MLS will wrap their regular season with 7 simultaneous games in the Eastern Conference at 12:30 PST and then 6 simultaneous games at 3:30 PST in the Western Conference on Sunday with lots still left to play for including two Eastern Conference playoff spots, the right to play at home, and the Supporters’ Shield (for an in-depth look at what’s at stake, look here.) Usually, the last day of a season can be a bettor’s worst nightmare trying to figure out who’s going to put their best foot forward, but with this unique setup, almost every team has something to play for with a few notable exceptions. With that in mind, let’s get into some of the betting opportunities.
Here’s a quick look at my betting record in MLS so far this year:
Columbus Crew (-0.5) vs. Atlanta United– Total 3
- Playoff implications: Atlanta United is playing for the bottom playoff spot. Columbus needs to win to guarantee a home playoff game.
Last week, I bet on Columbus Crew against Orlando City believing that with Nagbe and Zelarayan back in the lineup they could find their early season form where they were one of the best teams in the league. That did not work out well. The Crew are really struggling to find any sort of rhythm in the attacking third even with their key pieces back. Orlando took the game to them and never really looked threatened until a weird red card from Nani let the Crew open up some. I have no doubts about the Crew’s defense, but they will need to get Zardes and Zelarayan clicking to at least take advantage of their few counter-attacks per game.
With those concerns aside, there’s no way I’m betting on Atlanta United who have less expected goals than the Colorado Rapids despite playing 5 more games than them. Atlanta, after losing Josef Martinez for the season, have completely collapsed and just can’t score goals anymore. So, with both sides ruled out, I absolutely love the under 3 here. I think the stakes of the game, the character of the teams, and the level of attacking talent screams a 1-0 win for either side, so I will be all over the under here.
The Picks: Under 3 Goals (-140) 3u
Chicago Fire (PK) vs. NYCFC– Total 3
- Playoff implications: Chicago Fire is playing to hold their playoff spot. NYCFC is playing to jump into the home playoff game positions.
The numbers say you should bet Chicago Fire here. In fact, Fivethirtyeight has them at 46% to win the game. Compare that to the implied odds of their +160 Moneyline at 39% and you have yourself a hammer spot right? The problem is: Chicago manages to grasp a draw or defeat from the jaws of victory more than any other team I have ever watched. It’s because they have two centerbacks who can be the best and worst centerback in the league over the course of the same game. Francisco Calvo, in particular, is prone to mistakes you would see in a Sunday league at your local middle school. NYCFC will eat that kind of mistake alive with their attacking talent. Still, the passing and movement of Chicago’s attack is a tantalizing small bet at home with a playoff spot on the line.
The Picks: Chicago Fire ML (+160) 0.5u
DC United (-0.25) vs. Montreal Impact– Total 3
- Playoff implications: Both teams are playing for the bottom playoff spot, but need other results to go their way to get in.
I firmly believe that a bet on this game is pure degeneracy. Neither of these teams are any good with a discernible identity, but both somehow have a shot to make the playoffs. I have no idea how this game is going to go and neither does anyone else.
The Picks: Pass
Inter Miami (-1.25) vs. FC Cincinnati– Total 3
- Playoff implications: Inter Miami is playing for the bottom playoff spot. FC Cincinnati is eliminated
There’s a chance that I’m totally alone here, but I love Cincinnati in this spot. With this line, you win if Cincinnati loses by 1 goal, ties, or wins, that’s ridiculous against Inter Miami regardless of opponent. The books have had them overrated all season because of the star power of the names on the team (Higuian, Pizzarro, Matuidi). They are just not very good as a team. They give up at least a goal per game, they can’t finish, and they don’t play particularly attractive soccer. I don’t see what people like here. If they were to win this game by 2 goals, it would be the first time they have done so in their history.
The line looks like this because of FC Cincinnati. They have been awful this year and have nothing to play for. As bad as they have been, there are some indicators that they’ve been a little unlucky too. Their actual goal differential is -24, but their expected goal differential is -10.29. The -10 is still not great, but not historically bad like their actual differential. I think that regresses a little closer to the mean against a team like Inter Miami who miss sitters and leak goals and FC Cincinnati is lifted by the freedom of nothing to play for.
The Picks: FC Cin +1.25 (-110) 3u, FC Cin Double Chance (+190) 1u
Philadelphia Union (-0.25) vs. New England Revolution– Total 3
- Playoff implications: Philly is playing for the Supporter’s Shield. New England is playing to guarantee their spot in the top 6 and not have to play a play-in game.
I will have a lot more to say about these two teams when the playoffs are actually here because I think both teams could win the Cup if things go their way, but this game is too close to call for me. I think the Union are clear favorites with GK Andre Blake, but without him it’s much closer. I will be watching to see how both teams attack this game for a later playoff matchup, but won’t be betting this time around.
The Picks: Pass
NYRB (-0.25) vs. Toronto FC– Total 3
- Playoff implications: NYRB is playing to jump into the top 6 with a NER loss. TFC is playing for the Supporter’s Shield with a Philadelphia loss.
If TFC is playing a full strength roster for this match, they present a lot of value at +.25, but I am not 100 percent certain that will be the case. They have won the shield before and may decide to rest players for a cup run. If they decide to play for the shield, they are the best team in the league and should be a favorite against anyone. They have a stalwart back 4, an intimidating midfield, and multiple gamebreakers. Puzuelo is the rare kind of player who can win all by himself. NYRB have overachieved their talent this year and deserve credit for making the playoffs, but they are nowhere near TFC’s level at full strength. If TFC is playing everyone, I will be betting them on the goal and moneyline, if they are not, I will be passing.
The Picks: TBD when lineups come out
Orlando City (-0.5) vs. Nashville SC– Total 2.5
- Playoff implications: Both teams are virtually locked into their spot.
Nashville SC parks a triple-wide bus in every game that they play. It’s what helped them allow the lowest amount of goals in the league at 20 and it’s what has them in the playoffs with so-so talent. The way to beat that is to have a gambreaking player in the middle of the field who can break teams down off the dribble and deliver the ball on goal in between tight spaces. Orlando has that player right now in Mauricio Pereyra. He completely broke down another of the best defensive-minded teams in the league, Columbus Crew, on Wednesday with a mix of dazzling dribbles and stunning through-balls. If he can do that early against Nashville, I really like this game to go over.
If Nashville have to go chase the game, they will open up at the back a little bit and have a sneaky-good attack of their own with Jhonder Cadiz and Hanhy Mokhtar on the field. I think this one could easily finish 2-1 and will be betting the over provided that both teams play a full-strength roster.
The Picks: Over 2.5 Goals (-125) 1u
Houston Dynamo (-0.25) vs. Colorado Rapids– Total 3
- Playoff implications: Colorado is playing for the possibility of jumping into a home playoff spot. Houston is eliminated.
Let’s keep it simple: Colorado is the better team, Colorado has something to play for, and we’re getting them at plus a quarter ball. Take that. Second, I like the over in this match. These are two of the shakier defenses in the league, playing against some special attackers in Namli, Benezet, and Quintero. This looks like a banger 3-2 Colorado win to me.
The picks: Colorado +0.25 (-115) 1u, Over 3 (-125) 1u
LAFC (-0.75) vs. Portland– Total 3.5
- Playoff implications: LAFC is playing for a home playoff spot. Portland is essentially locked into their spot.
I would expect both teams to be resting players for this game and am not educated enough about the ends of their benches to make a pick here. I will have a lot more to say about LAFC and Portland when the playoffs begin.
The Picks: Pass
Seattle Sounders (-0.75) vs. SJE– Total 3
- Playoff implications: Both teams are essentially locked into their spots.
This is another match where I expect both teams to be resting players and will not be making a pick.
The Picks: Pass
LA Galaxy (-0.25) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps– Total 3
- Playoff implications: Both teams are eliminated.
Another game where if you’re making a bet, it would be pure degeneracy. We have no idea what either of these teams are good at and they will be playing a meaningless game. The passiest of passes!
The Picks: Pass
Minnesota (-0.25) vs. FC Dallas– Total 3
- Playoff implications: The winner of this match will be the 4th seed in the Western Conference and host a playoff game.
This is one of those toss ups where you just take the home team. These teams are dead even in stats, talent, and style of play. Each has some players who can be reliably counted on to produce and score goals, and some questions about if their defense is good enough to win a championship. That kind of team generally wins games at home where they are comfortable and lose games on the road where they have to do better defending. Minnesota is the home team here, we’re riding with them.
The Picks: Minnesota -0.25 (-115) 1u