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Get ready to start your Saturday with some spectacular soccer as the World Cup moves on to the first two games of the Knockout Stage. At 10 a.m. ET, the United States and the Netherlands meet with the first spot in the quarterfinals on the line, followed at 2 p.m. ET by Argentina taking on Australia.
DraftKings biggest GPP contest of the day is the single-game Showdown $150K Stars and Stripes Special focused on the first game, while there is a $60K Backheel Special for the two-game slate and another $60K Backheel Special for the late game. There are plenty of other formats, sizes, and entry fees for both single-game and classic slates to consider. However you decide to get in on Saturday’s action, the below picks are projected to be ready to carry you victory. The salaries listed below are for the two-game classic contest.e
The United States advanced on a nervy 1-0 win last Tuesday over Iran to face the Netherlands, who won Group A by going 2-1-0, scoring five goals and allowing just one. Argentina’s opening loss in Group C was one of the stunners of the Group Stage, but they bounced back with wins over Mexico and Poland to finish atop the group. They’ll face Australia, who is making just their second appearance in the Round of 16, and the first since 2006.
The Netherlands (-110) is favored in the early game, but they’re not nearly as heavy of a favorite as Argentina (-475), who are seen as a far superior team to the upstart Australians, who are +1300 to get the win.
It’s also worth noting that now that we’re on to the Round of 16, there will be no more draws. Games still tied at the end of regulation will go into 30 minutes of extra time divided into two 15-minute periods. There is no “Golden Goal” anymore, so all 30 minutes of extra time are played even if a team scores. If the teams are still tied after the extra time, the match advances to a penalty shootout.
The penalty shootout consists of five rounds, with each team taking a penalty shot. If, after the first five rounds, a winner has not been determined, the match will advance to a sudden death shoot-out, with each team having one penalty shot per round. The match will continue until there is a winner. For DFS purposes, goalkeepers get 1.5 DraftKings points for shootout saves, and players receive 1.5 DraftKings points for a shootout make and lose 1.0 DraftKings points for a missed shootout attempt.
Inside our soccer Player Models, you’ll find median and value projections, along with our Lineup Builder and Lineup Optimizer. The Lineup Builder is great for those of you that like to hand-build your teams — or you can utilize the Lineup Optimizer to effortlessly create up to 300 lineups.
Now, let’s get into the slate!
World Cup Forward DFS Picks
Top Play: Lionel Messi, $10,900
After the shocking 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia to start the tournament, Messi has turned his team back around and led them to a pair of 2-0 wins. He has over 20 DraftKings points in each of his three games, totaling two goals, an assist, 13 shots, and eight shots on goal. He didn’t score or have an assist against Poland in his most recent game and even missed a penalty kick but still posted 20.9 DraftKings points.
Messi has the highest projection of any player on the slate by almost a 10-point margin. He is also the only player on the entire slate projected to produce over 2.0 points per $1,000 salary, so he is actually a good value even though he has the highest salary. His production potential is unmatched on this slate and gets a boost from the fact that he’s actually in the best matchup as well.
Everything in the Argentine attack flows through Messi, as it should since he’s one of the most brilliant offensive players in the game. He should be able to find success against the Socceroos, who allowed four goals to the French in their opening match before back-to-back clean sheets against Tunisia and Denmark.
Top Value: Timothy Weah, $6,000
The top projected value plays on the basis of points per $1,000 of salary are mostly the most expensive players as well, but the most notable exception is Weah, who checks in at an affordable $6K and brings the highest projection for any forward under $8.5K. Weah could get even more work since he may need to carry more of the work for the U.S. with Christian Pulisic ($9,200) trying to play through a groin injury.
Weah scored the first goal of the tournament for the United States, which has only managed two total goals. He had 15.5 DraftKings points in that opener against Wales, followed by 3.7 and 5.0 DraftKings points against England and Iran. He had two shots against Iran and two crosses against England, so he can put up a few points even if he doesn’t find the back of the net.
If you’re going to go with a cheaper starter up front, Weah can be a strong play even though he’ll have to go against a staunch Dutch defense.
World Cup Midfielder DFS Picks
Top Play: Cody Gakpo, $9,400
Gakpo has been one of the breakout stars of the tournament and is setting himself up for a huge payday. He is one of five players who lead the tournament with three goals scored, and he and Spain’s Alvaro Morata are the only players who have scored in every match they have played.
His best game of the tournament came in his first game against Senegal, in which he helped The Oranje breakthrough with a go-ahead header in the 85th minute. He scored just six minutes into his team’s tie with Ecuador in his second game on his way to 15.1 DraftKings points, and in his most recent game, he scored in the 26th minute to give his team the lead against Qatar on his way to 18.3 DraftKings points.
The 23-year-old has been the primary option on free kicks and corner kicks for the Netherlands, which gives him extra chances for assists, goals, and crosses. He has the highest projection of all the midfielders on the slate and will look to continue his strong tournament by sending home the United States.
Top Value: Rodrigo De Paul, $5,800
De Paul has the third-highest projection of all midfielders, even though he is the 19th most expensive player at the position. He offers the most Points per $1,000 salary at the position, edging out Denzel Dumfries ($4,600) of the Netherlands and Weston McKennie ($3,700) of the United States, who are also solid value options to consider, especially in the first single-game Showdown contest.
In each of Argentian’s first three games, De Paul has played the full 90 minutes. He had one shot and 5.0 DraftKings points in the opening loss, 5.3 DraftKings points against Mexico, and a tournament-high 11.5 DraftKings points in his most recent match against Poland. After totaling just two crosses in his first two games, he hit four crosses in that contest while also getting his first shot on goal of the tournament.
De Paul and the rest of Argentina will have to step up alongside Messi to march through the knockout rounds. The 28-year-old plays his club soccer for Atlético Madrid, where he has scored two goals in his 18 appearances this season. He can find the back of the net, and he also showed in his last game he can help set up his teammates and be creative on the attack.
World Cup Defender DFS Picks
Top Play: Marcos Acuña, $5,400
Since Australia is not expected to score (more below), stacking Argentine defenders is a strategy to consider. Acuña has the highest projection of all the defenders by over a full point and brings the eighth-highest projection on the whole slate. He hit six crosses after entering as a substitute against Saudi Arabia, two more against Mexico, and added two more in addition to two shots against Poland. Unfortunately, he also got a yellow card in that match against Poland, which dropped his total to 2.6 DraftKings points after posting 7.4 and 8.8 DraftKings points in those first two contests.
As long as he avoids booking in this match, he should be a good play since he does get so involved in the offense. He’s a veteran playing in his second World Cup, and if he gets another start as projected, he’ll be a strong play with good upside at just over $5K since he plays such an active attack role.
Top Value: Sergiño Dest $4,300
Out of his role in the defense, Dest is a key part of the United States attack and is tied with Acuna for the post Points per $1,000 of salary among the defenders on this slate. He started the tournament with strong games against Wales and England, but he really stepped up against Iran, finishing with 18.0 DraftKings points and his second straight clean sheet.
Dest also had the assist on Pulisic’s goal, which proved to be the difference in the Americans’ 1-0 win. He drew two fouls and had four crosses, so even without the assist, he actually would have still been a strong performer.
This match is an especially interesting one for Dest since he was born in the Netherlands and first emerged on the international scene as a fullback for Ajax alongside Dutch captain Daley Blind ($5,600). Since he had a Dutch mother and an American father, he was eligible to represent both countries at the international level but chose the United States after being overlooked by youth national teams.
It sets up an interesting potential revenge narrative, but more importantly, Dest has been one of the United States’ strongest players on both sides of the ball, so getting him at this salary is an incredible value.
World Cup Goalie DFS Picks
Top Play: Emiliano Martínez, $5,900
Martínez has posted back-to-back clean sheets against Mexico and Poland. He had one save and 12.4 DraftKings points against Mexico and wasn’t even called on to make a save in his most recent game against Poland. After a rough opener, Argentina’s defense has been superb, and Martínez has reaped the benefit.
That is projected to continue on this slate since Australia is -180 to score under 0.5 goals and +750 to get over 1.5. Martínez has the highest projection of all the goalkeepers on the slate by a significant margin, even though he only has had to make one save all tournament.
Top Value: Andries Noppert, $5,300
In contrast to Martínez, Noppert has had to make 10 saves to this point in the tournament, but he has also kept a pair of clean sheets. He started with an impressive 18.4 DraftKings points against Senegal and also had 16.5 DraftKings points in his most recent matchup against Qatar.
The United States has only scored two goals in the entire tournament, tied for the lowest total of any team to advance to the Round of 16. The Americans’ key playmaker is also banged up with the injury to Pulisic, so Noppert could be facing a diminished offense. He has the highest average DraftKings points per game of any keeper on this slate and has the second-highest projection behind just Martínez.
Especially if you think that neither of the keepers above will keep a clean sheet, an alternative strategy that could pay off is to go with the Aussie keeper and captain Mathew Ryan ($3,600), who has been very sharp in this tournament and will likely have to make a lot of saves against Argentina. Playing Ryan is a high-risk, high-reward option, but he does bring the most projected points per $1,000 of salary at the position on this slate.
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