Fans of sports betting were thrown a curveball by the Major League Soccer season of 2021, which saw New York City FC lift the trophy for the first time. Those who bet on New York early might have had a huge payday, as the team’s success came about via a late winning streak during the playoffs.
Could there be an opportunity for another unexpected victory in 2022? Or is the smart money on New York for a second consecutive victory? The regular season isn’t set to begin until February 26th, but let’s take an early look at what we could potentially expect from this year’s Major League Soccer Cup.
New York do feature near the top of the list for Finishing Position (Including Playoffs), although they are not the current favorite. That title currently goes to the Seattle Sounders, who made it to the finals of the league in 2020, 2019, 2017, and 2016 – an excellent track record.
The current top five are as follows, according to Unibet, a legal gambling site in Virginia:
1 Seattle Sounders +650
2 New England Revolution +700
3 Los Angeles FC +800
3 New York City FC +800
4 Phoenix Union +1,100
4 Sporting Kansas City +1,100
4 Toronto FC +1,100
5 Atlanta United FC +1,400
At the other end of the table are the true long shots – Houston Dynamo and FC Cincinnati are both tied at +10,000, with the San Jose Earthquakes and Charlotte FC not far behind at +8,000. Could any of these four teams realistically mount an offensive and take home the MLS Cup? It seems unlikely – preseason odds from previous years have been reasonably consistent at predicting the top and bottom groupings.
Considering their previous performances, it was not surprising that the Sounders were the favorites to win the Western Conference throughout much of the 2021 season. They did reach the playoffs, but an early spot kick battle against Real Salt Lake saw them suffer a shock elimination during the first round. The Sounders certainly deserve a place near the top of the pre-season odds, but despite their successes at reaching the finals, they have failed to seal the final victory more times than they have taken home the trophy.
The team is constantly evolving and improving, however, and the 2022 team looks to be one of the best assembled in the history of MLS. Some would argue that their current price of +650 is actually a steal – do you agree?
New England Revolution
The 2021 playoffs saw New England Revolution lose their first match during the playoffs, just like the Sounders. New England Revolution were said to be the best team anyone had ever fielded in the history of the league at the beginning of 2021, proving that the random opponent selection of the playoffs really can throw off the betting odds offered at any stage. The team were previously tied with the Sounders on +700, indicating that more people have currently placed early bets on the Sounders than on the Revolution. Whatever happens, New England are likely to do well once again in the 2022 season, but whether they can take home the trophy is another matter entirely.
Los Angeles FC
Not to be confused with their rivals LA Galaxy, LAFC have come into their own over the past few years and have now overtaken their cross-city rivals as the strongest team from the Los Angeles area. Although LAFC were the preseason favorites in 2021, many are questioning if they deserve such a high position in the preseason odds for 2022.
The reason? There are several. First, the departure of Bob Bradley, the brilliant coach who was arguably the driving force in leading the team to the powerful force of the league that they have become today. Secondly, they don’t have a new coach yet either – how can they be priced the same as last year’s cup winners without even having an active coach? Finally, the lack of a coach means there is no clarity to the decision making currently going on at the club.
Former MLS star Herculez Gomez has been one of the strongest public voices against LAFC’s current position in the preseason odds. The forward who played for teams including LA Galaxy, Toronto FC, and the Seattle Sounders, certainly knows what he is talking about – but is he right this time around?
New York City FC
Finally, let’s talk a little about New York City FC. Last year’s cup winners were previously priced at +1,000, suggesting that the bookies aren’t convinced that they can repeat their success from 2021. Some bettors obviously have a different view on this, given how quickly their price seems to be gaining ground on the other favorites in the league.
It’s worth bearing in mind that NYC FC were priced and positioned similar prior to the regular season beginning in 2021 yet went on to lift the trophy. Their odds are likely to continue shortening based on recent betting activity, so if you fancy a bet on last year’s winners the sooner you make it the better you are likely to do. On the other hand, two consecutive victories would be a first in the history of MLS. It’s a tough call, for sure!