What’s at Stake on the Final Day of the MLS Regular Season?

What’s at Stake on the Final Day of the MLS Regular Season? article feature image

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: LA Galaxy superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic passing the ball vs. Minnesota

  • Sunday marks the final day of the 2018 MLS regular season, and there are still playoff spots to be determined in both conferences.
  • Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls are the +330 co-favorites to win MLS Cup, and both are vying for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.
  • Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy will make the postseason if they can beat Houston on Sunday, and they're big favorites to do so.

The 2018 MLS regular season is down to the final weekend, and there’s still plenty to be determined for the playoff picture.

For anyone unfamiliar with the format, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in both conferences will have byes in the first round. They’ll then play the winners of No. 3 vs. No. 6, and No. 4 vs. No. 5.


The conference semifinals and conference finals are both two-legged, home-and-home series. The finals will be one single match played at the home of the highest seed remaining. Last season, Toronto FC defeated Seattle at home to win the 2017 MLS Cup.

I won’t have any value plays for the final day, but the regular season was very profitable, ending up 50-52-3 for +32.92 units and a 32% ROI. Value plays will return for the MLS Playoffs.

Here’s a look at the playoff seed probabilities (courtesy of AmericanSoccerAnalysis.com) and a breakdown for the Eastern and Western Conference.

Eastern Conference Breakdown

  • Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls are the favorites to win the MLS Cup, but more importantly they’re still battling it out for the Supporter’s Shield for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Red Bulls are a point behind in the standings, but have a slight 55% edge to finish first with Atlanta United at 45%.
  • The main reason why? NYRB are -666 favorites to beat Orlando City while Atlanta United are short -115 favorites at Toronto FC.
  • New York City FC could slip to fourth or fifth, but they’ve got >80% chance of the third spot.
  • The Philadelphia Union can still finish anywhere from third to sixth, but their most likely scenario is fourth or fifth. They’re +280 underdogs at NYC FC (-110) on Sunday.
  • Montreal are still hanging by a thread and need Columbus to lose, which isn’t likely. The Crew are big -385 favorites to beat Minnesota, while the Impact are +135 underdogs at New England. Columbus have a 91% chance of qualifying compared to just 9% for Montreal.
  • D.C. United could vault into third place but they also have a chance to fall back into the sixth spot. Their match against Chicago is essentially a toss-up with odds of +158 on both sides.

Western Conference Breakdown

  • Sporting Kansas City hold the top spot in the Western Conference, but could actually fall all the way to fourth. Sporting KC are -120 home favorites to beat LAFC on Sunday, a difficult opponent and second in the conference.
  • The second, third and fourth playoff spots are completely up in the air.
  • FC Dallas possess the best chance of finishing second, as they’re -145 favorites at Colorado on the final day. However, they could still fall to as low as fifth.
  • The LA Galaxy can clinch a playoff spot with a victory, which would mean both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney qualify for the playoffs. That’s huge news for MLS marketing and advertising, but also exciting for fans and bettors.
  • The Portland Timbers will most likely finish in fifth, but could move up to third or fourth with some luck.
  • Real Salt Lake are in the sixth position but have already wrapped up regular season play, so they need the LA Galaxy to lose or draw. That seems highly unlikely since the Galaxy have -555 odds to beat Houston.

2018 MLS Cup Odds

  • Atlanta United and New York Red Bulls remain the +330 co-favorites to win the 2018 MLS Cup.
  • On Aug. 10, D.C. United were 500-1 to win the title. Now they’re just 16-1.
  • The Philadelphia Union were 90-1 to win the title back in August, but they’re down to 20-1.
  • Real Salt Lake are 100-1, their longest odds of the entire season, and they need to hope the LA Galaxy lose in order to qualify for the playoffs.