MLS Cup Futures

The sun is shining, flowers are blooming, shots are going into arms, and a little hint of Spring and Summer optimism is in the air. Spring optimism for my thoroughly broken mind means to try to find value in the betting odds for one of the most unpredictable leagues in the world: Major League Soccer. While some folks say to stay away from betting on MLS because of its variance, I like to lean right in and embrace it. In a 27 team league where at least 20 of the teams could tell themselves a story that ends with them lifting MLS cup, there’s bound to be some mispriced futures odds with some very big numbers. For that, I’ve got you covered.

A little about me first: I bet for fun. I am lifetime profitable at sports betting, but have had multiple losing days, weeks, months in a row before and give out my picks because it sparks joy for me, not to get anyone rich. If you want to follow my record on mostly LoL and soccer bets I keep it here. 

On futures betting: treat each of these as an investment on a team at the price. Meaning, if there are playoff opportunities to hedge your bets and make guaranteed profit, do it. If you want to follow what I do with these hedge-wise follow me on Twitter. 

The Favorites

LAFC

  • Odds to win it all: +500
  • Key 2020 Stats: 
    • Expected Goal Differential: +9.84 (3rd)
    • Expected Goals For: 40.33 (1st)
    • Expected Goals Against: 30.50(13th)
    • Key Signings: Jesus Murillo (CB), Kim Moon-Hwan (RB), Corey Baird (FWD)

LAFC is the most talented team in MLS. LAFC regularly has the best advanced numbers in the league. Until either of those things stops being true, I will probably be anchoring all of my futures bets with larger sizes on LAFC. Last year, LAFC had the season from hell as they struggled to keep Carlos Vela off the injury report and to find a working center back pairing and they still almost won the CCL. This year, both those issues seem to be solved. Carlos Vela looks back in form and they have two signings to shore up their back line. Jesus Murillo looked the part of a legitimate MLS CB after signing in the middle of 2020 and the club has extended him.   Before his signing, they were conceding an expected 1.67 goals per game, after signing him, they conceded 1.3. A small difference that will play out in big ways over the course of the season. Their other back line addition is Korean national teamer Kim Moon-Hwan. I won’t pretend to have seen him play, but his pedigree(national teamer, rising stock in Kleague) seem to suggest he’ll be in the upper half of right backs in the league. The offensive side of the ball is a lock to be the best or second best in the league. They have led the league in Xg For for two years straight because Diego Rossi and Carlos Vela have legitimate cases for best player in the league every year they play here. They are both magicians with the ball and create more chances as a duo than some teams do with their entire roster. I would be shocked if LAFC does not lead the league in Xg For again this year with the addition of Corey Baird who is the perfect run-fast-and-score-goals kind of forward they need with their two playmakers. Corey’s going to bang in all kinds of easy ones this year and if you forced me to pick one team to win it all this year, it’d be LAFC.

Recommended Bet: LAFC to win MLS Cup (+500) 2u

Dark Horses

Atlanta United

  • Odds to win it all: +2000
  • Key 2020 Stats: 
    • Expected Goal Differential: -3.91(18th)
    • Expected Goals For: 23.01 (25th)
    • Expected Goals Against: 26.10(4th)
    • Key Signings: Gabriel Heinze (Coach), Santiago Sosa (MF), Franco Ibarro (MF), Lisandro Lopez (FWD), Alan Franco (CB)

Here’s another team that is probably a little underrated by their season from hell last year. As Carlos Vela is to LAFC, Josef Martinez is to Atlanta United, but he’s arguably even more irreplaceable to his team. With a combined 58 goals in the 2018 and 2019 season, he is basically an offense all on to himself. Atlanta gets a full mulligan from me because he was out. The other big issue with Atlanta United last year was off the field with coach Frank De Boer. Not only did the coach’s preferred rigid style and methods clearly not gel with the team, it was pretty clear that they had given up on him by the end of the year. This year they have brought back something much more familiar in Argentine great Gabriel Heinze. Heinze’s South American attacking, free flowing style will be very familiar to Atlanta who won MLS Cup playing that way in 2018 under Tata Martino. It’s the style that superstar Barco signed up for when he signed with Atlanta and I think his Assist leader-type potential will be unlocked with Heinze at the helm.  Additionally, they are one of the rare teams in MLS this offseason that seemed to sign legitimate game changers with Sosaand  Franco. Atlanta will hope that Sosa becomes their version of a prime Michael Bradley or Eduard Atuesta: a holding midfielder who can break up opponent’s attack and shuttle the ball up to their wealth of attacking options. Franco is a proven international centerback that will further cement Atlanta on the defensive side of the ball. Atlanta has the potential to be one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league. That kind of team is too good to be at +2000.   

Recommended Bets: Atlanta to win MLS Cup (+2000) 1u

Minnesota United

  • Odds to win it all: +2500
  • Key 2020 Stats: 
    • Expected Goal Differential: -1.61(14th)
    • Expected Goals For: 32.05 (11th)
    • Expected Goals Against: 33.66(18th)
    • Key Signings: Ramon Abila (FWD), Franco Fragapane (W), Patrick Weah, Will Trapp (MF), Jukka Raitaila (LB), Patrick Weah (FWD)

Minnesota definitely has flaws. I still have questions about their back line. Can Dayne St. Clair be as good as he was in the playoffs over the course of the full season? But this bet is really about the potential of two players: Emmanuel Reynosa and Ramon Abila. After a season of having approximately 1 of their goals scored by an actual forward and still being one of the better offenses in the league, Minnesota went out and signed a legitimate South American goalscoring center forward.  Pairing Abila with Reynoso, a classic 10, could be a bit like when Almiron and Martinez played together for Atlanta United. With Lod, Abila, Reynoso, Finlay, Dotson, Hayes, and Agudelo, Minnesota United has arguably the best or second best attacking core in the league. That’s worthy of a wager at +2500.

Recommended Bets: Minnesota to win MLS Cup (+2500) 1u

New England Revolution

  • Odds to win it all: +2500
  • Key 2020 Stats:
    • Expected Goal Differential: +8.69(6th)
    • Expected Goals For: 35.6 (7th)
    • Expected Goals Against: 26.91(6th)
    • Key Signings: Christian Mafla (LB), Wilfrid Kaptoum (CM), Arnor Traustason (W)

There are two versions of New England Revolution: there’s the version without Carles Gil that is a solid, but not spectacular playoff team and the version with Carles Gil (and a lesser part Bou), that is one of the best offensive teams in the league and probably should have won MLS Cup last year.  Buchanan, Buksa, and Bou (not a bad set of forwards themselves) should be bagging goals for fun with a full season of Gil’s distribution. Keeping Carles Gil off the injury report will be everything for the New England Revolution this year. On the other side of the ball, I have very few questions left for this team. Kessler is an absolute rock at centerback and their outside backs are some of the best in the league. They should be right around 5-10 in Xg against this year. The only question was who plays as the second holding midfielder on a week in and week out basis for this team next to Polster. Caldwell and McNamara did an admirable job last year plugging holes, but neither feels like an every week MLS starter. So, Enter Wilfrid Kaptoum, a 24- year-old player with International and La Liga experience. If he solidifies this position for the Revs, he may be the sneaky-best acquisition of the offseason. The Revs have everything a championship team in MLS needs: an all-time-great coach (Arena), a rock-solid CB pairing (Kessler and Farrell), a game-changing playmaker (Gil), a midfield destroyer (Polster), and a lethal goalscorer (Bou, possibly Buksa). It will all depend on health at the right time and I like those odds at +2500.

Recommended Bets: New England Revolution (+2500) 1u

The long shot

Colorado Rapids

  • Odds to win it all: +5000
  • Key 2020 Stats (only played 18 games):
    • Expected Goal Differential: -2.94(17th)
    • Expected Goals For: 1.27/game (19th)
    • Expected Goals Against:1.44/game (15th)
    • Key Signings: Michael Barrios (W) and a bunch of young relative unknowns

The season-long numbers for the Rapids are bad and they definitely still have issues, the books wouldn’t hang a +5000 on them otherwise. But the promise of the Colorado Rapids comes from one word: development. This is one of the youngest teams in the league and improved as the year went on. In their final nine games of the season, they had a goal differential of +8. Their approach of taking kids from their own academy and academies of other teams and giving them regular minutes to develop is starting to pay off as they have found two legitimate stars in Bassett and Vines. Teams of entirely young kids rarely win MLS cup though, and that’s what makes this year a little different for Colorado. First, the kids have another year of experience and their first playoff experience under their belt with Vines, Namli, Bassett, Acosta, Lewis and Shinyashiki. Second, the team has brought in some veterans to keep the kids grounded with Yarbrough, Barrios, and another year of Abubakar. Are there a lot of question marks? Yes. How does the defense line up? Can Jack Price play destroyer enough to stop this team from leaking goals? Is Younes Namli anything other than a great dribbler? Still, there are similar vibes to last year’s Philly team with the Rapids this year and there’s enough promise to invest in them at +5000.

Recommended Bets: Colorado Rapids (+5000) 1u 

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