It's all well and good to talk about clubs, but these matches aren't played on paper. Even when they literally are played on paper. There's still the business of the meat market, filling those clubs with the players that will help them to success. How can you talk about what happens in a game, or a season, or about a year's prospects, without discussing the players?
WHAT IS A [DEMONYM] PLAYER LIKE?
Compared to making 11-25 players for your BoF roster, filling a league is going to take more names, and a strong identity of what a player from your nation is like. In practice, pretty much RL countries have certain 'blueprints' for the players they produce, due to the environment, finance and culture.
Using IC examples: Nephara is a very grounded, professional environment, most of its players drawn from the working class, where hard work and strength of personality are valued above all. Players are encouraged to compete hard from a young age. Ceynes, being an offshoot, produces similar players.
Think about weaknesses as much as strengths, too.
Maybe physicality is emphasised over technique. A lot of huge strikers and defenders are produced, but maybe not so many creative playmakers.
Maybe your country believes largely in aesthetics over pragmatics, and would rather lose 5-4 than win 1-0.
Maybe your youth development is lavishly funded, with a focus on technique - but perhaps a tendency to over-coach players, and to lack competitive edge.
Maybe it's even something as simple as just people from your country tending to the short and lithe, which has obvious advantages and disadvantages. Pretty much any environmental factor can lead to inspiration.
Establishing a coherent name scheme is important, though you don't have to reinvent the wheel. If everyone from your country just has bog-standard Anglo-Saxon names, that's perfectly fine. Similarly, if you like having an aesthetic of your nation being a hideous primordial soup of a thousand different cultures slammed into each other, that's fine too. But it's helpful to set those boundaries to help you build your brand and conjure up more names.
How do you get names? There's plenty of ways, and it depends on what's right for you. A lot of people take inspiration from name generators, like that on behindthename. My own approach is whenever I see a surname I like that fits into a Nepharim or Brenecian aesthetic, I note it down, slam a first name onto it and when I'm regenerating players or managers later down the line I have a pool to draw from. For some people, it's easiest just to come up with names on the fly. There's no right or wrong approach - though I would advise not being overreliant on name generation. It's nice when you need to come up with a block of new guys for whatever reason, like when you're first expanding your rosters from one stage to another, but if you use them for everyone all the time, pretty quickly the same names keep cropping up.
You're also more than welcome to take inspiration from your IC surroundings. If most of your guys are Italian, but you're right next to Brenecia, and you want to use that as an excuse to add some Celtic-Colonial English-style names to your pool, I'd be happy as a clam. People migrate! Especially away from Brenecia.
It's also very important to note down every player's age. One of the core factors of NSS is the flow of time, both internationally and in club terms. On the national stage, your Baptism of Fire heroes will probably be a markedly different group to your first World Cup qualifiers, who will in turn be a completely different side to your first World Champions, should you get that far. And on the club front, expect even more flux.
As a general rule, players tend to come through and be introduced to senior football between 17-20 (this will obviously be somewhat later if you have a collegiate football system of note), peak roughly between 25 and 30 (goalkeepers, centre-backs and large immobile strikers somewhat later, pacy, tricky wingers somewhat earlier), start to slow down in their 30s and retire around 35-36, unless injury forces them out sooner or they're particularly hardy. It's very rare for players to make it into their forties still playing, and these are usually goalkeepers. There are a couple of players IRL who managed to draw out their careers into their fifties, but one, Stanley Matthews, was from an era before sprinting had been invented, and the other, Kazu Miura, is pretty much still going only because nobody dares tell him to stop. Managers tend to retire in their 60s, and usually only manage ten years at their true peak, as tactics move on without them.
So okay, you have a 23-year old guy. Are they going to stay 23 eternally? While it's not unknown to have players age in 'real time', this tends to be stifling OOC - the same names in the same places for your entire time on this site - and faintly ridiculous IC, with players playing 18 World Cup qualifiers in maybe 20 days, having a World Cup every three months. The most common methods are to either age 1 year per UICA season (2 per WC), or 2 per UICA (4 per WC). Granted, UICA seasons and World Cups don't actually necessarily take place at a 1:2 ratio, but it's generally close enough.
Not so much about race; think more species. Yes, NSS is a wild and wonderful place in which the world's best goalkeeper for a decade or so was a cartoon pegasus. Gender's important, as well. Most of the best leagues around the multiverse accept players of any gender, though you are welcome to have a league that only accepts one gender. You may also choose to have a separate men's and a women's league and RP both, but keep in mind that only one of these is going to be relevant to UICA, and the other risks being perceived as vastly inferior without a significant body of RP to massage that.
The Ceyne Isles will take players who are male, female or anything in between. A 'two legs good, four legs bad' rule permits humanoids such as elves, satyrs or the Vloo of Cosumar to play, but ponies from the Equestrian States, for example, would have no place in the league.
KEY PLAYERS ONLY
This method is just to write down the most 'relevant' players for a given side. Internationals, stars, captains, veterans... two to five people who genuinely matter. Assuming you've entered an international tournament, you already have a starting point - everyone from that roster is a key player, and so will any foreigners you buy.
In the Ceynes roster, Imperial Falston already account for three players - the 29-year old rightback Tanya Landon, the 33-year old centreback Tomas Spearman and the 33-year old holding midfielder Shay Wilshire. Sexy? No, but as good a place to start as any. But Imperial are a glamorous side, and also, who will be credited for their goals? So we'll say they've got a 26-year old striker, Gideon Rowan, who is seriously knocking on the door of the national team and has been freshly poached off... Roschester Pride. And it's also nice to include their manager (or head coach, if that's the terminology you're more familiar with - there is a technical difference, but it's largely irrelevant for NSS purposes). We'll say it's a seasoned 59-year old, Cathleen Sharpe, whose acerbic temper with the press make her an easy target, and whose tactical acumen have helped reinforce Imperial's dominance. In the header to their section of the season preview, that might look like this;
Home Colours: All-white with purple trim
Away Colours: Black / black / white
Stadium: Golden Gate (28,000)
Manager: Cathleen Sharpe (59)
Key Players: Tanya Landon (RB, 29), Tomas Spearman (CB, 33), Shay Wilshere (DM, 33), Gideon Rowan (ST, 26)
Roschester Pride are, as established, a younger and more dynamic outfit. They also have a couple of international representatives - the 21-year olds Corsica Green and Crowley Mathers - and we'll say they have a clever winger and an acrobatic goalkeeper, too. Both of them youngish, both ripe to be sniped by a bigger club. Fitting in with the holistic approach, the manager, Theresa Wilhelm, used to be their reserves manager.
Home Colours: Purple / white / purple
Away Colours: Yellow / black / yellow
Stadium: Lion's Vantage (17,000)
Manager: Theresa Wilhelm (43)
Key Players: Mathom Drury (GK, 25), Corsica Green (LB, 21), Tamara Rutherford (RM, 24), Crowley Mathers (ST, 21)
Even lowly AFC Mosstown have a player of international class, the experienced 32-year old striker, Joseph Luther. But as far as players who deserve notice, it's probably more going to be defensive players. We'll say they have a doughty defensive midfielder from nearby Brenecia (this isn't normally something you can just assume, but Brenecia's a puppet) who has some A-League experience, de facto making him one of the best players in the league, and a promising local goalkeeper, Rasmus Garrick. They might be weak by CSL standards, but they're still here, and not going down without a fight. The manager is weary 64-year old Arran Cohen, a seasoned campaigner between the top two tiers, but very much in his twilight.
Home Colours: All green with white trim
Away Colours: Blue / white / blue
Stadium: The Ridge (8,500)
Nickname: the Millers
Manager: Arran Cohen (64)
Key Players: Rasmus Garrick (GK, 22), Rook Whitman (DM, 35, BRE), Joseph Luther (ST, 32)
Personally, I feel as though the Key Players Only approach is limited, at least for a top flight. If you want to ease your way into things, it's a starting point, but by nature it tends to be limiting and discourage change. Having a Starting XI encourages change, because it highlights weak points in a team that you might look to strengthen in a transfer window, and gives a bigger-picture view. You might also want to include a 'Notable Reserves' feature in case there's anyone notable (aka, anyone whose name has ever come up before) that isn't a usual starting XI. Also, keep in mind that 'starting XI' is just whoever's going to be there assuming form, fitness and tactical changes. Realistically, every side is going to switch things up, bring on substitutes, and try and blood young local talent - it's just that by taking the Starting XI approach, you don't need to regen whatever garbage backup 28-year old right midfielder is going to get three starts and none goals a season before vanishing from the top flight next season, because ultimately, they don't really matter.
So let's bulk out our three examples some more, and take the time to add the formations we settled on in the Identity stages. You might also like to add squad numbers! I like squad numbers. A lot. Probably to an unhealthy degree. To cut a long history short, teams used to just give the numbers 1 through 11 to whoever was on the pitch, and this is still how it works in some amateur leagues today. But nowadays, professional sides give all their players numbers at the start of the season. Generally, senior players will wear 1 through 30, and anything higher than that is for academy products promoted to fill gaps. The best will usually be in that 1-11 range. This used to just be numbering all of your guys from back to front and right to left, but because of how tactics have developed, modern numbering systems tend to be a lot more chaotic. The English tradition started with the two defenders (yes, I know) being 2 and 3, but two of the midfielders, the guys wearing 5 and 6, were eventually pushed back between them. Three of the five forwards were in turn pushed back into the midfield. Hence, the English tradition is that players in a 4-4-2 will be numbered 1; 2, 5, 6, 3; 7, 4, 8, 11; 9, 10. You are, of course, welcome to do whatever you want. This is also a good place to mark out a 'captain', a senior player expected to provide leadership to their peers. When in doubt, just throw it on an old guy who's been there for a long time.
Starting XI (4-3-3): 1 - Grey Thistleman (29); 2 - Tanya Landon (29), 18 - Marietta Klein (23, NPH), 6 - Tomas Spearman (33), 3 - Clarisse Henderson (26); 8 - Shanna Quarterstaff (25), 4 - Shay Wilshere (33, c), 11 - Chloe Shufford (25); 7 - Cassius Hereford (28), 21 - Gideon Rowan (26), 10 - Bryson Curtis (31)
Notable Reserves: 5 - CB - Bors Longman (37)
Starting XI (4-4-2): 1 - Mathom Drury (25); 2 - Esther Comstock (27), 5 - Clement Rinehart (28), 19 - Persephone Wright (23), 22 - Corsica Green (21); 7 - Tamara Rutherford (24), 8 - Blake Findlay (28), 6 - Jeorge Morgan (24), 11 - Jane Wyclif (31, c); 9 - Mia Foreman (33), 14 - Crowley Mathers (21)
Starting XI (4-1-4-1); 12 - Rasmus Garrick (22); 2 - Ivan Stoneshoe (28), 5 - Clifford Russ (30), 6 - Cherami Barr (36, c), 16 - Jess Jackson (23); 4 - Rook Whitman (35, BRE); 32 - Leigh Arnham (19), 8 - Roxana Clarke (26), 14 - Harrison Enfield (29), 11 - Rutger Margetson (26); 10 - Joseph Luther (32)
Screw it, maybe you just want to list every senior player at the club. My strong personal recommendation would be not to do this in your first season. Build up to it first. Also, this is definitely something to have alongside a Starting XI! You don't want to make other players just guess which 11 of your 23-25 listed guys are the best.
That said, this comes with several advantages. When you want to drop one player for one reason or another, you have a ready-made replacement with an actual history to step in for them. Often, you can set up a succession within the club - if that 33-year old striker doesn't cut the mustard, but you like the looks of her 23-year old backup, that solves itself. And that can extend to the national team, as well, if you generate an 18-year old with a great name and can start shaping their career from the very beginning, with a view to bringing them through the ranks to start and eventually grooming them for national selection. It is, however, a lot of work, and cuts somewhat into your freedom of movement. See how you feel about Starting XIs first.
THE INEXORABLE MARCH OF TIME AND HOW TO FIGHT IT
So you score your first season. It goes great! And you've submitted it and all that jazz. So what comes next? Let's take that Imperial roster and age everyone up by a year.
Starting XI (4-3-3): 1 - Grey Thistleman (30); 2 - Tanya Landon (30), 18 - Marietta Klein (24, NPH), 6 - Tomas Spearman (34), 3 - Clarisse Henderson (27); 8 - Shanna Quarterstaff (26), 4 - Shay Wilshere (34, c), 11 - Chloe Shufford (26); 7 - Cassius Hereford (29), 21 - Gideon Rowan (27), 10 - Bryson Curtis (32)
Notable Reserves: 5 - CB - Bors Longman (38)
Oof. You know, Longman's not looking so hot. It's probably time to scrub him off entirely. And a 32-year old winger, well, Imperial can obviously look to improve on that... and Shanna Quarterstaff, well, on reflection I think I stream-of-consciousnessed in too much of the recent focus on RL guy Sean Longstaff and I just kind of want to yeet her out into space now. So, okay, scrub those off the list and we're left with... no left winger. So either we generate a new one (likely the backup from last season, only now given a name), promote the backup (if we have a full roster, which, again, I recommend working your way up to) or turn to the transfer market. Imperial like buying players. So maybe they poach Rutger Margetson off AFC Mosstown, who were probably relegated. Or maybe, well... it's a big wide world out there, isn't it?
The transfer window opens every UICA cutoff. It's currently closed, but when it reopens after your first season, here is a FAQ for using it. viewtopic.php?p=35260662#p35260662
Next up, we start looking into FORMAT. How do we turn what you've got into a product to be read and adjudged?