Tournament Approaches: World Cup Soccer

As recently pointed out, World Cup Soccer was found in all four qualifying banks at PAPA 12: A, B, C, and Juniors/Seniors. Hey, even an earlier World Cup showed up in Classics. World Cup Soccer is generally well-known, but the strategy decisions you make can be surprising. World Cup Soccer is a shotmaking game in general, so this is a good chance to talk about shot efficiency.

Before you play: Ask other players how the game is playing! Seriously, we’ll tell you! For World Cup, the most critical information is the feed from the City spinner: is it safe? incredibly deadly? This has a serious impact on strategy. Ask about “3/4 ramp” returns, how the ball behaves when a left or right ramp shot isn’t strong enough and screams back toward you. If possible, watch another player on the game. Specifically, watch for tilt sensitivity, how much the spinner spins, and how other players are €œmissing€� shots. The left ramp is a really important shot to nail quickly, so watch what happens on players’ first shot to the left ramp. Note settings: ball saver? kickback on? goal lit? free Lock spot? All of these can have effects on strategy.

On kickbacks: World Cup Soccer has a kickback for its gaping left outlane. If the kickback is unlit, lighting kickback should be a priority unless you have multiball lit. To get a chance to light the kickback, shoot the goal or the Striker hole. In general, kickbacks are extra balls, and you’d shoot for an extra ball, right? Don’t shoot for cities unless you have a lit kickback, unless you’re absolutely sure the return is safe. And usually, it isn’t. When you drain a ball down the left outlane of World Cup, think about the value (points-wise) of aiming for the kickback earlier in the ball. Kickbacks are almost always worth going for, except on games with difficult relight rules (such as No Fear and Scared Stiff).

Know the sucker shots: Each game has shots that are valuable but lead to drains. In arcade play, these are worth going for, but in tournaments, they are death. If you think the ball may drain from a successful shot, don’t shoot that unless it is absolutely critical to success. For World Cup Soccer, the sucker shots are the spinner loop (when lit for cities), the right ramp, and Final Draw. Do not shoot these shots without a good reason. I would especially recommend not shooting the right ramp until your first multiball. Do not shoot Final Draw unless it’s lit for multiball; the risk is too great. Because there are lots of drain opportunities, slapping a ball in a random direction is a bad idea. If the ball is out of control, catch it, or things will get worse. From the slings, try directing the ball higher into either the kickback target or, even better, the Free Kick saucers.

Getting started: Multiball is generally the best starting strategy on this game when playing in competition. Here is my recommendation for working through to the first multiball:

  • On the plunge, shoot for the left ramp (not the goal). If you miss this shot a drain is likely, so the ball saver’s best use is to guard against this potential drain.
  • After your first left ramp, shoot the spinner. This shot tends to be easier after a left ramp feeds the right flipper.
  • If the ball returns to the right flipper from the jets, shoot the left ramp again. If the ball returns to the left flipper, shoot Striker or try to backhand the right side of the goal.
  • When the ball returns from the left ramp to the left flipper, shoot the Striker hole. The right ramp is a death shot unless you make it!
  • Shoot the left ramp to collect Lock. If the ball is on the left flipper, shoot Striker or backhand the goal in order to line up a right flipper shot. I have found post transfers difficult on this game, but it is variable.
  • After Lock, shoot the left ramp to line up a shot at Final Draw.

A quick scoring note: the “rank” for your first multiball is 11, and drops by 1 for every 2 goals you score before starting the multiball. Ideally you want 2 or even 4 goals before starting the first multiball, and this is worth trying for as its value is basically 5 million per jackpot you collect and gives you a better chance of reaching Germany and Victory Laps.

Help! Final Draw is too hard!: Try banking it in off the kickback target, or backhanding it. Both can work and are sometimes easier than the regular shot. Ask other players what worked and didn’t work for them, and you’ll be prepared.

During multiball: World Cup’s multiball is built for two balls, so don’t sweat too much when you drop from 3 to 2. Trapping and carefully timed shots pay off very well. The rhythm of this multiball is goal … ramp … goal … ramp. The ideal situation is one ball trapped on each flipper. If you have this and goal is lit, shoot the goal from the right and keep the left ball trapped. When the first ball returns, use it to shoot the left ramp, then backhand the left ball into the goal when the goalie begins moving. This ball may even return to the right flipper before the ball you used to shoot the ramp.

Flailing will get you nowhere fast in this multiball. Make your shots count and trap balls when you can. Try to keep track of is the goalie’s position, since it can help you avoid a “great save”. Either count internally or watch the goalie every so often to know which side of the goal to shoot for.

World Cup’s multiball also has a feature called Special Challenge that can be used once per multiball: hit the Extra Ball button, and jackpot is relit! Use this wisely, by which I mean always. The best time to use it is while a ball is heading toward the goal. Note that this feature may be switched off at PAPA, since it’s a bit unfair to those who don’t know about it.  Be polite and tell your friends and enemies…

After multiball: Since the next multiball will be worth more than the one you just finished… and it’s not really much harder to get to… why not go for that? This strategy really never gets stale. You should know these rules about what lights can advance toward Lock:

  • For the first multiball, you can collect the spinner, left ramp, or right ramp twice only. A free advance is given at the start of each ball, like in Addams Family.
  • For the second multiball, you can only collect the spinner, left ramp, or right ramp once until “Skill” (the third advance), after which everything is lit.
  • For the third multiball, the order of collection is right ramp, left ramp, spinner, right ramp, left ramp.
  • For the fourth and later multiballs (there’s always hope), the order of collection is right ramp, left ramp, right ramp, left ramp, right ramp.
  • Importantly, the Striker hole always awards an advance. After the second multiball, the Striker hole also advances the order of collection listed above, so you can use the Striker hole in place of the right ramp at any time. I recommend this! The Striker hole is easier than it looks and is the shot worth “locking in” from the left flipper.

About goals: Goals are good. A goal on Ball 1 is worth a minimum of 30 million: 10 million for the shot itself, 15 million in bonus (5 million x 3 balls), and 5 million in Ultra bonus. Cashing in the Ultra is worth another 35 million. Goals are good, but consider their value compared to multiball. How many shots does it take to start multiball? No more than 7. How many points is a multiball worth? Only you can decide this one, but if the answer is “over 200 million” then multiball is a more valuable scoring target than goals — per shot, advancing and starting multiball is worth more than shooting a lit goal. This is not to say you shouldn’t go for goals, but I wouldn’t go exclusively for goals unless you are planning to make a ton of them.  Oh, and don’t tilt this game — bonus is generally worth a lot, especially with Ultras.

About cities: Cities score about the same as goals, except there’s no Ultra. So cities are bad. The only reason to go for cities is if you intend to go all the way to Los Angeles (9 cities). If you’ve got the cities all lit, you might as well try for it: the 10 shots (9 cities + Final Draw) is likely to net you almost 1.5 billion, but it’s all or nothing: if you don’t make all 10 shots, you get only a fraction of the points. If the feed from the city loop is challenging, this is not a viable strategy unless you already have a strong score and are trying to shoot the lights out.

Striker Awards: There are seven Striker awards, and they are given out in a specific order in tournament play:

  • Penalty Kick: 30 million for shooting the goal. Since a first-ball goal is worth at least 30 million anyway, this is actually less valuable than just shooting a goal! It’s safe to ignore Penalty Kick, but if you think you can make it, you might as well.
  • 3 Goals: Great award, especially on Ball 1 where it is effectively worth 60 million plus the chance for 105 million more. If you bounce around and light the second Striker early, this is well worth going after even if you haven’t started Penalty Kick yet.
  • 3 Cities: Another great award, this is best spent when no cities are lit. Avoid temptation: do not shoot for Boston Tea Party unless there is another reason you are already shooting the spinner. Its value is very low compared to the risk, and very low compared to the value of advancing toward multiball with another shot.
  • Extra Ball: 50 million point award.
  • Unlimited Kickback: Kickbacks are extra balls, so this is the sweetest award of the bunch. If you get this, go for multiball immediately.
  • Super Free Kick: Disgustingly bad! Next!
  • 20 Million: Wow, what a great award!

TV Awards: Do not shoot for TV Awards, and do not change your strategy when playing a TV Award. Many players dive into Big Goal Round for its average of 20 million per shot, but ignore the lit Goal on Ball 1… which is worth 30 million. Play your normal strategy during TV Awards. The only exception is Extra Ball Round, because the Striker hole is worth 50 million per shot as well as the Lock advance. But I still think this doesn’t change strategy — you should be shooting for the Striker hole frequently anyway since the Lock advance is so valuable. Hit the Goalie and Where’s Striker are risky and do not score nearly enough to be worth playing in competition.

The Magnet: What? There’s a magnet? The Magna-Goal button is a source of credit dots on many World Cups, since it is rarely used. Dude, use it! It’s there for a reason, and it really works. There are two situations where it is easily used:

  • The ball is rolling slowly down the middle from those star rollovers! Panic! Or push the magnet button, duh.
  • The ball is hanging on the left ramp and about to scream toward the middle! Panic! Or push the magnet button and you might be helped.

Why not use it in these situations? It’s not like you’re saving the use of that button for something else, and you don’t get points for not using it. Try it, you’ll like it! Don’t do something that might lead you to say “Oh right, the magnet button…”

Score targets: If you need this many points… try…

  • Less than 100 million: get a goal or two, or look for what Ultras are running. Keep in mind you may not actually need 100 million due to bonus.
  • 100-500 million: go for the regular multiball unless you are really close to Los Angeles and the kickback is lit.
  • Over 500 million: play your normal strategy. Multiball is a good idea, cities generally not good unless you are close to Los Angeles.

At PAPA 12, a very difficult World Cup was featured in A Division with lightning (Fish Tales / Dracula) flippers and very hard settings. Only six players scored over 1 billion, with 250 million being the score to earn points. With a tough game, shot efficiency becomes even more important, and basically anyone making multiball was certain of scoring something from their game. In B Division, the game was a little easier, but still only 8 players scored 1 billion, with 350 million being the score to earn points, and another 8 players scoring 1 billion between the C, Juniors, and Seniors divisions. These results suggest that going for cities is very weak: you don’t need Los Angeles to succeed, and you’re very unlikely to get there if you try.

I hope this helps and let me know what you’d like to see next.

– Bowen, very former PAPA champion


  1. Mats Runsten
    July 28, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Excellent and pedagogic guide as usual. Thank you!

  2. Mats Runsten
    July 28, 2010 at 3:10 am

    And also, some suggestions for other games I´d be happy to read about are:
    Pirates, Wheel of Fortune, Corvette, Big Buck Hunter. 🙂


  3. Chris
    July 29, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Thanks Bowen! I might have another go at WCS now. Next up, how about Corvette or BSD? Thanks!

  4. Paul F. J.
    July 31, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    Ha ha, awesome! Very well done. A guide to Corvette would be something to look forward to 🙂

  5. August 1, 2010 at 12:27 am

    A division players, please be advised:

  6. Chris UK
    June 7, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Thanks Bowen, just got a WCS myself so this was really helpful. Is there any chance of you doing a video tutorial for it in the future? Cheers

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