After the 99-rated highs of last year’s endgame, the start of FIFA 23 Ultimate Team will be a shock to the system. But a bit of experience and foreknowledge can go a long way, allowing you to build up a usable team and coin balance with minimal stress.
In this guide, we break down how to build the best starter team for FIFA 23, including what to look for in different positions, how to take advantage of the new chemistry system, and how to avoid losing coins as the market fluctuates. We’ve also picked out some players who will make a good addition to starter teams without breaking the bank.
Whether you plan to grind Division Rivals and FUT Champions (Weekend League), or you just want to have some fun with Squad Battles, Moments and Objectives, it’s important to have players that bring out the best in the game. Follow our advice and you should be off to a strong start in FIFA 23 Ultimate Team.
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FIFA 23 Ultimate Team starter teams chemistry system guide
After more than a decade using much the same thing, FIFA 23 has a brand new chemistry system that is going to confuse the hell out of pretty much everyone for at least a few weeks. (It even confused EA, who launched the web app with several Squad-Building Challenges that could not be completed due to contradictory chemistry requirements. GG!)
The game will explain it better than we can (we hope), but in terms of its importance to starter teams, there are a few things you should consider when building squads:
- There are no position-based links any more - This means that players from the same club, league or nation can be on opposite sides of the pitch and still provide chemistry to each other.
- Single-league teams may be the optimal strategy in the early days - This is because it will be quite difficult to provide the maximum three points of chemistry to every player otherwise, and the boosts from Chemistry Styles on 3-chem players have a substantial gameplay impact among lower-rated cards.
- Players with zero chemistry play at their face stats, rather than receiving a penalty to them - This means that if you pack a high-quality player with no club, league or nation links to your squad, you can still include them.
- Players now have alternative positions they can play - By default they are things like RB/RWB or LM/LW, but many players have unusual combinations. Phil Foden, for example, can swap between LW, LM, CF and CAM. Individual position-change cards (LF>LW and that sort of thing) have been removed from the game in favour of a single Position Modifier consumable. Apply it to swap the player to one of their alternatives.
These changes allow for different combinations compared to past FIFAs, and this will be particularly useful in the early stages of the cycle as we try to lead a ragtag band of starter players to some semblance of glory!
FIFA 23 best defenders for Ultimate Team starter teams
Three-at-the-back formations were popular in the previous FIFA, but we always recommend starting a new cycle with four at the back in something like a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2. This is because the slower centre-backs on day one are less capable of handling pacy attackers than the max-pace monsters in our previous endgame squads. Full-backs will help cover more ground and are often a bit quicker than centre-backs, too.
Pace is the most important factor for your early defenders, followed by defensive stats, particularly aggression and defensive positioning. Passing is pretty much irrelevant on centre-backs; you just need them to stop attacks. We also recommend building your squad so that your centre-backs have three chemistry points (the maximum possible under the new system) and a pace-orientated Chemistry Style card (ideally Shadow, although Catalyst is a cheap alternative if you’re starved of coins). 3-chem with Shadow will provide an 8-point boost to acceleration and sprint speed, which is huge.
For your goalkeeper, you can use pretty much anyone who provides chemistry. Until we know more about goalkeeper performance in FIFA 23, it is difficult to recommend specific stats, but reflexes have often been key in the past. (If pushed, we’d say David De Gea looks very good based on pre-launch stats alone.)
Here are some defenders we’re quite excited about in the early part of FIFA 23, selected for what we hope will be their potent combination of modest pricing and in-game skill!
- Evan Ndicka (81, CB) - France, Bundesliga - Bundesliga is a great place to look for your defensive players, with plenty of fast-paced options from major nations. This variety should help keep the prices down and help with squad-building. The prestige choices are players like Dayot Upamecano and Lukas Klostermann, but Evan Ndicka is a good alternative for a fraction of the price. (If his work rates concern you, Timo Hubers from Koln is even cheaper and has a high defensive work rate and a four-star weak foot.)
- Jeremie Frimpong (80, RB/RWB) - Holland, Bundesliga - Frimpong was a cult favourite in past games, and his 80-rated card is ideal for starter teams, with good league and nation links. His pace is strong enough that it doesn’t need upgrading, but a Sentinel will give him handy boosts to dribbling, defending and physicals.
- Alexander Bah (78, RB/RWB) - Denmark, Liga Portugal - Changes to chemistry in FIFA 23 means it will be easier to integrate so-called ‘off-league’ cards, and Liga Portugal has a couple of good options for this. Using Alexander Bah at right-back along with club-mates like David Neres (RW), Rafa (RW), Grimaldo (LB) and/or Vlachodimos (GK) is very tempting, but even on his own without chemistry he will be fine.
- Maxwel Cornet (78, LM/CF/LB/LW) - Ivory Coast, Premier League - Premier League players always cost too much relative to other leagues, but if you cannot resist a bit of Barclays, then Maxwel Cornet could be a lively starter option. FIFA 23 players can have multiple alternative positions, and Cornet is comfortable at left-back, on the left of midfield and attack, or even as a centre-forward. His four-star weak foot will also be useful in playing your way out of tight spots compared to other full-backs.
FIFA 23 best midfielders for Ultimate Team starter teams
If you are coming into FIFA 23 off the back of the last game, then you are probably used to having a midfield full of all-rounders who can attack, defend, play the ball off either foot, and then throw in a rainbow flick when backed into a corner. There won’t be many players like that in FIFA 23 for a while, so for now it’s best to focus on specialists.
In our starter 4-3-3, we plan to have one defensive midfielder flanked by a pair of creative players. Stats like interceptions, defensive awareness, stamina and aggression are valuable on the defensive player, and while pace isn’t critical, it will also be helpful. For the more creative players, ideally we’re looking for good passing and dribbling, including high agility and balance stats. Competence on both feet is also a plus.
Here are a few players we’re thinking about as we contemplate starter teams:
- Franck Kessie (84, CDM/CM) - Ivory Coast, LaLiga - Kessie has been a staple of starter teams for several years, but with his move to Barcelona in the summer, the former Serie A giant has stronger links that make him ideal for our CDM position. His new club might inflate his price in the early days, but it will hopefully settle down quite quickly. He definitely needs a Shadow Chemistry Style.
- James Maddison (82, CAM) - England, Premier League - Phil Foden will cost more, but Maddison’s 82-rated card looks more appealing in some respects, with four-star skills and weak foot, and well-rounded stats in shooting, passing and dribbling categories. He is not quick, but in a team where his job is to keep the ball, set up chances and shoot from range, that shouldn’t matter too much.
- Jamal Musiala (81, CM/LM/CAM) - Germany, Bundesliga - Musiala could be a handy card to begin with in one of those creative midfield roles. Phenomenal dribbling (especially agility and balance) should mean that he feels silky smooth, and a Maestro card gives him some interesting boosts to reactions, short passing and long shots to get the most out of his four-star skills and weak foot. Long shots could be particularly valuable with the new Power Shot feature in FIFA 23.
FIFA 23 best attackers for Ultimate Team starter teams
Decent attacking players are often the most expensive cards at the start of the Ultimate Team cycle, so don’t go into the game expecting to pick up Ousmane Dembele and Vini Jr in time for your first Weekend League, unless money is no object and you don’t mind losing coins by the boatload once the market adjusts.
Fortunately there are plenty of other attackers who can carry your goal-scoring burden. In news that will surprise no one, pace will be paramount, followed by shooting stats, while good dribbling is a 'nice to have'. Don’t worry so much about passing. A four-star weak foot helps too, but isn’t essential.
Here are a few attacking players that we wouldn’t mind having in our early teams:
- Luis Muriel (82, ST/CF) - Colombia, Serie A - Serie A is always a good place to look for value in the early part of the FUT cycle, and Muriel remains a reliable choice to head up the attack. He has high-90s pace with a Hunter Chemistry Style, his shooting is very good for his price bracket, and he has four-star skills and weak foot. Stamina may be a concern, but you get five subs now so just find a cheap speedy backup to close out games.
- Cody Gakpo (83, LW/LM) - Holland, Eredivisie - He was a target for Manchester United following a 21-goal haul for PSV in the Eredivisie, and EA Sports obviously took note, because his FIFA 23 card gets a 5-point bump as well as an increase to four-star skill moves. The new chemistry system and strength of other Dutch players means Gakpo will be easier to incorporate than ever. He was in Team of the Week 1, so his Rare Gold card has less supply at the start of the game and will take a little while to settle in price, but once it does, you couldn’t ask for much more in an early-game winger.
- Angel Correa (83, ST/CF/RM) - Argentina, LaLiga - Correa’s cards are always surprisingly good in FIFA and his base Rare Gold looks like it will continue that tradition, with fantastic stats in all the right areas. With a Hunter Chemistry Style he has excellent pace and superb shooting, complementing his formidable dribbling skills and better passing than most. The new alternative positions feature even lets you deploy him out wide if needed. He may not be a glitzy name for your starter squad, but your opponents will underestimate him at their peril.
- Arnaut Danjuma (82, LM/LW/ST) - Holland, LaLiga - OK, yes, it’s another Dutch player from the left wing, but in our defence, Danjuma can play through the middle as well, and this card looks fantastic for the early part of FIFA 23. With a Hunter Chemistry Style, his pace and shooting start to look pretty serviceable, and he has decent passing and dribbling. His positional flexibility for squad building and good league and nation links seal the deal.
If you’re just getting started in FIFA 23, check out our Ultimate Team best starter teams page. You can improve your team by trading and spending FUT Coins - some of which can be earned by completing Milestone Objectives. It’s also a good idea to learn how Squad Battles and Champions work in FIFA 23. We also have an OTW tracker and RTTK tracker. Chemistry has been completely changed in FIFA 23 too and don’t forget about the wide variety of Skill Moves, and make sure to claim your Ted Lasso and AFC Richmond rewards in FUT while you can! Finally, if you need help building the perfect team, we have pages on the best players overall, best Premier League players and fastest players. Along with FIFA 23’s best lengthy players, wonderkids, best strikers, best wingers, best midfielders and best defenders.
How to avoid losing coins in FIFA 23 Ultimate Team starter teams
It’s the far-too-many-thousand-coins question: How do you avoid losing coins when the transfer market starts fluctuating wildly in the opening weeks of FIFA 23? Last year was a mess, as changes to card supply meant the Rare Gold market nosedived in unprecedented fashion, leaving players who bought high-rated cards with huge losses. But on balance the changes were positive for the game, making Rare Gold players and promo cards more affordable across the cycle.
It will take a few weeks to see whether the market follows a similar pattern, and then there is the added curve ball for FIFA 23 of the shared transfer market across consoles. In theory this should not make a massive difference – the Xbox market was only a quarter the size of PlayStation’s, so it’s not a doubling of supply or anything like that, and prices will probably just reflect PlayStation patterns. But who can say for sure?
If you want to avoid losing coins in the early weeks of FIFA 23 Ultimate Team, then, there are two tips we recommend keeping in mind:
- Don’t buy expensive players - Whatever you do, they will drop in price. They may drop quickly or more slowly, but you will lose a lot of coins. And the truth is that you don’t need all the players you see being used by YouTubers and Twitch streamers. There will be cheaper alternatives that get the job done and leave you less exposed.
- Don’t use all your coins for your team - If you spend all your coins on your team, you will be hit hard when the market shifts. If you spend half your coins or less, then you will still take a loss, but you will have spending power left over at a time when the market is low. Keeping coins back also means you can do some trading.
The bottom line is that FIFA 23 Ultimate Team is designed so that you will leak coins, pretty much whatever you do. If you buy players, they will probably depreciate week by week, and you will be taxed 5% of the price when you sell them. If you do SBCs, even using untradeable players, you will remove value from your club. This is how EA keeps you playing (and, they hope, paying). Exercise a bit of restraint and balance, though, and you can avoid being caught out in ways that go beyond general wastage.