Major League Soccer Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our Favorite Picks for MLS Cup Winner, Longshots, More

Major League Soccer Betting Odds, Picks, Predictions: Our Favorite Picks for MLS Cup Winner, Longshots, More article feature image
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Steph Chambers/Getty Images. Pictured: Seattle Sounders star Raúl Ruidíaz, right, celebrates a goal with his teammates.

The MLS Cup Playoffs begin this weekend, with 14 teams vying to become the 26th champion in Major League Soccer.

And it’s hard to find a less predictable postseason.

During the league’s first 25 years, no team has won MLS Cup more than five times or more than two season in a row. And the top overall seed in the field has only won the trophy seven times. That’s bad news for the New England Revolution, who are this year’s Supporters’ Shield winner.

That said, check out below what soccer analysts Ian Quillen and Jeremy Pond are thinking heading into the postseason. From conference winners to longshots to league champion, the duo has you covered ahead of the playoffs.

Let’s take a look to see where they’ve landed and what kind of solid betting value they’ve unveiled with their top selections.


2021 MLS Playoffs Odds

*Odds via BetMGM

TEAM ODDS
New England Revolution +300
Seattle Sounders +525
Colorado Rapids +625
Sporting Kansas City +650
Portland Timbers +950
Philadelphia Union +1050
Nashville SC +1150
New York City FC +1250
Orlando City SC +1500
Atlanta United +1900
Minnesota United +2200
Real Salt Lake +2200
New York Red Bulls +2500
Vancouver Whitecaps +2800

Our MLS Playoffs Top Picks

Eastern Conference

Champion

Ian Quillen: Nashville SC (+550) at DraftKings — Some are writing off Nashville’s postseason chances because it matched the MLS record with 18 games drawn in the regular season.

Well, they shouldn’t.

The previous two playoff teams with the most draws — the 2011 New York Red Bulls and 2016 Los Angeles Galaxy — each won their first-round, single-elimination playoff games in 90 minutes.

The Houston Dynamo captured the 2006 MLS Cup after posting a season-high 13 ties, and FC Dallas reached the final after posting a club-record 14 stalemates. However, none of those teams had Nashville’s +22 goal differential, nor did they tie for best defense with 33 goals conceded.

Add MVP candidate Nahy Mukhtar and an underrated attacking supporting cast, and the Music City side is far better value for the price to win the East than favorite New England, which faces history and a 23-day break between matches.

Nashville also has a win and a draw against the Revolution in their two previous meetings.

Jeremy Pond: Philadelphia (+450) at DraftKings — I had the opportunity to catch the Union’s road match against Toronto FC late in the regular season, which ended in a 2-2 stalemate at BMO Field. They might have left Canada with just a point that day, but they also departed with my respect after what was a solid effort in a very tough place to play.

Philadelphia, led by Kacper Przybyłko and Sergio Santos Gomes, have somehow flown under the radar, despite finishing unbeaten in 10 of its last 11 regular-season games. That lone loss was a 3-2 road setback against Western Conference dark horse Minnesota United. Other than that, the Union have been in stellar form and deserve more respect ahead of the playoffs.

Przybyłko (12 goals) could carry this team in deep into the postseason, along with Gomes (six goals), captain Alejandro Bedoya and goalkeeper Andre Blake. And this price gives us plenty of value, thus making it worth a strong play.

Pictured: Atlanta forward Josef Martinez applauds the fans after a match. Photo credit: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Longshot

Quillen: Atlanta United (+1200) at DraftKings — Atlanta has been transformed since moving on from former manager Gabriel Heinze after a loss to New England in the middle of July.

The Five Stripes earned 2.0 points per game over the second half of their season, climbing from a season-low 11th in the table up to the fifth seed.

Interim manager Rob Valentino deserves a lot of credit for steadying the ship before the club hired Gonzalo Pineda away from the Seattle staff. And Pineda deserves enormous praise as well, particularly for unlocking the best of Ezequiel Barco. He carried Atlanta with six goals and four assists during a run of seven wins in eight games.

If Atlanta can upset New York City FC in the opening round, the club might just ambush top-seeded New England coming off its long break.


Pond: Atlanta United (+1200) at DraftKings — Yeah, I’m with Ian on this play. Building on what he mentioned, I firmly believe Atlanta is the biggest threat — at lovely long odds to boot — to New England and its likely coronation at next month’s MLS Cup.

The Five Stripes have all the tools down South to win the franchise’s second championship now that they’re back at full strength. This outfit is stacked with talent, led by Barco, Josef Martinez and Argentine international Marcelino Moreno. Unbeaten over its last six matches, the defense conceded just four goals and looked their best to close out things ahead of the playoffs.

And like my colleague stated, Atlanta can take its momentum off a win over New York City FC into Gillette Stadium for a conference semifinal and send New England on holiday with another upset.

Oddsmakers have shown no respect to the Five Stripes, putting them +375 odds or longer on three-way moneyline against NYCFC. And I think that’s a huge mistake and liability at the windows for everyone discounting this club.

First-Round Upset

Quillen: RBNY Draw No Bet (+155) vs. Philadelphia at BetMGM — Like Atlanta, New York has also been exceptional down the stretch.

The club also played three very tightly contested matches against first-round opponent Philadelphia Union, drawing twice at Red Bull Arena and losing 1-0 at Subaru Park. The Red Bulls were outscored, 3-2, over the total series, but led 3.9-3.4 in expected goals across those three games.

The Red Bulls and Union love to play their own brands of high-pressing soccer. That can lead to a disjointed game and why I’d play the Draw No Bet wager rather than the money line.


Pond: Atlanta United Draw No Bet (+270) vs. NYCFC at DraftKings — This betting angle was laid out above when discussing the Five Stripes.

In my opinion, this is the worst line of all opening-round playoff matches and has left the sports book open for a bad day if the Atlanta side I know shows up and takes care of business at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

These sides played to a 1-1 draw back on Oct. 20 at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Neither outfit could get much going, with the visitors winning the expected-goals battle by the slimmest 0.9-0.7 margin.

That said, getting Atlanta at close to 3-1 odds on the Draw No Bet line is a gift and I’ve made it my top play of the entire first round of the competition. If you’re feeling frisky, take a swing on the Five Stripes at +400 on the three-way moneyline as well.

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Western Conference

Champion

Quillen: Sporting Kansas City (+400) at DraftKings — This is a tough one for me, because I also think Sporting Kansas City is facing an enormously dangerous opening-round clash against Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Colorado isn’t even some oddsmakers’ favorite in the Western Conference despite winning the regular-season crown and receiving a first-round bye.

Yet, when I look at the roster of the West contenders, it’s Sporting Kansas City which has the most diversity of options going forward. That’s a big deal in the postseason, when you’re facing quality opponents who are better at shutting down your first option.

Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russell finished in MLS Golden Boot Contention. If Sporting Kansas City can get Alan Pulido healthy, he’s a more natural target forward than either of them.

And Gadi Kinda and Khiry Shelton are both capable of producing special moments as well.


Pond: Seattle (+300) at DraftKings — On paper, this doesn’t look like one of the savviest picks. I’m fully aware of that fact.

The Sounders were utterly dismal down the stretch, going winless in their final six matches and ultimately blowing their chance to finish atop the conference. Instead, Seattle settled for second place behind surprising Colorado and won’t host the Western finale if the Rapids reach that common destination.

So, yeah. Playing Seattle at these odds sounds like a bad idea from a value perspective, but let me remind everyone this isn’t a new face on the scene. This is Seattle. This is the franchise that has reached four of the last five MLS Cup finals, winning the 2017 and 2019 crowns.

This is a seasoned, veteran side led by Raúl Ruidíaz, Nicolás Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, João Paulo and Christian Roldan, and that’s enough to give me confidence in the Sounders. Seattle can turn it on at the drop of a hat, which I think we’re going to see in Tuesday’s clash with Real Salt Lake in Seattle.

First place or last team to make the postseason, the conference’s rep in MLS Cup always runs through Cascadia via the Sounders. Nothing has changed.

Pictured: Manager Adrian Heath of Minnesota United. Photo credit: Jeremy Olson/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Longshot

Quillen: Minnesota United (+1100) at DraftKings — Truth be told, I don’t love any of the true longshots in the West to make a deep run. However, if you’re going to make me back one, it’s Minnesota United and it’s also for that attacking diversity.

The Loons haven’t gotten the most out of their front men, but at least it’s clear they can get goals from a lot of places.

And while Emanuel Reynoso has had an up-and-down sophomore season as Minnesota’s playmaker, he proved in 2020 he can carry a team single-handedly for several matches.

It also helps the Loons open at Portland, who they swept in their two-match regular-season series.


Pond: Portland (+800) at DraftKings — Forever one of my favorite clubs, I can never root against manager Giovanni Savarese and the Timbers. Portland cashed at +2800 odds as one of my MLS is Back tournament picks at the start of the global pandemic, which led to my affinity for the Great Northwest outfit.

The Timbers might be playing their best soccer at this moment, which is exactly what you want to be doing going into the postseason. They closed their schedule with three consecutive wins, highlighted by a 3-0 shutout against Austin FC to close the regular season. That capped an unreal second-half run that generated a 10-3-1 (W-L-D) record, putting them in fourth place.

Portland has a difficult playoff start, beginning Sunday with a home date with Minnesota United. The Loons swept the two-game series via 2-1 and 1-0 wins, which could be cause for concern. However, this is the postseason and they’ve put together a résumé any club would want.

Getting Portland at these ripe +800 odds to reach MLS Cup is worth playing.

First-Round Upset

Quillen: Minnesota United ML (+270) vs. Portland at BetMGM — Portland is  a much better side now than when they lost twice to Minnesota during a one-month stretch this past summer. However, matchups and confidence are both are critically important in the single-elimination playoff format.

It’s not often a lower seed can face a higher seed on the road, with the knowledge they’ve already beaten them twice before. And the analytics suggest Minnesota was actually the better team in the regular season.

The Loons had an xG difference of +5.6 during their campaign, which was seven better than their actual goal difference of -2 and well above Portland’s xG difference of -8.0 this season.


Pond: None aka All Chalk — Not to be a buzzkill, but I see all favorites moving on in this side of the bracket.

Your best upset chance would likely come via Minnesota taking out Portland at Providence Park. However, I just don’t see that happening.

The Loons are a solid No. 5 seed, but only have one win in their last four outings. That simply doesn’t bode well facing a Cascadia power that has won three on the bounce entering this match.

Pictured: Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman. Photo credit: Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MLS Cup Champion

Ian Quillen: Nashville SC (+1200) at DraftKings — Manager Gary Smith’s side has the best combination of two traits you need to succeed in the postseason — offensive diversity and defensive organization.

As we mentioned before, many will knock Nashville for its inability to close out games and settling for seven draws in its last nine matches.

However, there are two lurking variables here:

  1. Nashville played six of its last nine games away while sharing Nissan Stadium with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
  2. New England basically sealed the Supporters’ Shield in September, giving Nashville less incentive to take risks late in matches to earn three points.

New England deserves to be favored and was the best team this season, but it’s awful hard to do the double, especially after shifting to cruise control for the final quarter of the campaign.

Out West, Seattle mirrors Nashville’s traits of defensive solidity and offensive diversity. However, manager Brian Schmetzer is dealing with trying to re-integrate three stars (Lodeiro, Ruidíaz and Morris) after injury absences. That’s a lot to handle in a one-and-done scenario.

As for Sporting Kansas City, while I like the club to get out of the West, I don’t trust its defense as much as I trust Nashville’s back line.

That leaves me backing Smith to win his second MLS Cup in just Nashville’s second MLS season.

Pictured: Seattle Sounders forward Leo Chu celebrates his goal against Vancouver. Photo credit: Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Jeremy Pond: Seattle (+700) at DraftKings — Picking just one contender to bring home this year’s MLS Cup was beyond tough. To be transparent, I was able to narrow my options to Seattle, Portland and Atlanta.

And while I love the Timbers and Five Stripes entering the playoffs, I simply couldn’t stop myself from going back to the Sounders. For all reasons I noted above combined with the fact this club takes things to another level in postseason, I’m confident the powerhouse can march its way through the playoff gauntlet and book another spot in the championship.

When it comes to the advanced metrics, Seattle was one of the best overall on there numbers. The Sounders finished with 47.6 xG and 37.0 xGA, resulting in a  +10.6 xG differential and +0.31 xGDiff/90 minutes. The most important stat comes via their xGA, which ranked third overall out of 27 teams in the regular season, according to FBref.com.

Throw in the fact I’m somehow getting +700 on Seattle to win another crown and I’m happy to grab it before it takes a hit leading up to the opening games.

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