MLS Cup Betting Odds: Who are the League Favorites?
In Europe, we love betting on football.
Everyone loves the concept that you can put a small amount on a team with large odds, adopt them as a second team and hope to reap the rewards. Some people choose to bet the result of a game against their own team as a form of consolation in defeat. In-play betting makes watching a game more exciting, where the odds change as the game progresses, and adds a social aspect on sites where you place a wager against an individual.
We traditionally bet on goalless draws, place accumulators covering games throughout the world, bet on how many games will feature both teams scoring. We even bet on the Australian A-League out of season.
When tournament odds are released by the major bookies, people use it as a discussion point. Fans are offended that their teams have long odds for the league, but are also excited that they stand to pocket a large dividend if they win. Non-league fans scoff where the betting firms don’t analyze their teams and competitions, but still place somewhat random odds on them.
England’s World Cup chances, and the strength of their group, are always equated to what William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and co. say. You don’t really get that in the States, outside of the Superbowl’s silly prop-bets.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has spoken on Major League Soccer, with some interesting figures placed on the teams:
LA Galaxy - 3/1
LA Galaxy are the favorites on 3/1. The big name defending champions, soon to be home to Steven Gerrard, is no great surprise even if they have lost Landon Donovan. Vegas’ 3/1 is matched in Europe by most major bookies, aside from a single 7/2.
Seattle Sounders - 9/2
Supporters’ Shield holders, Seattle, are expected to finally make an MLS Cup should LA fail to. With the investment that Seattle have, they should, but the Galaxy seem to be their bogey team when it comes to the playoffs. Seattle also have the danger of spreading themselves too thin if they make a go of the CONCACAF Champions League in order to trump LA’s five MLS Cups. Again, Europe agrees with Vegas, with most coming in at 5/1 compared to the Vegas odds of 9/2.
New England Revolution - 8/1
Ever the bridesmaid, never the bride. The Revs are only getting better, but even getting through the weaker Eastern Conference will see them likely face yet another LA MLS Cup rematch or Seattle, and home-field advantage in Seattle is significant to say the least. It’s one of those times you kiss $20 goodbye and hope New England wins the Supporters Shield to get that home-field for the final. The arrival of Juan Agudelo should more than make up for losing Patrick Mullins in the expansion draft. This is the last one where all the Euro bookmakers agree with Vegas unanimously on the order and odd. I promise!
DC United - 9/1
DC United are considered close to New England in the odds, and having finished with the best record in the East, why would you argue with that? Steve Birnbaum should become even better. Fabian Espindola is outstanding on his day, and picking up Michael Farfan has generated a little excitement in the nation’s capital. Losing Thomas McNamara in the expansion draft was not ideal, and trading away Ghanian World Cup squad member, Samuel Inkoom, for Andrew Driver before releasing the former Houston midfielder, was a strange decision. Vegas calls it 9/1, Europe similarly says between 8 and 10.
Real Salt Lake - 12/1
Real Salt Lake are, in terms of betting, the most skewed team on this list. They were hit hard by the expansion draft, losing first choice left back and left midfielders, Ned Grabavoy and Chris Wingert, to NYCFC. Nat Borchers had 3,335 minutes at the heart of the RSL defence last season, before being traded to Portland. Although signing Jámison Olave is an excellent replacement. The Gold Cup will be a considerable factor, as RSL will have to face Orlando and three conference rivals without the likes of Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckman, Luis Gíl and Álvaro Saborío. That could represent the difference in avoiding a tricky first round tie in the expanded playoffs. Salt Lake can be found between 10/1 and 13/1.
Columbus Crew SC - 15/1
The Crew SC (I really hate that their nickname has SC on the end, it sounds so forced…but that’s another matter entirely) made most MLS fans a little envious by landing Kei Kamara on allocation. Chris Klute has the potential to be excellent on his day, or the proverbial dumpster fire otherwise. Emanuel Pogatetz may as well be a new signing, having been given little time to adjust to MLS play at the end of 2014. The July arrival of Cedrick is really intriguing. He was ever-present in the African Cup of Nations as DR Congo finished third. The pacy winger had little in the way of assists and goals for Real Betis in La Liga last season, before spending 2014/15 on loan at Osasuna in Liga Adelante. Icelandic international, Kristinn Steindórsson, will be running down the opposite wing after joining from Halmstads. The 24-year-old chipped in 8 goals and 4 assists, which would compensate for Cedrick’s apparent lack of production in front of goal. Then you’ve got the likes of Will Trapp, Michael Parkhurst and Federico Higuaín. Vegas has Columbus at 15/1. Europe is looking past them a little, ranging from 16/1 to 20/1. I’m sold, that’s worth a punt!
New York City FC - 15/1
New York City FC, Don Garber Yankee FC, Dirty Oil Money FC. It really doesn’t matter what you want to call them, they will be a big player from the start. David Villa still has plenty of goals left in him. Frank Lampard will be arriving in July, and there’s still another DP spot going spare. The likes of Grabavoy, Wingert, McNamara, Mullins, Andrew Jacobson and Mehdi Ballouchy give a wealth of useful - if not outstanding - talent with MLS experience. Mix Diskerud could be good in MLS, even if I think people heavily overrate his ability on the international stage. Injuries could be an issue where NYCFC have signed more than a few players with an injury history. I don’t think Lampard and Villa are enough to turn them into a championship team, but there’s a nice base to work from. Europe is very consistent with Vegas between 14/1 and 16/1.
New York Red Bulls - 15/1
The big question is how will New York Red Bulls cope post Thierry Henry. Will that have a knock-on effect with Bradley Wright-Phillips’ scoring record, because some distinctly average strikers have looked phenomenal whilst playing alongside the World Cup winner. Tim Cahill was terrible at times, but when he turned on the class, he was unplayable. Olave was solid, and the likes of Eric Alexander, Kosuke Kimura and Richard Eckersley will likely be missed over the course of the season. Sacha Kljestan is the big signing at Red Bull Arena, with some good depth added in Sal Zizzo and Andrew Jean-Baptiste. Felipe may prove to be their best addition, albeit among some strange signings such as Ronald Zubar. I’m not sure NYRB even make the playoffs, 15/1 looks a little short but the European bookmakers agree to some degree with odds of either 14/1 or 17/1.
Toronto FC - 15/1
I wouldn’t personally put a penny on Toronto FC, given their performance last year. The experiment failed miserably, and it doesn’t look like many lessons were learned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. Jozy Altidore replaces Jermain Defoe, having endured another torrid Premier League spell. Jozy is a confidence player that needs a team to adapt to him rather than him adapting to another style. Michael Bradley hasn’t been on-form since returning to MLS, and many see Altidore as a method of boosting the Toronto midfielder. Sebastian Giovinco is undoubtedly the marquee signing of MLS, however he’s only completed 90 minutes twice in the past two years. MLS is far more athletic than Serie A, so I just wonder how well he will adapt given the mindset that Defoe came to the US with. Gilberto’s future is up in the air until a 4th DP spot is confirmed, or Toronto can raise enough allocation money to buy down his salary. Benoît Cheyrou certainly has the pedigree to succeed but again isn’t known to have the best attitude, publicly falling out with Marcelo Bielsa before having his Marseille contract terminated. The transfer policy at BMO Field seems to be the meme of Fry from Futurama with the caption ‘shut up and take my money’. Vegas puts Toronto at 15/1 to win MLS Cup, although their first play-off appearance might be a more realistic goal. Most European bookies say 17/1 with one, famous for publicity stunts, placing them as low as 9/1.
FC Dallas - 15/1
FC Dallas were the only team not to lose a game in the MLS Cup playoffs last year, and were the first victims of the away goals rule. Óscar Pareja’s young side went through the off-season without losing anyone of great importance. Raúl Fernández was the only high profile departure, but he was replaced by Dan Kennedy. George John is a great defender on his day, but he’s not kicked a ball in 18 months, and hasn’t featured in training for NYCFC as of yet. Hendry Thomas is the hardest departure to take as The Hoops are thin at defensive midfield, with a first year starter and a left back filling the void for most of last season. The emergence of Victor Ulloa and Moises Hernandez, the meteoric rise of Fabián Castillo and the Rookie of the Year season for Tesho Akindele certainly gives hope of an even better 2015. There is an open DP spot, since FCD did not take up the option on loanee, Andrés Escobar. Je-Vaughn Watson’s re-signing could be vital, since personal problems have kept him from returning to Toyota Stadium with Atiba Harris trying to replicate the Jamaican International’s transition to right back. All of the Euro bookies are going with 20/1, in contrast to the 15/1 on the Vegas SportsBook.
Sporting Kansas City - 20/1
Sporting Kansas City have long been the example of building a team without spending massive amounts on any one player. The emergence of the likes of Graham Zusi, Dom Dwyer and Matt Besler has produced more success than championship-less spenders in New York, Seattle and Toronto. The return of Róger Espinoza could be significant, as is the departure of Aurélien Collin. Only Chicago and Montreal have been more active in adding pieces to their squad, and those were both huge rebuilds. The move to the stronger Western Conference will make life harder, but with 6 places up for grabs, they should easily achieve the play-offs. Europe generally goes along with the Vegas figure of 20/1 for a third banner at Sporting Park, although one calls it at 14/1.
Orlando City SC - 25/1
I’m not sure why Orlando City and New York City are so far apart. They both have immense name DPs and newly-assembled teams. Most people had Orlando as having the better expansion draft, and they had additions from their USL side along with a coaching team that had worked together in Florida for some time. Two good experienced keepers in Ricketts and Hall. Collin at the back; Akugo, Shea and Kaká in midfield. If Brayan Rochez lives up to his DP tag, you’ve got a fantastic spine. There will be problems in any team that plays its inaugural season, but the expanded playoffs from the Eastern Conference shouldn’t be a stretch. Europe is split between 20/1 and agreeing with Vegas at 25/1.
Portland Timbers - 25/1
Portland have been making moves to try and ensure they don’t fall a single point short of the post-season again. Donovan Ricketts has been cast aside in favour of Ghana national team keeper, and possibly longest name in MLS, Adambathia Larsen Kwarasey. Nat Borchers is a fantastic signing, particularly if Liam Ridgewell can play nearly as well as he’s being paid. As one of the best attacking teams in the West, yet one of the worst defensively, those are two moves that could make all the difference. The Timbers are priced from 20/1 in Europe, going up to Vegas’ 25/1.
Vancouver Whitecaps - 30/1
Vancouver Whitecaps surprisingly aren’t making the improvements after losing out in the play-in game last year. Pa-Modou Kah replaces Andy O’Brien. A couple of South American imports and homegrown players complete the Whitecaps’ activity. Losing Omar Salgado won’t help, even if just for the allocation money they could’ve received on a transfer. Vegas’ 30/1 is a little shorter than the European range of 33/1 to 40/1.
Chicago Fire - 40/1
Chicago finished in a three-way tie for the least wins, and recorded the most draws, in 2014. Shaun Maloney and Kennedy Igboananike could be key additions, particularly Jon Busch for when Sean Johnson is at the Gold Cup. Chicago aren’t a bad team when you consider the likes of Shipp and Magee. Five additions to the defence, headed by Adaílton, goes some way to show where their priority is after conceding 31 goals in 17 away games. Like Vegas, Europe has the Fire at 40/1, with a sprinkling of bookies going as long as 50/1.
Houston Dynamo - 40/1
Houston are another team that really shouldn’t have been as terrible as they were. The Dynamo landed Erick “Cubo” Torres for in excess of $7m, albeit with a clause that sees the Mexican international stay in Guadalajara until July. Leonel Miranda could be a great signing in the long run, but he won’t even arrive in Texas until 2016. Samuel Inkoom could be the big hit for a team that I personally don’t fancy making the play-offs. 40/1 is right in the middle of the range across Europe, that sees anything from 33/1 to 50/1.
Colorado Rapids - 50/1
Things haven’t gone so well in Commerce City over the past year. Losing Pareja to FC Dallas, Klute’s abysmal season, the 34 seconds of Joe Nasco (50 Shades of Grey jokes are the in thing, right?). In any case, the Rapids finished below Chivas. A lot of work needed doing to the squad, rather than just a name brought in, and they’re doing that. Michael Harrington, Bobby Burling, Zac McMath, Marcelo Sarvas and Sam Cronin are all players that will contribute to the overall quality of the team. Lucas Pittinari could be an interesting loan signing. Vegas gives you 40/1, Europe says 50/1.
Montreal Impact - 50/1
Montreal failed to live up to their name last year, and losing Marco Di Vaio will not help change that. The worst team in MLS have certainly had a clear out, with the likes of Matteo Ferrari, Troy Perkins and Felipe being shown the door. Marco Donadel takes the mantel as the new ageing Italian, following the defensive midfielder’s release by Hellas Verona. Laurent Ciman is an impressive capture at centre back, from Standard Liege, and the Impact have been using the drafts and trades well. They’ve secured Eric Kronberg, Eric Alexander and Dominic Oduro, among others, to compliment the likes of Patrice Bernier and Justin Mapp. There’s a unanimous 50/1 resting on the French Canadians.
Philadelphia Union - 50/1
I’m a little surprised to find Philadelphia Union so far down. They did finish a single place outside the playoffs, granted only 6 points ahead of 9th placed Chicago. They’ve retained much of their squad and not really improved it. The loan signing of Steven Vitória from Benfica could be ideal as a fresh start for a player that simply cannot break into the first team in Lisbon. C.J. Sapong joins Conor Casey, Sébastien Le Toux and Andrew Wenger as yet another ‘not amazing, but certainly worth a run out’ striker. Amobi Okugo could prove to be the one that got away. Once again 50/1 across the board.
San Jose Earthquakes - 50/1
And then there’s San Jose. From Supporters Shield to bottom of the Western Conference in two years. The Earthquakes managed to lose three goalkeepers over the winter, and still don’t look 100% sure on that position. There is a sense of building a youthful squad at Avaya Stadium, to take over from the likes of Chris Wondolowski. Players like Kris Tyrpak, Leandro Barrera and Mark Sherrod are all under 25. I guess add Tommy Thompson to that since the MLS site has suddenly gone nuts over his FIFA Ultimate Team rating being raised. Innocent Emeghara is the big signing, and the Swiss international certainly has the tools, even if he’s yet to find his long-term home. Las Vegas says 50/1 and most of Europe agrees, with one bookmaker throwing out 66/1.
The parity of Major League Soccer certainly comes across when the longest odds are 50/1 from most bookies. The speculative bet people often place is somewhere between 100/1 and 1000/1, but it’s all for fun and a conversation point during pre-season anyway.
Can March 6th hurry up now?