Editorial (May 13, 2019) — We’re almost one-quarter of the way through the MLS regular season, and the Playoffs picture is starting to take shape.
It may seem early to be mentioning the P-word. However, now is the time to get good betting odds on teams that have been underperforming.
Both Los Angeles teams lead MLS playoff betting odds
MLS 2019: Surprises Good and Bad
Nobody could have predicted a couple of months ago just how much last year’s finalists Atlanta United and Portland Timbers would struggle. Defending champions Atlanta were expected to contend again this season, despite selling Paraguayan international Miguel Almiron to English Premier League team Newcastle United during the offseason.
At the time of writing, Atlanta were bottom of the Eastern Conference but had played six games. So far, that’s the least in the league. Likewise, Portland were expected to bounce back after the disappointment of last year’s MLS Cup Final loss. However, they are also struggling near the bottom of the Western Conference.
At the top end of the table, no one would be surprised to see Los Angeles FC with the best record in the league after 10 matches. Fewer would have believed LA Galaxy would have the second-best record in Major League soccer. Although, it makes sense when you consider that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back to his goal-scoring best.
LA Teams Lead MLS Playoff Odds
Bookmakers constantly change their betting odds to reflect new realities, so it’s no surprise the Los Angeles teams are on top. We checked out the best sports betting sites for MLS and found that Los Angeles FC is the favorite, followed by LA Galaxy. Interestingly, Atlanta United is still a popular choice, despite the defending champ’s slow start to the season.
At time of writing, Bet365 was paying 7/2 for Los Angeles FC to win the MLS Cup 2019. Next up were LA Galaxy, 13/2, DC United, 8/1, Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC, both 10/1, and Atlanta United, 10/1. The Portland Timbers were paying incredibly long odds of 100/1. The biggest underdogs were New England Revolution and Colorado Rapids, both 250/1.
The Smart Money is on Atlanta
Los Angeles FC is the rightful favorite, given the team’s dominant start to the season. Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi have scored 17 goals between them. Currently, they rank first and third in the MLS, respectively, for goals scored. When you have guys hitting the target the way LAFC’s forwards have, you deserve to be the MLS Cup title favorites.
Not surprisingly, Vela is first in bet365’s top goalscorer betting market, at 7/4. He’s followed by Ibrahimovic, 9/1, and Rossi and Toronto FC’s Jozy Altidore, who are both 10/1.
With that said, there’s good value to be found in underperforming teams, and in particular the defending champions Atlanta United. Despite a poor start, Atlanta United is a bigger contender for the MLS playoffs and title than the betting odds suggest.
If you don’t believe us, just look at FiveThirtyEight’s live Major League Soccer probabilities. These guys give LAFC a 99 percent chance of making the playoffs. Meanwhile, they consider Atlanta United the ninth-most likely to make the playoffs with a 77 percent possibility. However, if Atlanta make it to the playoffs, then watch out everyone else.
LAFC is the likeliest team to win the 2019 MLS Cup, with a 24 percent possibility, according to FiveThirtyEight. Despite being bottom of the East, Atlanta United is equal-second likeliest to win the MLS Cup, with an eight percent possibility.
Philadelphia Union and Sporting KC also have an eight percent possibility of becoming MLS champions. Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy have a seven percent possibility of winning the title despite having a 91 percent possibility of making the playoffs.