The new MLS season gets underway with one of the fiercest rivalries in soccer, and MLS Cup holders LAFC look like a solid bet to kick off with a win.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Checking out the best-rated online sportsbooks we can see that bookmakers are taking no chances with the reigning MLS Cup champion. LAFC is the clear favorite with bettors at between +140 and +155, although LA Galaxy is not far behind at +170. And, if you want to back the draw in the season’s first El Trafico encounter, you can do that at up to +280.
|LA Galaxy v LAFC|
LA Galaxy v LAFC, 2023-02-25
El Trafico is one of the most difficult MLS predictions to make. The eighteenth overall meeting of the LA rivals will be played at the Pasadena Rose Bowl for the first time ever and should be as entertaining as those that preceded it.
These teams don’t need any additional motivation to beat one another, but for the Galaxy players there is some unfinished business as LAFC prevailed 3-2 in their Western Conference playoff match last year, and Galaxy fans then had to watch as their bitter rivals went on to claim the MLS Cup. An early season win here would give Galaxy a major boost.
As two of the league’s strongest teams, very few additions were required during the off-season, although LAFC strengthened further with the arrival of Aaron Long. LAFC finished as second highest scorer last season, while Galaxy was fifth, so we can expect goals here, and given that this game is effectively being played at a neutral venue, LAFC looks like the best option.
Orlando v NY Red Bulls, 2023-02-25
It took Orlando a total of six seasons before they qualified for the playoffs, and even more time before they won a trophy. However, they were able to win the US Open Cup in 2022, and although they were unable to get past the initial round of the post season, the transfers they undertook in the offseason, including a new deal for Facundo Torres, is a declaration of intention for their 2023 season.
The history of the Red Bulls in Major League Soccer dates back to the very first season, but it has not yet won the MLS Cup, although this is offset to an extent by three Supporters’ Shields in the trophy cabinet.
Given the unpredictability of previous matches between these two teams, this could be a tricky one to weigh up. The one thing we can expect is goals as last season’s two regular season clashes produced nine in total. With Aaron Long having left the Red Bulls defense, Orlando may have even more opportunities, so while the score is hard to predict, we can take the Over on the 2.5 goals market.
Philadelphia Union v Columbus Crew, 2023-02-25
Philadelphia Union fans have endured more than their share of heartache over the last two seasons. Beaten in the Eastern Conference final in 2021, after the bulk of the team went down with COVID-19, they were on the brink of winning the Cup last year until a late goal by Gareth Bale took the game to penalties, which Union lost, leaving them empty-handed after another excellent regular season.
Can Jim Curtin’s players rouse themselves for a third challenge? That remains to be seen, but they will face many rivals eager to overtake them, starting with the Columbus Crew squad of Wilfried Nancy. MLS Cup winners in 2020, Columbus has struggled since, but Nancy arrives with a strong reputation, having turned Montreal Impact into a formidable team last season.
Columbus has a poor record in this fixture, having not won any of the last five but this could be a perfect opportunity for Nancy’s team to make a statement. A slow start from Union could give Columbus the edge here and that looks the best pick at big odds.
Nashville v New York City FC, 2023-02-25
GEODIS Park is the venue for Nashville’s first game of the new season, as it takes on the 2021 MLS Cup winner New York City FC. When these teams last clashed on this field, a rowdy match resulted in two red cards, four goals, and a 3-1 victory for the home team.
NYCFC will not be an easy opponent, despite losing their MLS Cup title last year. The Campeones Cup win for the New Yorkers last year added to the 2021 domestic triumph and you can be sure that the franchise’s appetite for silverware will be just as keen this season.
Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar scored twice the last time these teams met, and although that was in 2021, he remains a deadly attacking force, having top scored in MLS last season. He could be the difference here and I’m backing Nashville to start with a narrow win.