Ah, the sporting life. But how to pick a discipline? Face-Off has you covered. Today, it’s soccer and basketball, with the newest entries from EA and 2K going head-to-head. Check back each weekday through Dec. 24 for a new match-up.

In this corner… FIFA 10

The popularity of fantasy sports leagues has made realism in video games an absolute necessity. That’s something the FIFA franchise seems to take to heart, and this latest incarnation of its popular soccer series is its best work to date. This version makes significant improvements to the game’s AI, both on and off the field — particularly the many factors that go into managing a team of your own. Players you’re trading for now look for “growth potential” on your squad, not just money; a board of directors can help your team out when strapped for cash; there’s now an “assistant manager” (don’t worry, he’s just shy of sentient) to take care of line-ups before important matches. The matches themselves are equally nuanced, with new dribbles/moves and fluid controls that includes jostling for position. And let’s not forget you can freakin’ scan your face and put it on a custom player. But c’mon, FIFA: Only 500 teams to choose from?

In the other corner… NBA 2K10

And speaking of realistic… perhaps the most essential basketball video game franchises has similarly one-upped itself over last year’s solid contribution to the genre. 2K10 smooths out its dribble controls and enhances its defensive options, allowing players to choose precisely how close they’ll guard opponents and how specifically they should block shots. And where FIFA focused on the team, 2K10 is all about adding details to noteworthy players with signature dunks, facial expressions, even pre-game rituals. There’s even a downloadable add-on called “draft combine” that allows you to follow a custom player through pre-season drills and the intimidating draft process itself. This also marks the first time a 2K game has made it to a Nintendo system since NBA 2K3. And the ability to save and quit mid-game? And-one!

And the winner is…

Both! This is a bumper year for sports games; why let your sports-fan loved ones go deprived?