2018 MLS Cup Playoffs: Which Teams Will Book a Spot in the Conference Finals?

2018 MLS Cup Playoffs: Which Teams Will Book a Spot in the Conference Finals? article feature image

USA Today. Pictured: Atlanta United celebrating a goal

  • Three spots remain up-for-grabs in the Conference Finals of the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs after Portland knocked off Seattle in a shootout on Thursday night.
  • Action starts at 3 p.m. ET with Sporting Kansas City hosting Real Salt Lake, followed by Atlanta United-New York City FC and NY Red Bulls-Columbus Crew.
  • The public has made some surprising bets for Sunday, and that has created value in all three matches.

Sunday brings us a trio of MLS Conference Semifinal matches including both New York clubs in action. Here’s an updated look at the playoff matchups and MLS Cup odds.

Eastern Conference Semifinals:

Columbus Crew (#5) lead 1-0 vs. New York Red Bulls (#1)

Atlanta United (#2) lead 1-0 vs. New York City FC (#3)

Western Conference Semifinals:

Sporting Kansas City (#1) tied 1-1 vs. Real Salt Lake (#6)

Portland Timbers (#5) defeated Seattle Sounders (#2)

The Portland Timbers have booked their ticket to the Western Conference Finals after defeating the Seattle Sounders in a shootout on Thursday night. This officially means we’ll have new teams in the MLS Cup Final for the first time since 2015.

2018 MLS Cup Odds

  • The Red Bulls entered the playoffs as the favorites, but they’re now listed at +500 behind three other clubs.
  • Atlanta United are back to being favorites at +195, their lowest odds of the entire season.
  • Real Salt Lake moved from +10000 to +1600 over the last week due to their miracle qualification into the playoffs, but they’re back up to +3300 despite a 1-1 draw at Sporting KC in the opening leg of the conference semifinals.

After analyzing the betting market for each matchup, I’ve picked out two value plays. (Odds and betting %’s as of Sunday, 10 a.m. ET)

MLS Season Record: 51-58-3 for +28.02 units and 25% ROI

Real Salt Lake at Sporting Kansas City (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on ESPN)

  • Real Salt Lake Odds: +655
  • Sporting KC Odds: -245
  • Draw Odds: +400
  • Over/Under: 3 (o-109)

Oddly enough, the first matchup of the day will come from the Western Conference with Real Salt Lake taking on top-seeded Sporting Kansas City.

Sporting KC earned a 1-1 road draw in the opening leg and are now in command of advancing to the Conference Finals. They’re -245 favorites to pick up the victory, but a 0-0 draw would be enough to progress.

Surprisingly, public bettors have been more than willing to take the underdogs, and nearly 40% of tickets has come in on Real Salt Lake to win. A trendy road underdog is something I always like to avoid, especially as an inferior club. Real Salt Lake haven’t lost in the last five meetings against Sporting KC, but that bubble will likely burst on Sunday afternoon.

With a high total of 3 goals and Sporting KC the decisively better side, I feel confident including the moneyline in a parlay today.

The Bet: Sporting KC (-245) in parlay

Atlanta United vs. New York City FC (Sunday, 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN)

  • Atlanta United Odds: -150
  • NYC FC Odds: +390
  • Draw Odds: +320
  • Over/Under: 3 (u-112)

Atlanta United picked up crucial road win, 1-0, in the first leg, and they’re now huge favorites to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

Again, public bettors have been all over the underdogs, but odds have moved away from New York City FC. The bigger and sharper bets have come in on Atlanta United, and that’s the side I want to be on today as well.

The Bet: Atlanta United (-150) in parlay

Columbus Crew at New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on ESPN)

  • Columbus Odds: +418
  • NY Red Bulls Odds: -150
  • Draw Odds: +310
  • Over/Under: 3 (u-145)

Columbus knocked out D.C. United in the play-in round, and then picked up a 1-0 win in the first leg of the Conference Semifinals against the Red Bulls. #SaveTheCrew is alive and well.

The Red Bulls are looking to win their first ever MLS Cup and will have home-field advantage in the finals if they get there. However, the pressure is really on as they need to erase a deficit in the second leg.

The majority of public bettors are taking New York to win at home, and odds have shifted in their favor. After opening at -125, they’re now up to -150, and could increase even more before game time.

I’m still high on Columbus and believe the gap is a lot smaller between these clubs than the lines indicate. I’m rolling with the Crew +0.5 goals at +125 odds.

The Bet: Columbus +0.5 (+125)


Value Plays

  • Sporting Kansas City and Atlanta United parlay (+135)
  • Columbus +0.5 (+125) at New York Red Bulls

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