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A guide to betting on Major League Soccer (MLS)

Major League Soccer, or MLS, is arguably one of the fastest growing leagues in the world now. They’re slowly escaping the ‘retirement league’ tag, with many talented young players in the league these days and it is definitely growing in popularity.

A good reason to watch or follow MLS if you are a punter is that the season runs from March, right through to the end of the year if you include the post-season/play-offs. This should be music to most football fans’ ears because it gives you something to watch over the summer when the European leagues have concluded. Also, Sky Sports have the rights so there’s always matches to watch on a weekend, with more than enough on at a reasonable hour.

The atmosphere’s in the American league are also very unique. Clubs like Atlanta United and Los Angeles FC have had praise from all over the world, the former breaking records having had incredible gates of over 70.000 people.

Major League Soccer is completely different to what we have over here and this side of the Atlantic. If you are going to have a bet on the league for the first time, here are some things to consider:

Research

MLS is a centralised league with the teams being franchised. You can find a lot of information about each side on mlssoccer.com, as well as statistics for each player in the league so you could pick out who might be a good goalscorer bet for example. All bets should be researched, but with MLS even more so. It’s an incredibly unpredictable league as far as results go, with many things coming into play such as travel, weather conditions, and players leaving for international duty as the football calendar doesn’t align with most other countries.

Unprecedented amounts of travel

Major League Soccer is split by Eastern and Western conferences like most American sports, however teams from each conferences still crossover and play each other, and this leads to distances travelled that most of us British folk couldn’t begin to comprehend. For example, Newcastle to Bournemouth would be considered a long trip here, a round trip of 700 miles. In comparison, there’s over 3,000 miles between Vancouver and Orlando, let that sink in.

Also there are travel rules in place, meaning teams have to travel commercially most of the time, something which was criticised by Wayne Rooney during his time with DC United. These are things to consider when you are thinking about backing the away side in any given MLS match. Sometimes form can go out of the window and lengthy/uncomfortable travel can have an impact.

League structure

As I say, MLS is split into two separate conferences and it has a post-season to decide the overall champion, the side who wins the ‘MLS Cup’. The best way to describe it, is it works the same way as Rugby League here in England. You have the side who wins the league shield, and then whoever goes onto win Grand Final which is seen as the bigger prize.

With this being how the league works, it provides you with many options as far as outright bets go. You could bet on who you think will finish top of each conference, who you fancy to make the play-offs and who you think will go all the way in the post-season.

Expansion teams/new franchises

Part of the unpredictability of MLS in quite often there’s a new team/franchise in the league and you can’t be quite sure how they will perform. Obviously there’s no prior form or performances to go off, it’s a new lot of players put together and you can’t know how soon they will gel. When Atlanta United first joined the league, they took everyone by surprise and made the play-offs during their first year. Whereas it was a total different story for FC Cincinnati who finished rock bottom out of a total of 24 teams in their debut year in 2019.

Summary 

Major League Soccer is definitely a league to give a go, if you are a punter looking for a football fix over the summer then it is perfect. The quality isn’t yet what we are used to over here in Europe but some of the atmosphere’s are just as good or better than what we have here, and the league provides goals and entertainment in abundance.

The league is very unpredictable given some of the reasons above and you never see one side dominate year after year, but that’s a huge plus. If you are going to have a bet on the league, try and do as much research as you can, there are plenty of resources out there. Major League Soccer is unpredictable by nature, that’s really how it was designed with different rules such as the salary caps. So, just know that nothing is guaranteed and results will not always go how you expect.

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