If you find yourself winning pretty much winning everything just a few years into your football manager save game, then the Youth Academy Challenge might be worth trying to keep you hooked for a longer time.
The Youth Academy Challenge dictates only using players produced from your club’s academy to win the country’s top division league and the Champions League title of the continent you are managing in without making transfers of any kind be it signing youth players, players on loan, free transfers or even greyed out players.
Even players that initially came through the academy but were sold can not be resigned in the future. You are tied to what the club can produce.
The youth academy challenge automatically makes improving your academy a priority. The better the state of your academy, the higher the chances of better regens coming through and developing into superstars under your watch.
If you want to test the waters and see whether you can enjoy some success. Start the challenge with an established side first that has a good youth recruitment system. Ajax for instance makes for a good starting club.
Once you get in the grove of how things work, you can then drop down the leagues and try to raise a club from the depths of lower league football and turn them into Champions League winners.
The Youth Academy Challenge by nature is designed to take a lot of time to be completed. Hopes of back to back promotion as you charge through the leagues will be dashed very early on, unless you are doing some form of cheating.
There are bound to be youth intake days when you get very poor players that will not improve your side in any way, meaning you will have to spend a few extra seasons in a league before getting players that will once again push you towards promotion.
FM Youth Academy Challenge Rules
For it to count as a valid youth academy challenge, the following rules should be followed throughout the save. Failure to follow one of them nulls the challenge, and you have to start over;
- No loans or transfers of any kind are allowed. This means no free transfers, loans, part exchanges or signing greyed out players. However, you are still allowed to sell your players and also loan them out for game time.
- You are allowed to use the players you inherit at the start of the save who are not homegrown. You can extend their contracts as much as you want, as you will need them to steady the ship for a few seasons while you set up your academy to give you the best possible chance of getting good players.
- Players signed by the board can not be used. Keep them in your reserves, and sell them at the earliest opportunity.
- Get sacked, and you have to start all over again. It does not matter whether you are a season or twenty seasons into your save game, getting sacked means game over.
- The use of save game editors and that sort of thing is not allowed. The only change to the database that is allowed is adding logo packs and fixing team and competition names.
- Signing backroom staff is fair game and encouraged. This is only one of the few ways that you can influence what kind of players come through the academy and the quality of coaching that they get.
- Coaching badges should be set to be in line with the league you are managing in. If you are starting in the Vanarama National League, then you should start with the playing experience of a Sunday league footballer with no badges.
- No save scumming, unless you encounter a game breaking bug. Save scumming defeats the whole purpose of a challenge being difficult and will make your victory feel hollow.
Football Manager Youth Academy Challenge Tips
To get you started on your long journey full of frustration, and hopefully success at the end, here are a few pointers to guide you;
- Hold on to the players you start out with. Do not be in a hurry to get rid of the older players that you start out with. When managing in the lower divisions, the first few youth intakes are unlikely to have quality players as you still have relatively poor staff and facilities. Getting rid of established players will only guarantee your relegation and possible loss of job.
- Never ask for a transfer budget. It is pointless having a transfer budget if you can not sign anyone. Instead, channel this money to your wage budget allocation to ensure you can give good contracts to your best players with the aim of retaining them for the rest of their careers.
- Hire the best staff you can afford. From the head of youth development to the youth coaches, make sure they are the best that you can afford. Staff who are the best in their respective jobs will give your youngsters the best possible chance of reaching their potential.
- Improve youth facilities and junior coaching. Junior coaching influences the training regens who have not yet joined the youth team receive. Youth facilities on the other hand are the facilities available to these young lads that are not yet part of the youth squad.
- Avoid release clauses. It does not matter how high you think that release clause might be. There is always a Man City or PSG willing to trigger it. If an agent is stubborn and locks the clause, agree to the contract but try to renew it without the clause as soon as possible. This is normally possible around 6 months after signing the initial one.
The youth academy challenge should keep you engrossed in a save for much longer. Should you find it to be too challenging, you can make it easier by being agreeing to only sign players from the nation you are managing in, or only signing either under 18 or under 21 players depending on your preference. The lower the age, the more difficult it will be.
Once you are ready to start, check out this guide here on how to set up a balanced save game, with the right amount of leagues loaded.