If you‘re looking to get your hands on Football Manager for free right now, your best option is Football Manager 2022 via Xbox Game Pass for PC. FM2022 was added to Game Pass on launch day, so subscribers can play the full version as part of their membership.
With the seasonal Game Pass promotion, new users can get their first month for only $1! So this is a great way for new fans to experience the latest FM practically free for a month.
Football Manager continues to be one of the most popular annual game franchises, with each new release eagerly anticipated by its legions of armchair managers. FM2022 had a record-breaking launch, with over 100,000 simultaneous players on Steam.
The series has sold over 20 million copies to date and has birthed a vibrant online community that creates mods, tactics discussion etc. It remains one of the top viewed games on Twitch and YouTube, with over 13 million hours watched in 2022 alone!
Clearly, Football Manager strikes a chord with soccer lovers thanks to its authentic league rosters and immersive management simulation. But should you jump into the latest annual release or opt for a free/discounted older version? Let‘s take a detailed look.
(Note: This guide is written from the perspective of a gaming friend guiding you through the best FM options for your budget!)
Quick Feature Comparison – FM 2022 vs 2021 vs Older
First up, let‘s see how the latest FM2022 stacks up against FM2021 and older versions based on reviews and ratings:
|Version||Metacritic Score||Steam Review Rating||New Features|
|FM2021||84%||Very Positive (86%)||Online Career Mode, Fantasy Draft|
|FM2022||86%||Very Positive (84%)||Data Hub, Transfer Recommendations, Set Piece Creator|
|FM2020||86%||Very Positive (87%)||Development Centre, Matchday Experience|
|FM2019||86%||Very Positive (92%)||New UI, Tactics Overhaul, Training Revamp|
As you can see, review ratings and critical reception is consistently strong for all recent FM editions. But 2022 introduces some interesting new tools like the Data Hub while also polishing match visualization.
FM veterans say the core single player experience remains largely similar though. So if shiny new features aren‘t a priority, even 2020 or 2019 editions offer tight management gameplay.
Football Manager Free Right Now
Coming to how you can play Football Manager free in 2023, here are the top options currently available:
1. Football Manager 2022 via Xbox Game Pass
As mentioned earlier, the latest FM2022 is included with Xbox Game Pass for PC. Given it only launched late 2021, this is the best way to experience the newest FM practically free!
The base Game Pass PC plan costs $9.99 a month. But new users can get the first month for just $1 as part of a limited time promotion. With FM 2022 regularly priced at $60, this is an absolute steal.
Once subscribed to Game Pass, just search for FM2022 and click Install. The full version will be added to your Pass library ready to play!
You retain access as long as your Pass is active. Note you need the PC specific Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold for consoles does not grant access. But still a fantastic opportunity for Football Manager fans to try the simulation for virtually nothing.
2. Grab Previous Versions on Discount
If you are fine with missing out on the latest rosters and features, consider grabbing older Football Manager editions for cheap:
FM2020 – available for ~$15 on Steam sales. Also free on Epic Games Store back in 2020.
FM2019 – around $10 during Steam sales. Arguably the best value with a major tactics overhaul and UI refresh.
FM2018 – now drops to under $5 on sales. Great way to experience FM almost free.
Check /r/GameDeals to find current discount info on past versions. The core experience like scouting, transfers, matches remains highly playable even in older editions.
3. Use Free Demo for FM2022
Football Manager 2022 has a free demo that unlocks about 6-8 hours of game time. Although club selection is limited, you still get a nice chunk of time to evaluate the latest features.
Steam lists the demo on FM2022‘s store page. Just click the "Request Access to Demo" button.
Once greenlit, you can download the demo and play for the allotted time. Your progress won‘t carry over but it‘s enough to get a feel, especially if you‘re new to Football Manager.
The free demos are time limited to ensure they don‘t cannibalize sales. But they remain the best way to take the latest FM for a test drive before you buy.
Detailed Feature and Review Comparison
Now let‘s do a deeper dive into what the last few FM editions offered and how experts rated them:
Football Manager 2022
- Metascore: 86%
- Steam Review Rating: Very Positive (84%)
FM2022 focuses strongly on enhancing matchday experiences and making data more accessible. Significant additions include:
- Data Hub – New central panel with tactical analysis, player stats, form guide etc.
- Transfer Analysis – AI driven scouting and shortlisting to surface ideal targets.
- Inductive Transfer Suggestions – Automatic recommendations of potential signings based on team needs.
- Weekly Staff Meetings – Review squad issues and plan transfers/contracts timeline.
- Deadline Day Media – More immersive media interactions with recurring press conferences.
- Set Piece Creator – Improved free kick and corner customization options.
Reviews praised the Data Hub for making key stats clearer for informed decisions. But some felt the core single player mode was too similar to warrant an upgrade.
Football Manager 2021
- Metascore: 84%
- Steam Review Rating: Very Positive (85%)
FM2021 doubled down on online multiplayer features and also added:
- Online Career Mode – Compete simultaneously in a shared online universe.
- Fantasy Draft – Draft custom squads from player pool for exciting combined XI clashes.
- Gesture Based Team Talks – New animations and responses for in-game interactions.
- xG Timeline – Visualization of match expected goals progression.
- New Graphics Options – Enhanced lighting, player models and animations.
While online modes were praised, some felt the core single player career was not changed much. Mod support also received criticism due to breaking changes.
Football Manager 2020
- Metascore: 86%
- Steam Review Rating: Very Positive (87%)
FM2020‘s highlights included:
- Development Centre – Track progress and growth of youngsters.
- New Matchday Experience – Enhanced pre-match briefings and more contextual team talks.
- Director of Football – New backroom staff role for recruitment advice.
- Redesigned Tactics Screen – More flexibility for formations and player roles.
- New UI Skin – Cosmetic makeover with darker aesthetic.
The development centre and DoF were appreciated for their realism. The redesigned tactics screen also provided welcome improvements to midfield roles.
Football Manager 2019
- Metascore: 86%
- Steam Review Rating: Overwhelmingly Positive (92%)
FM2019 introduced several foundational changes:
- New Modern UI – Slick redesigned interface with fresh colors.
- Enhanced Tactics – Added vertical tiki-taka, gegenpress, new player roles like Mezzala etc.
- Improved Training – More options for general vs position specific drills.
- New Graphics Engine – Upgrade for improved animations, textures and lighting.
- VAR Implementation – Video assistant referee decisions during matches.
Reviewers noted the cleaner UI, tactical depth and graphics uplift made this an essential upgrade for veterans. The overhaul also earned praise as a great jumping on point for new players.
Best Free Mods and Custom Databases
The Football Manager community creates tons of free mods and custom databases you can add to any version of the game for extra variety:
The Ultimate Legends Database – Adds 700+ iconic players like Maradona, Pele, Zidane for nostalgic fun.
English Lower League Database – Expands the English league system all the way to the 8th tier for a grueling climb.
German National Teams Fix – Fixes missing German national team real player names.
Dark Skin – Attractive darker skin to change FM‘s default looks.
Logopacks – Massive packs that add real logos, faces and kits for complete authenticity.
The Steam Workshop makes it easy to grab and update mods directly within your Football Manager version. Go to the Steam Workshop tab, browse for mods and subscribe with 1-click install!
More Tips for New Managers
Here are some additional tips to succeed as a new Football Manager based on community advice:
Pick a team with good youth and training facilities so you can develop prospects over seasons.
Keep formations simple – no need to tweak roles and duties too much initially.
Don‘t make too many transfers. Look at loaning youngsters from bigger clubs.
Focus training on one preferred formation and automate the rest for non-key positions.
Make player mentoring and tutoring a priority to help youngsters improve.
Be very selective in answering media questions to avoid morale consequences.
Don‘t get too attached to star players – sell for a big profit if contract rebels.
Schedule recurring friendlies to test fringe squad players and youth prospects.
Use in-game editor responsibly as needed to fix strange transfer AI, avoid getting fired etc.
Mastering Football Manager takes time. Be patient, start with a small, well-run club and learn the ropes one season at a time.
Top Free and Discounted Options in 2023
To summarize, here are my 3 top recommended Football Manager options for free or on a budget right now:
For Latest Rosters and Features
Try FM2022 via Xbox Game Pass – experience all the newest signings, competitions and improvements for just $1! Cancel after a month if not engaged.
For Deep Simulation on a Budget
Grab FM2019 on discount for under $10 – gets you the new UI and tactical depth to immerse yourself for years.
For New Fans Wanting a Free Trial
Check out the FM2022 Demo – play 6-8 hours free to learn the basics and evaluate if the series is for you.
Football Manager remains one of the most rewarding sporting simulations that eats up entire weekends once it grips you. Hopefully this guide offered a friendlier walkthrough of the best free and discounted options for new players plus for veterans wanting roster updates.
Let me know if you have any other questions! Whether you want to lead minnows up the divisions or take actual giants to glory, Football Manager serves up endless stories to get lost in. Just dive in with an open mind and let the challenge of steering your club to success gradually pull you in. Before you know it, you‘ll be 200 hours deep into a save game living and breathing transfers, tactics and youth development season after season.
That‘s the hallmark of a great sports sim – the ability to evoke genuine emotions and connections. Whatever version you start with, enjoy the journey and may your managers have long, successful tenures!