wasilewski starts for Washington at 55 years 354 days.

In the cup, things are far more varied. Soweto win twice, whilst Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, and Pyongyang also get their hands on some silverware. Impressively, the cup manages to go one season with a record high of 5 goals for a team.

A 3.2 coefficient is not good enough for a top 10 slot, it’s all downhill now.

The coefficient has finally gone to pot as I expected. ABC teams qualify for the knockout round of the Champions League twice in the 5 seasons and get handily beaten each time. The Europa League is a similar story, with the only second knockout round appearances in 2032. The coefficient is down to 8th, and at its current rate should sink to about 25th.

With almost everyone being above 36, San Marino have sunken back to their realistic dreadful levels. They plummet from 41st to 171st in the rankings within the five years and fail to win at all in several of those years. It doesn’t help their star player is a 37-year-old Tom Davies.

 

And we’re done!

We’re going to call it there. The youngest players in every squad are at a reasonable retirement age, and matches have ground to walking bore fests. There’s nothing left to learn beyond what we already know, so I think it’s about the right time. So what did we actually get out of that…

Just demonstrating the clear patterns seen. There are a few consistent teams, and no matter the era, they’re always there.

Well S, M, R and D are by far the best names. Soweto have a good balance now, Dallas have some good young-20’s players to keep their challenge alive, whilst Melbourne have the kids to fight once they shed the weight of Messi. Rome are never the best, but always consistent enough to be there.

L, C and K are decent, although not close to the best. P, H and T are also reasonable if not a bit inconsistent. On the flip side X and Q are by far the worst on offer. The most obscure letters barely scrape teams together, let alone wins. Y, Z and I also struggle but are helped by having two utterly useless teams to shine against.

The records for the league. Nothing spectacular considering the number of games. If you see the 37 clean sheets, that’s because the last few years became ridiculously low scoring thanks to non-existent physical stats.

 

The state of the world

England

Liverpool take a surprise early few titles before Man City step in and dominate almost every year. Chelsea solidify 2nd, but the biggest surprise is Man United only finishing in the top 3 twice. Even Stoke regularly outperform them.

Spain

Real Madrid win all but two titles, including 16 titles in a row. One of the titles goes to Barcelona, but its Athletic Bilbao who grab the other as the push the Catalan club out as the second best team in Spain. Atletico fall to mediocrity very quickly.

Germany

Bayern take most titles, with Dortmund getting the occasional win and Wolfsburg winning one. Gladbach make a few top 3 appearances, but the biggest surprise is a Freiburg 2nd.

Italy

Following the trend, Juventus dominate. Roma do a good job to keep them on their toes, regularly coming 2nd and taking 3 titles themselves. Torino and Chievo manage a few surprisingly competitive years in the early 20’s

France/Portugal

PSG actually don’t win everything, conceding two titles to Marseille and Lyon. Porto fall apart early on, leaving Sporting and Benfica to battle for the top spot. Vitoria de Guimaraes prove more competitive than Porto by the end.

Europe

A chunk of the titles go to the ABC teams before Real Madrid take over. The Spanish side make 9 Champions League finals in a row, winning 6 of them. PSG are second best with three titles. Athletic are the biggest surprise to win, whilst Stoke, Lorient and Espanyol all claim Europa League trophies.

All the Champions League winners, including the domination of Real Madrid. No more ABC wins forever.

International

I ignored the World Cup throughout, mainly because there were no surprises. Argentina make three finals in a row but win just one. Portugal win a couple, whilst England win the 2034 edition in South Korea. Outside that the only international surprise is a 2035 Copa America win for Paraguay.

 

An extra test

Don’t worry I have one this time round. Let’s take things the extra step further. Not only will teams be grouped by letter, but they’ll have to play in a formation that looks like that letter. That’s right, Orlando are going to player as an O with no-one in the middle. You can see a full album of the formations I used here:

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It’s easy to guess who struggled, but the biggest surprise came from Zhengzhou. Helped by playing a reasonably sensible formation, the Zebras smash the league with 42 wins and 130 GD. Istanbul also do better than expected in 3rd, whilst Soweto break the scoring record with 287 goals on the way to 2nd. Their formation is a little bizarre, but the talent proved good enough to keep them at the top.

At the bottom, Yokohama, Xi’an and Ulsan found no improvement with their formations. Houston and Naples suffered the most, with the pair using two players in the middle of the park resulting in 250 conceded each. Previous titans Rome, Melbourne and Dallas turn into mid-table teams with the lack of strikers or defenders hampering them just enough.

The full results of the season, and the utter chaos that descended on everyone.

The league itself turned into an utter goal fest. The biggest win record got set at 17-3, with the highest scoring game a 13-8. Suarez and Sanchez took a stab at top scorer, netting 146 between them. But it was not to be, with Gamerio taking the trophy with 86 goals. The lethal partnership with Greizmann and Gotze is enough to take Guangzhou into 7th.

So that was fun. The moral of the story here is no matter the talent, having no defenders, no wingers or no central players is going to screw you in the long run. And also that stupid gimmicky formations are stupid.

I wanted to include the records just because of how ridiculous the results were. Most goals scored and conceded broke, due to the 255 limit.

 

Final thoughts

This one took longer to set the scope than I realised it would. Initially teams had 500+ players, but that breaks the game badly so I had to re-adjust. There’s nothing to take away from it but it was a fun little test nonetheless. I guess you can focus on certain letters when browsing for the next superstar? Or not, because that’s a terrible idea.

It was nice to do someone elses pre-conceived idea though. I’d hoped to get it out sooner after the original post, but things got in the way. I hope it’s still relevant enough to be of interest. If not then maybe it provided an interesting little read by itself. If not then I’m out of ideas and you should find something that you actually like reading. Like Harry Potter or something. Anyway I digress, feedback, comments and payments towards a Lamborghini for me are always welcome, so do as you please. This experiment did open some interesting methods of making players really old, so expect to see something on that soon…

I want to try more of other’s ideas in the future. I had a backlog of them from other posts so expect to see more of this style. Most of the ideas are better than mine. But for now…

Thanks for reading. And goodbye.

 

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