MLS Cup Favorites Headline Wednesday’s Five-Game Slate

Credit:

Dale Zanine – USA TODAY Sports

A mini five-game slate in the MLS on Wednesday night is headlined by a potential Cup Final preview with Atlanta United hosting Sporting Kansas City (7:30 p.m. ET) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Each club is atop their respective conference, but Atlanta United are the clear title favorites (+400) at the quarter mark of the season.

 

xG and xGA

Seattle, Toronto, Philadelphia and Columbus appear to be in the best position to improve this season based on expected Goals (xG) and expected Goals Against (xGA).

It just so happens that all four teams match up against each other with Toronto hosting Seattle (7:30 p.m. ET), and Columbus vs. Philadelphia at the same time.

The late matchups feature Chicago vs. Montreal at 8:30 p.m. ET, and LA FC taking on Minnesota in a battle of new clubs at 10 p.m. ET. Home teams have become even more dominant this season, and all five home clubs are listed at -140 or higher on Wednesday night.

I’ve previewed each match and broken down the betting market to find three value plays worth betting (Season Record: 22-20, +14.67 units).

(All lines as of Tuesday afternoon via Pinnacle sportsbook; All betting percentages as of Tuesday afternoon via offshore market average. Bettors can find all the latest odds and betting percentages with a Sports Insights membership.)

Sporting Kansas City at Atlanta United (7:30 p.m. ET)
Moneyline Odds: Atlanta -155, Sporting KC +435, Draw +300, Total 3 (u-125)

The top two point-getters in the league will square off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the atmosphere inside the dome in Atlanta has been incredible. Atlanta clearly thrives on both the fan support and FieldTurf, and there’s also a ton of talent all over the roster. In just their second season, the United are already MLS Cup favorites, but they’ll be tested against Sporting Kansas City.

Both clubs won last weekend, are tops in their respective conference, and have the highest xG’s in the league by far. Atlanta United are riding an eight-game unbeaten streak and are scary-good at home, outscoring opponents, 44-13, in their last 13 matches.

Sporting KC managed only two road victories all of last season but have equaled that total in just away matches games this year, a massive improvement.

Betting Market

Oddsmakers opened Atlanta in the -160 moneyline range, roughly a 61% implied win probability. Public bettors are having no problem laying those odds, but sharper sportsbooks around the market, such as Pinnacle and Bookmaker, have actually brought the line down to Atlanta -155, indicating some sharper money on Sporting KC and the Draw.

Some books, such as BetOnline and Bovada, still list Atlanta in the -165/-170 range, so always make sure you’re shopping around for the best odds. Especially in a sport such as MLS, the three-way moneylines almost always differ from sportsbook to sportsbook.

Despite all of Atlanta’s success, they did need a late surge against Montreal in their last home match, and a midweek game against a top opponent will be even tougher. I’m going to agree with the early money and take Sporting KC +1 goals (-125) to keep things close.

Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew (7:30 p.m. ET)
Moneyline Odds: Columbus -163, Philadelphia +442, Draw +323, Total 3

These clubs are trending in opposite directions with Columbus on the way up and Philadelphia on the way down. As is the case across MLS, Columbus have been dominant at home (one loss in last 13) while Philadelphia have really struggled on the road (15 straight without a win) dating back to last season.

These teams have already faced off once this season, a 0-0 draw in Philadelphia, but Columbus head into this one as big home favorites. Whether it matters much or not this season, the Union have actually had success against the Crew, winning four of the last six meetings, including two in Columbus.

Betting Market

Most of the market opened Columbus in the -165 range, and the line has moved in both directions. The Crew dipped down to as low as -140 but also reached as high as -185. Despite the roller-coaster, most books now list Columbus anywhere from -153 to -167 (~61% implied win probability).

Even though both teams were shut out in their last match and in their last head-to-head meeting, it feels as if the goals are coming. Public bettors have actually leaned toward the under here, so I like the contrarian value on Over 3 goals (+100).

 

Seattle Sounders at Toronto FC (7:30 p.m. ET)
Moneyline Odds: Toronto -171, Seattle +474, Draw +326, Total 3 (u-135)

This is another clash between teams that hope, and need, to improve as the season progresses. After facing each other in the last two MLS Cups, the northern clubs are off to a tough start in 2018.

Toronto FC have obviously been hampered by Champions League action and injuries, but were able to earn a 3-0 win over Philadelphia last week. Seattle went goalless in a disappointing 0-0 draw with Columbus over the weekend, and have managed only five goals all season long.

Betting Market

Toronto FC opened -158 at Pinnacle, which was a bit lower than expected. The line is up to -171 there, and is as high as -180 at other sportsbooks around the market.

It’s hard to trust either side right now, but the lean has to be toward Toronto FC, especially at home. The current odds are fair, so I don’t see much value on the moneyline, but again I like Over 3 goals (+120). These clubs have severely underperformed in terms of expected goals this season, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both teams finish their chances against one another.

Montreal Impact at Chicago Fire (8:30 p.m. ET)
Moneyline Odds: Chicago -147, Montreal +384, Draw +320, Total 3 (o-116)

It’s been pretty difficult to figure out Montreal this season but they thrashed the Revs, 4-2, last weekend to snap a four-game losing streak. Chicago put in a good effort against Atlanta, the best club in the league, but suffered a 2-1 defeat.

Betting Market

Chicago opened as -154 favorites and dropped to -138 in early betting before trickling back up to -147. It would be disappointing for the Fire not to get all three points in this one.

There’s been a lot to like about Chicago over the last few weeks, but Montreal may finally have some confidence following their four-goal outburst against New England. I lean toward Chicago winning but not enough to warrant a wager.

Minnesota United at LA FC (10 p.m. ET)
Moneyline Odds: LA FC -283, Minnesota +719, Draw +458, Total 3.5 (u-140)

The late-night match on the West Coast features a meeting of newer clubs with LA FC taking on Minnesota at Banc of California Stadium. Both clubs come in hot with the Loons winning two straight games, and LA FC unbeaten in their last four matches.

Betting Market

The market is respecting LA FC as they opened -234 and are up to -283 at Pinnacle. A string of home matches with no travel gives LA a big advantage in this one, but the odds are far too high for my liking.

Value Plays (Season: 22-20, +14.67 units), All plays risk 1 unit

Sporting KC +1 goals (-125) at Atlanta United
Columbus/Philadelphia Over 3 (+100)
Toronto/Seattle Over 3 (+120)

You can also follow me on Twitter (@ArsenalDMC) for all the latest soccer news and updates.

Cover photo features Atlanta United midfielder Kevin Kratz (32) reacting with teammates after scoring a goal against Montreal

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