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Major League Soccer betting guide

IT’S not quite in the class of the big four, but Major League Soccer is one of the fastest growing sporting competitions in America.

The USA’s premier football competition – yes, we called it football, even though it’s soccer in our country – has attracted some of the finest talents from across the world – albeit most at the end of their glittering careers.

The 27 teams in the MLS are owned by a single body and are franchised out, with the league having overarching say in how the clubs are run. Kind of like a fast food chain, if you will.

From humble beginnings – born in 1993 and starting off with 10 teams in its inaugural season 1996 – the league has more than doubled its teams and expanded its reach across the United States and into Canada.

Major League Soccer

And the competition is by no means done yet. The MLS has expanded significantly since 2005, with the total numbers of teams rising from 10 to some 27. The goal is to reach 30 teams split into two conference of 15 – a format used with great success by the NBA.

Legends like David Beckham, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thierry Henry, David Villa, Wayne Rooney and Tim Cahill, among other soccer greats, have played in the MLS, increasing its profile.

And with increased profile comes increased betting interest.

Soccer is already one of the highest-wagered sports on the planet, and that is only a good thing for American punters looking to have a go at the sport on their home shores.

Here’s a look at how the MLS works and where to start if you want to have a bet.

How do I bet on the MLS?

Before you even contemplate putting one red cent on a Major League Soccer game, it is imperative that you make sure you can actually afford it. Make sure all your bills are paid, the kids are fed and the mortgage or rent is covered. Once you have ticked all those boxes, it’s time to play. The first thing you need to do is find a reputable online betting site to place your bet with.

There are thousands upon thousands of sports betting sites across the world wide web, they are based all over the world, but beware – not all of them are legit. Fortunately, we’ve scoured the the online world to find the most secure bookmakers who will look after your bets – and your money – while providing a wide variety of markets, with the best odds and promotions available. Here they are:

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How many teams are in the MLS?

There are 27 teams in Major League Soccer, with a plan to expand to 30 teams in the near future. Charlotte FC (2022) and St Louis City (2023) are confirmed additions, while Sacramento Republic FC is the frontrunner to become the 30th side in the competition.

As is the case in most major US sporting leagues, the MLS is split into two separate conferences – East and West:

Eastern Conference

Team Stadium Joined
Atlanta United Mercedes-Benz Stadium 2017
Chicago Fire Solider Field 1998
FC Cincinnati TQL Stadium 2019
Columbus Crew Lower.com Field 1996
DC United Audi Field 1996
Inter Miami DRV PNK Stadium 2020
CF Montreal Saputo Stadium 2012
Nashville SC Nissan Stadium 2020
New England Revolution Gillette Stadium 1996
New York City Yankee Stadium 2015
New York Red Bulls Red Bull Arena 1996
Orlando City Exploria Stadium 2015
Philadelphia Union Subaru Park 2010
Toronto FC BMO Field 2011

Western Conference

Team Stadium Joined
Austin FC Q2 Stadium 2021
Colorado Rapids Dick’s Sporting Goods Park 1996
FC Dallas Toyota Stadium 1996
Houston Dynamo BBVA Stadium 2006
Sporting Kansas City Children’s Mercy Park 1996
LA Galaxy Dignity Health Sports Park 1996
Los Angeles FC Banc of California Stadium 2018
Minnesota United Allianz Field 2017
Portland Timbers Providence Park 2011
Real Salt Lake Rio Tinto Stadium 2005
San Jose Earthquakes PayPal Park 1996
Seattle Sounders Lumen Field 2009
Vancouver Whitecaps BC Place 2011

How does the MLS season, playoffs and finals work?

Unlike the majority of soccer competitions across the world, the MLS – as with most major sporting leagues in the USA – uses a regular season structure that feeds into playoffs and then finals.

The competition is split into conferences, East and West, with the top six teams after the regular season qualifying for the playoffs.

The top two teams get the first round off, going straight through to the conference semi finals, giving them a week to rest and recuperate, while the bottom four teams battle it out in the first round.

These are elimination matches that see the winner advance and the loser vanquished.

With four teams gone, there are eight left – four in each conference and they play a home and away series – one on each team’s deck – with the result and goal difference used to determine which team advances to the final.

Winner takes all in the cut throat cup final, hosted by the team with the most points in the regular season.

Drawn games go into extra time and then penalties if a winner cannot be found after 90 minutes and the victorious team wins a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Typical bet types available on MLS

Like any sporting competition, a decent bookmaker will have a wide variety of soccer betting markets available. From futures markets, to match odds and exotics in between, if you there’s a result at stake, you should be able to find a bet for it. Here are some the typical betting markets that you might find on any given MLS market.

FUTURES MARKETS & TEAM EXOTICS

Futures markets are exactly that – a result that you bet on that will occur down the track. These include, but are not limited to:

  • MLS champion
  • Team to make playoffs
  • Team to finish on top of the table
  • Team to miss the playoffs

Team exotics often come down to wins and goals scored on the season and will usually be presented as a handicap of plus or minus a certain number of wins – ie. if a team wins under or over 12.5 games, or scores under or over 40.5 goals, etc.

PLAYER MARKETS

Golden Boot: Who will score the most goals for the season?

Season MVP: Which player will be named the Landon Donovan Award winner for best player at season’s end?

MATCH MARKETS & PLAYER EXOTICS

Three-way betting:
Unlike most other sports, the draw is a real and regular possibility in soccer. That means there are three options, compared to the traditional two in its winners market: Team A to win, the game to draw, or Team B to win. How will you bet?

Double Chance:
Means exactly that – you get two bites of the cherry, with either both teams to win, or one of the teams, plus s draw. If any one of your results occurs, you win.

Total game score:
This is presented as an over or under and the stock figure is 2.5 goals. Some online bookmakers will provide alternate scores, such as 1.5, 3.5 or even 4.5, with odds varying accordingly. The total match score between the two teams has to go either over or under for you to win, depending on which way you bet.

Both teams to score:
A simple yes or no answer will do and all you have to do is choose correctly.

Goal ranges:
Predict how many goals there will be in a bracket. IE: 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, etc.

Half-time/full-time double:
You get several options here and have to pick the game result at both half-time and full-time in the game. So it might be draw at half-time and Team A to win at full-time, etc. It’s basically choosing two results.

Correct score:
Mean’s exactly that, predict exactly what the score will be in the match and you can win big.

Number of corners:
Same thing – how many corners will there be in the match.

Will there be a red card and total number of yellow cards:
It’s a yes or no answer for the red card and the yellows will be presented as an over or under, similar to the total match goals.

First goal scorer, last goal scorer and anytime goal scorer:
These over/under betting markets are good fun, especially when you’re favourite player is involved and are pretty self explanatory.

List of MLS champions

The MLS Cup is the league’s championship game, played each year between the winners of the two conference finals. The LA Galaxy are the competition’s most successful franchise, winning the title five times. DC United is not far behind with four titles and three teams have two apiece – Sporting Kansas City, Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes.

Year Winner Runner-up Score
1996 D.C. United LA Galaxy 3-2
1997 D.C. United Colorado Rapids 2-1
1998 Chicago Fire D.C. United 2-0
1999 D.C. United LA Galaxy 2-0
2000 Kansas City Wizards Chicago Fire 2-0
2001 San Jose Earthquakes LA Galaxy 2-0
2002 LA Galaxy New England Revolution 1-0
2003 San Jose Earthquakes Chicago Fire 4-2
2004 D.C. United Kansas City Wizards 3-2
2005 LA Galaxy New England Revolution 1-0
2006 Houston Dynamo New England Revolution 1-1 (4-3)
2007 Houston Dynamo New England Revolution 2-1
2008 Columbus Crew New York Red Bulls 3-1
2009 Real Salt Lake LA Galaxy 1-1 (5-4)
2010 Colorado Rapids FC Dallas 2-1
2011 LA Galaxy Houston Dynamo 1-0
2012 LA Galaxy Houston Dynamo 3-1
2013 Sporting Kansas City Real Salt Lake 1-1 (7-6)
2014 LA Galaxy New England Revolution 2-1
2015 Portland Timbers Columbus Crew 2-1
2016 Seattle Sounders Toronto FC 0-0 (5-4)
2017 Toronto FC Seattle Sounders 2-0
2018 Atlanta United Portland Timbers 2-0
2019 Seattle Sounders Toronto FC 3-1
2020 Columbus Crew Seattle Sounders 3-0

List of Landon Donovan MVP Award winners

Year Winner (Country) Team
1996 Carlos Valderrama (Colombia) Tampa Bay Mutiny
1997 Preki (USA) Kansas City Wizards
1998 Marco Etcheverry (Bolivia) D.C. United
1999 Jason Kreis (USA) Dallas Burn
2000 Tony Meola (USA) Kansas City Wizards
2001 Alex Pineda Chacon (Honduras) Miami Fusion
2002 Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala) LA Galaxy
2003 Preki (USA) Kansas City Wizards
2004 Amado Guevara (Honduras) MetroStars
2005 Taylor Twellman (USA) New England Revolution
2006 Christian Gomez (Argentina) D.C. United
2007 Luciano Emilio (Brazil) D.C. United
2008 Guillermo Barros Schelotto (Argentina) Columbus Crew
2009 Landon Donovan (United States) LA Galaxy
2010 David Ferreira (Colombia) FC Dallas
2011 Dwayne De Rosario (Canada) D.C. United
2012 Chris Wondolowski (USA) San Jose Earthquakes
2013 Mike Magee (USA) Chicago Fire
2014 Robbie Keane (Ireland) LA Galaxy
2015 Sebastian Giovinco (Italy) Toronto FC
2016 David Villa (Spain) New York City
2017 Diego Valeri (Argentina) Portland Timbers
2018 Josef Martinez (Venezuela) Atlanta United
2019 Carlos Vela (Mexico) Los Angeles FC
2020 Alejandro Pozuelo (Spain) Toronto FC
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