MLS Betting: Assessing the Favourites
We’re just a few weeks away from the start of the 2023 MLS season, making this a good time to check in with the MLS futures market. Last year’s season was capped off by LAFC winning their first Cup and also getting the Supporters’ Shield with their 21-9-4 record. It was their first year under the guidance of head coach Steve Cherundolo, who certainly made a statement with the team’s immediate success. They’ll be keen to repeat that success again this season—and are +550 favourites to do so in the MLS betting—but will have to fill gaps left by several players who’ve left for other teams or retirement.
To back track a couple of months, the American national soccer team enjoyed an impressive run at FIFA World Cup Qatar in November. After earning one win and two draws in the group stage, they moved on to the Round of 16, where they were eliminated by the Netherlands. It was a decent outcome considering they failed to qualify for the previous tournament. Team USA’s starting 11 included Walker Zimmerman from Nashville FC and Jesus Ferreira from FC Dallas. Unfortunately for Nashville and Dallas, neither are part of the following top-five teams for MLS betting at Bodog Sportsbook.
Los Angeles FC +550
LAFC could be in a bind as several of their key players left in the offseason. After spending just a half season with the club, Gareth Bale unexpectedly announced his retirement earlier this year; his departure opens a spot for a Designated Player on the roster, and GM John Thorrington has suggested that it would likely be a Young Designated Player due to the makeup of the team at that time.
Latif Blessing was traded to New England Revolution, and Sebas Mendez went to Brazil’s Sao Paulo. Sebastien Ibeagha went to Dallas as a free transfer and Franco Escobar went to Houston. That leaves them with their three starters from last year’s campaign—Kellyn Acosta, Ilie Sanchez and Jose Cifuentes—but there’s talk of Cifuentes attracting attention from the European market.
Incoming players include centre back Aaron Long (from USMNT) and Stipe Buik (from U22), so there is some concern about midfield depth. Thorrington has spoken to the media about mapping out all of the upcoming competitions and focusing efforts on creating a robust roster that can withstand the long season. This likely comes as a response to the roster challenges during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as LAFC had the second-most players representing their nation in MLS with five.
Philadelphia Union +700
Philadelphia Union has been busy in the offseason, expanding their team with the necessary depth to prepare for what could be close to 55 games this season—an unprecedented number of matches. They’ll take part in multiple competitions, including the Concacaf Champions League.
So far, they have acquired CF Montreal attacker Joaquin Torres and Inter Miami CF centre back Damion Lowe, which will provide head coach Jim Curtin with additional options as he looks to rotate players. Torres, who scored seven goals and made 12 assists with Montreal last season, was a necessary acquisition after the team lost midfielder Paxten Aaronson to the Bundesliga; he’ll provide a nice backup option for midfielder Daniel Gazdag.
As for Lowe, he’ll provide depth for the current centre back pairing of Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes, which is arguably the best in the league. Lowe scored one goal and registered one assist in 28 starts for his team last season and has the experience that Curtin is looking for.
New York City FC +800
New York City FC made it all the way to the Conference Finals last playoffs under the then interim head coach Nick Cuching, but they lost 3-1 to Philadelphia Union after they dropped their brief lead. They’ve been surprisingly quiet on the trade front, with no incoming players to note. As for departures, the players to leave NYCFC include Maxi Moralez, Anton Tinnerholm, Sean Johnson, Santi Rodriguez, Alexander Callens, Heber and Nicolas Acevedo. Cushing has recognized the need to acquire more players but maintains his patient approach that the right players will come at the right time.
One notable addition to the roster is Philadelphia Union backup goalkeeper Matt Freese, who could be NYCFC’s starter. So far, they’ve lost one preseason game and drew two.
Austin FC +1000
Austin FC made a deep run in the 2022 playoffs, reaching the Conference Finals, where they were shut out by LAFC. They’ll be part of four different competitions this season, including first-time appearances in the Leagues Cup and CONCACAF Champions League. Their most recent signing for the upcoming season is free agent defender Amro Tarek, who can be extended through 2024 after completing the one-year contract. More recently, they’ve loaned forward Moussa Djitte to the French Ligue 1 team, AC Ajaccio until June 30, 2023.
LA Galaxy +1000
Sitting fifth on the MLS betting odds board, LA Galaxy offer good value at +1000. They made it to the MLS semifinals last October, and lost by a single goal to the eventual champions. They managed to offload a poor DP contract by sending Kevin Cabral to the Colorado Rapids, which they received $1 million in General Allocation Money in return.
This will be LA Galaxy’s first full season with Riqui Puig, who had a phenomenal debut for the team when he joined mid-season last year after making his way over from Barcelona. And speaking of Barcelona, they have expressed much interest in right-back Julian Araujo, although nothing is confirmed yet.
Besides Cabral, LA Galaxy parted ways with Derrick Williams, Victor Vazquez, Samuel Grandsir and Sacha Kljestan. On the receiving end, they added Chris Mavinga from Toronto FC and Memo Rodriguez from Houston Dynamo FC early in January.