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FIFA 23 pits Ted Lasso against Ryan Reynolds’ soccer club, and it ain’t pretty

AFC Richmond vs. Deadpool is a bloodbath

A broadcast shot of Ted Lasso as he appears on the sideline in FIFA 23. His arms are folded and he looks displeased.
Ted’s not too happy that Wrexham goalkeeper Mark Howard stoned Jamie Tartt’s first shot on target. That’ll change soon enough, Ted.
Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts via Polygon
Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Ted Lasso vs. Deadpool! Bantr vs. TikTok! Who ya got?!

For FIFA 23, Jason Sudeikis’ fictional AFC Richmond joins Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s very real Wrexham AFC as celebrity “Rest of World” soccer clubs, the kinds of teams that, as a matter of authenticity, mayyyyybe shouldn’t be In The Game. But in the name of good-times fan service, they’re still here. So, naturally, I wanted to see which of these two made-for-TV sides would prevail.

It didn’t take 100 simulations to find out who’s better.

FIFA 23’s team selection screen showing AFC Richmond at left in red and blue kits, and Wrexham AFC at right in light blue Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Wrexham AFC, which Reynolds (Free Guy, Detective Pikachu) and McElhenney (Mythic Quest, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) acquired at the end of 2020, is the subject of Welcome to Wrexham, an 11-episode documentary that premiered on FX in August. A Welsh team, they play at the top level... of the semipro tier of the English football league. Last year, EA Sports did the celebrity duo a solid and put Wrexham AFC in FIFA 22’s “Rest of World” grouping, the first time any out-of-league (i.e., not fully professional) club made the video game. The Dragons’ bargain seems to be that they’re shackled to a one-star rating, barely a match for the EFL League One and League Two sides in FIFA 23.

Lacking a real-world resume, the stars of AFC Richmond are free to shine much brighter, and thus, they are much better rated. They are a four-star team (out of five), competitive with the Barclays Premier League and clear of the stragglers who would be fighting to stay out of the Prem’s relegation zone. Yet in Ted Lasso season 1, the Greyhounds are demoted to the EFL Championship after losing their last fixture, and in season 2, they endure a seven-match stretch in which they draw with every opponent.

Maybe they aren’t four-star worthy, but they’ve got more than Wrexham can handle. Here is the tale of the tape:

Match selection screen of FIFA 23 showing the ratings for AFC Richmond (81 attacking, 79 midfield, 77 defense, 4 stars) and Wrexham AFC (65 attacking, 63 midfield, 62 defense, 1 star) Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Before booting up my CPU-versus-CPU simulation, I was curious which club might actually get the result, given a long enough match time and some massaging of the difficulty and sliders. But in my first attempt at a simulation, that question was swiftly answered, leaving only the matter of how many goals Richmond would score and win by.

To wit: Here’s the effervescent striker Dani Rojas (Cristo Fernández) pounding home a delightful setup to the near post for a 1-nil lead in the 11th minute.

Barely midway through the first half I was rooting for Wrexham simply to get the ball out of their side of the field. When they did, it usually ended in this kind of a lightning counterattack, also sent home by Guadalajara’s finest:

These halftime stats told me I didn’t really need to see the next 45 minutes of a CPU-versus-CPU simulation. Given the talent disparity, the only question left is: Could a human beat AFC Richmond with Wrexham AFC?

A table of halftime statistics of a match between AFC Richmond and Wrexham AFC in FIFA 23, showing a very lopsided game in favor of Richmond Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Answer: Not this human. Admittedly, I am not the most talented or competitive FIFA player. I deploy a basic attack strategy, only occasionally using special moves to get clear of defenders. But Wrexham AFC simply does not have the pace to get ahead of Richmond’s back line, particularly against the sorely underrated center-back/clubhouse barber Isaac McAdoo (Kola Bokinni), who cut out every through-ball I managed to squeak into any square inch of free space.

Lineup screen in FIFA 23 spotlighting fictitious player Isaac McAdoo, a fullback rated 80 overall. Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts via Polygon

At “professional” difficulty, with six-minute halves, I was proud that I held Richmond to a 3-nil victory, even getting free for a breakaway shot on target that Richmond keeper Thierry Zoreaux (Moe Jeudy-Lamour) barely deflected wide. I switched my team tactics to “ultra attacking” just to see if I could pressure Richmond at all and take advantage of any mistake to score. That left me open to the opportunistic Jamie Tartt (Phil Dunster) — I knew I wasn’t getting away without hearing from him — blasting one in from about 42 yards out for the third and last nail in Wrexham’s coffin.

Here is the full story, hideous as it is. My man of the match was Aaron Hayden (Aaron Hayden), the right fullback who hurled himself against the door to stop AFC Richmond’s 18-shot onslaught.

Post-match table of statistics spotlighting Wrexham AFC’s best player for the match, Aaron Hayden, rated 7.3 for the match overall. Image: EA Vancouver/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Richmond was aided by fan favorite Sam Obisanya (Toheeb Jimoh) with this bellissimo give-and-go finisher from Tartt to put the Greyhounds up 2-0. This play wasn’t pivotal or anything; I just like how EA Sports rubs my nose in it with the HyperMotion 2.0 replay.