When does UICA happen, in-character?
According to common convention: if you're familiar with real-life football, it's similar to how the various Champions Leagues work there, happening across the season. That said, if you'd rather treat it as a whole block of events that happen before your league season, you're entitled to do that.
Can I at least get a hint as to how to schedule leagues/cups/international tournaments alongside each other?
There's no strict global calendar you have to adhere to. Here's what I use for Brenecia and Nephara.
You've vaguely mentioned the difference between the popular scorinators. Where can I take scorination questions to people who know what they're talking about?
What happens when I'm about to miss a cycle?
So the cutoff's in two days and you're panicking. But there's plenty you can do in that time. If it's not your first season, you already have the infrastructure to score another season with minimal changes. If you have a free hour, you can score the season, format the table, and at least throw up a couple paragraphs of season review.
Of course, as always, RL comes first. If you are absolutely swamped or don't have access to your scorinator, you get one cycle to resubmit your old clubs. I would strongly recommend you RP this as 'the season happened, but just happened to have the same teams finish at the top' - it's a hell of a coincidence, but it beats your players twiddling their thumbs for a year.
What happens when I do miss a cycle?
Sometimes sh!t just happens. I've missed a cycle myself, not for any OOC reasons apart from just missing the cutoff post. For IC purposes, I do believe it's best to assume a league season still happened in that time, but that its submission to UICA was thrown off by off-field factors. Match-fixing scandals, corruption or autocracy in your FA, bureaucratic screw-ups, fan trouble, financial issues - any of these could be a reason to not have been able to submit to UICA despite a league that on the surface functioned fine.
In terms of how this will affect your rank, you won't be crippled. In five seasons, the 'missing' cycle will polish out, and you're still capable of holding onto a top 32 place and a solid reputation. In Nephara's case, I feel missing a cycle early on actually helped ground the league in the 20s for a bit, allowing me to build it up and steadily grow it to make sure that when it did advance up the rankings, it was worthy of that.
My league was meant to be garbage but now it's good, how do I justify it?
If you RP your league very skilfully as a struggling backwater, your league will get a high RP bonus, and that will help you rise up the rankings. The better you RP about being terrible, the less terrible you'll be. This does mean that, barring some exceptional cultural factors, it's unlikely to make much sense to still be a semi-professional operation when your league's in the top 32.
That said, there's a few mitigating factors that can explain overachieving UICA performances. Most obviously... your midtable sides aren't the ones doing much in UICA. You can establish an overclass of two to five genuinely strong sides who have all the money and influence, while everyone else is garbage and scrapes around picking up free transfers. What also helps explain the results is that your overclass can probably afford to rest players against weak local sides and put their full attention on international matches. Alternatively, if your country is small and poor but you have no objection to splashing big in the transfer market, you could RP that you have loose ownership laws that encourage huge investment by club owners, and patch over the inferior quality of local players by making it rain in the transfer window. It might be infeasible, most of the time, to have a league top-to-bottom full of losers - but if you want the aesthetic, you can at least have it be a crumbling wreck outside the face it shows to UICA.
Does my league have to abide by the FIFA rules as written? Should it have VAR?
As long as it's recognisably football, it flies. You don't have to abide by dumb garbage like VAR or people being booked for taking off their shirts. How far can you push the envelope? Well... so far I've never seen UICA throw out a league for 'not recognisably playing association football', but better safe than sorry. But cut some of the fat, if you want.
Should I base some of my teams or players on RL ones?
No. Obviously, you can and naturally will take inspiration from what you see in the real world, but if you just copy over things wholesale, that comes off as lazy and, worse, an immersion-breaker. Granted, there are only so many names out there, and you might accidentally wind up copying someone from RL - I generated a promising young striker called Lukas Rashford maybe six months before promising young striker Marcus Rashford burst into prominence IRL, it happens - and I'm not saying you should sweat that. Nobody's going to call you out if your big city rivalry happens to be nouveau riche in sky blue against a traditional powerhouse in red. And there's always room for a bit of power fantasy - what if your crap local team IRL was actually good? But just... do more than file off the serial numbers.
Okay, but do we generally assume the 'real world' to exist?
No. There isn't a Real Madrid looming somewhere in the background that can be interacted with - we have our own world, our own giants, our own history. Of course, nobody is regulating this, and nobody is going to ban you from UICA or the Transfer Window or whatever if you say you have some German players on the books. But it doesn't make for great RP fodder, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense to have this other world in the background we can see but never interact with.
Is power in UICA as tightly focused as it is in UEFA?
Thankfully, no. Unlike in real-world club football, where four leagues tower above pretty much all the others, here things are more even. Even a side outside the top 32 can occasionally muster a serious upset, and provided the RP is there, it won't take long for them to reach that top 32 and get their second CC place. Most people are comfortable putting quality players in well-RPed top 32 leagues, and by then you're probably looking at fairly respectable UICA showings year-on-year. It's very hard to reach the pinnacle, and very competitive - but being respected, having quality, getting your foot in the door to sign great players? That doesn't take too long.
Should I make my own domestic newswire thread?
If your league RPs are just one or two posts a season, I think you can get away with just posting them in the Newswire. If they're longer, I do recommend making a threat to put them in. You still do have to submit in the Domestic Newswires thread - link every RP you write into your entry post to ensure they're graded. CH has more than enough to do without chasing up other threads in their own time.
Okay, so I've done my league. Do I need to do anything special to enter UICA/other tournaments?
Nope! Post your entry form - outlined in the OP - to every tournament you want to to, all in one. Make sure, of course, that you can see that teams have actually done enough to qualify for these on sporting merit. Your best teams go into the Champions Cup and into your regional tournament; your next-best teams to the Globe Cup; your Cup champions into the Cup Winners Cup.
And with that, I think we're done here. Whether you wanted to do everything from scratch, or just wanted to look for inspiration going forward, I hope there was something here that could help. Looking forward to seeing you all in UICA next season!