Throughout the course of this year's FIFA game, Ultimate Team players have been doing something that on the face of it sounds counter-intuitive: deliberately relegating themselves.
This is not a new phenomenon in the world of Ultimate Team, but it has certainly ramped up with the release of FIFA 20. It's become a meme within the game's community, and popular FIFA streamers and YouTubers even recommend it to their followers.
So, why does self-relegating help you out? Well, this all revolves around Ultimate Team's Division Rivals mode, which is ostensibly the game's main online competitive ranked mode (the gruelling Weekend League is the place for the ultra hardcore and the best rewards). Division Rivals, which has, generally, been a huge success since its introduction with FIFA 19, sorts players out into divisions, with relegation and promotion and related rewards. The better you are at the game, the higher division you'll be in - or so the theory goes.
Now onto objectives - the chief reason some FIFA 20 players feel Division Rivals has been ruined. EA Sports runs limited-time objectives to earn high-powered cards for use in Ultimate Team, and these objectives involve completing challenges in Division Rivals.
Take one of the more recent objectives as an example: Summer Heat Objective - Ferland Mendy - 93 LB. This popular objective, which expires on Friday, 17th July, rewards players with one of the best left back cards in the game. All the challenges involve playing Division Rivals:
- Rival 5: Win 5 Rivals matches to earn 85 OVR FUTMAS Mendy
- Skilled Footing: Score in 3 separate Rivals matches using players with min 4* Skills and 5* Weak Foot with 85 OVR FUTMAS Mendy in your starting squad
- La Liga Lineup: Play 10 Rivals matches with 85 OVR FUTMAS Mendy and min 6 La Liga players in your starting squad to earn 87 OVR Summer Heat Mendy
- Curated Crossing: Assist with a Cross using 87 OVR Summer Heat Mendy in 3 separate Rivals matches
- Ferland Force: Score an Outside of the Box goal in 2 separate Rivals matches using French Players with min 4* Skill Moves and 5* Weak Foot using 87 OVR Summer Heat Mendy in your starting squad
- French Formation: Play 12 Rivals matches with 87 OVR Summer Heat Mendy and min 6. French players in your starting squad, to earn 89 OVR Summer Heat Mendy with improved 5* Skill Moves
- Winning Wing-Back: Score using 89 OVR Summer Heat Mendy in 4 Rivals wins
- Clean Sheet Success: Keep a Clean Sheet and win by a goal difference of a least 2 goals in a Rivals win, with 89 OVR Summer Heat Mendy in your starting squad
- Maestro Mendy: Assist using 89 OVR Summer Heat Mendy in 10 separate Rivals wins.
This is a long-winded objective, and it will take even the best players quite some time to complete. So, how do you make it easier for yourself? Relegate yourself in Division Rivals so, theoretically at least, you're playing against lower-skilled opponents during the grind. Players are loading into Division Rivals, finding a match, and then quitting early on. This results in a loss. Do this enough times and you'll drop down the divisions.
The problem is, if lots of high-skilled players deliberately relegate themselves, then the lower divisions are packed full of players who are too good for the average or casual player to have a realistic chance against. This phenomena is ruining Division Rivals for players who naturally sit in the lower divisions and are going up against teams packed with incredibly-powerful cards, or teams controlled by high-skill players, or even both. Division Rivals, through self-relegation, has become a bit of a nightmare - and most agree it's more than a bit broken, with some even calling for EA to ban those who do it.
FIFA subreddits, forums and social media channels are packed with players complaining about how difficult the lower leagues of Division Rivals have become. "I'm in div 7 and it's so much harder than WL," said redditor ActionBronsonFlow. "Everyone is from at least div 3/4 minium."
"Division 10 is a mixed bag where some games you win 8-0 and other games where u face relegators that walk all over you," said redditor Conquestadore. "Had a better time in div. 6-7 this far, that is until the Mendy objective which everyone seems to want to do. It was actually getting better this past month where objectives weren't the best. I for one will stop playing rivals which I usually enjoy because losing a game flat out versus getting a free win to relegators is not my idea of a fun pastime. WL feels like more balanced matchmaking which is crazy."
I relegated myself for Objectives lol— SAF - FIFA 22 News (@FUT22News) November 7, 2019
https://t.co/ixVlnakaJw— Five Star FUT (@FiveStarFUT) November 12, 2019
This is what I had yesterday.
It is just so messed up. These objectives are bad for everyone. The people who want to do them, and the people who *shock horror* just want to play the damn game with the hour or two they have to log on in the evening.
Absolutely hate when there is a division rivals win objective cos all the sweaty bastards relegate themselves for a 50k pack when they?re rocking TOTYs and icon squads.— Mr C (@ShiteAtFifa) April 13, 2020
@EAFIFADirect please can you guys start banning accounts of the people who relegate themselves in division rivals thanks— fifachief999 (@fifachief999) April 20, 2020
This is coming from a person who has a shit team and is shit at the game but for the enjoyment of the players in general @EASPORTSFIFA please find a way to fucking ban scumbags who relegate themselves in division rivals to complete objectives— boro for promotion (@yido_young) June 17, 2020
@EASPORTSFIFA you need to do something to rivals, im sick & tired of playing teams with inform cr7, moments lucas, neymar, an icon etc in division 9 & 8. Change the objectives or make it so players do not want to relegate themselves #FIFA2020 #pcgames #PS4 #Xbox— D (@GamerDavidH) April 9, 2020
As I mentioned, this has been an issue for some time. Previous promos, such as those relating to the coveted Icons cards, prompted a wave of deliberate relegations, too.
"Since people started getting relegated to do the icons objectives I don't even remember the last time I won a match," said redditor kozlowski7.
"I was really enjoying FIFA and doing well (by my standards) but now I play a few matches a day and lose every single one. Absolute joke."
So, what's to be done? Many players are calling on EA Sports to make objectives obtainable through modes other than Division Rivals, or make those who quit more than, say, a quarter of matches exempt from promos.
With all eyes on FIFA 21, just announced by EA and due out in October, FIFA 20 is coming towards the end of its life. But many Ultimate Team players are hoping EA Sports has a plan for sorting out the game's self-relegation problem - otherwise we could see a repeat all next season.