Betting on the MLS is always an exciting opportunity - between the regular season, the playoffs and the MLS Cup, there’s plenty of action due to take place over the course of the season. Running from March 2nd until the Cup Final on November 10th, the 24th season of the MLS will see some exciting changes. 24 teams will compete in the regular season across two conferences. Then, at the end of the regular season on October 6th, the team that ranks first in the overall MLS standings will receive the Supporters’ Shield, and the seven top-ranked teams in each conference will qualify for the MLS Playoffs.
The format of the Playoffs has changed this season to allow more teams to compete - this stage of the competition will now consist of single-round matches at each stage. 14 teams will compete in this knockout stage with the aim of claiming a place in the MLS Cup on November 10th, and the two teams that finish the regular season at the top of their respective conferences will receive a first-round bye for the Playoffs.
The MLS is still quite a young competition - it was established in 1993 - but it is growing in popularity amongst a global audience year upon year. This US football league has even attracted stars from some of Europe’s biggest competitions, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy), Wayne Rooney (DC United), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Chicago Fire) and now Nani (Orlando City) all currently playing for teams of the MLS. Some of football's biggest names have also made the jump across the pond in the past, including David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Kaka, Didier Drogba, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa.
In order to make accurate predictions on this North American football league, it is important to be aware of all of the most common trends and statistics that surround the competition. The most interesting of these may be how prolific this league is - with an average of 2.99 goals scored per game over the last three seasons. That’s more than the Premier League (2.7) and La Liga (2.8)! In the 2018 edition of this league, both teams scored in 61% of games, while the Over/Under record for the past three seasons has seen the bet of ‘Over 1.5 Goals’ come true in almost 80% of matches, and the bet of ‘Over 2.5 goals’ validated in 59% of games. It is safe to say that the MLS is a regular ‘goal-fest’, so don’t be afraid to try bets on the scores of a game rather than the overall outcome.
It will also be important to remember that the MLS is a busy season, as teams must compete in both the regular season and the Playoffs over the course of 7 months in order to secure a place in the MLS Cup. In the Regular Season, each team will play 34 game across the US and Canada - twice playing each team in their own conference, and once playing the other 14 non-conference teams. In this way, the accumulation of fatigue and the stake each team has in a match will be important to consider before making your predictions.
A final important point to consider is the high rate of draws that occur in Major League Soccer - a quarter of all matches in the last three seasons have ended with a level scoreline. While many teams have benefitted from the home advantage (54% since 2016), away sides have also been known to perform well (21% of visitors saw victory in the last three seasons). The takeaway - predicting the overall winner of a match of the MLS can often be a difficult task, so it may be prudent to turn to other betting markets when making predictions on this football league.
As usual, the 2019 edition of the MLS with likely go down to the wire, with many teams having a claim on the MLS Cup. Last year’s winners Atlanta United could have a claim to defend their title, however only three teams have ever won this competition in back-to-back years. Perhaps the most famous of these teams is LA Galaxy, who have been crowned Champions 5 times - the most won by any team in the MLS. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic heading this team’s offense this could be their year, although their last Cup appearance was in 2014 when they won their 5th title. Three other teams have made regular appearances in the MLS Cup in the last 4 years - Portland Timbers (winners 2015), Toronto FC (winners 2017), and Seattle Sounders (2016), and all could have a say in 2019’s competition.