The fight for the MLS Golden Boot looks close, but last year’s winner, Hany Mukhtar looks like the best pick in the top scorer futures markets.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Checking out the best-rated online sportsbooks we can see that the race for the MLS Golden Boot is tight, at least according to the markets. Bettors favor Hany Mukhtar for the title, at around +300 but he is being challenged by Denis Bounga and Luciano Acosta, at +350 and +450 respectively, while Giorgios Giakoumakis is next in the betting at around +600.
MLS Golden Boot Betting Briefing
The number of teams in MLS has varied considerably over the years and with the number of games being adjusted each time the league expands, it can be tricky to work out how many goals a player needs to score to be a Golden Boot winner.
Between 2005 and 2012, the Golden Boot winner scored 20 or fewer goals in each season, but since then, the winning total has only twice dropped below 20 and both of those seasons were affected by the COVID pandemic. Last year, the top scorer found the net 23 times and since 2012, not including the two pandemic-affected years, it has been 26.
It is also worth noting that since 2005, the MLS Golden Boot winner has only three times played in the MLS Cup Final, and has only twice been on the winning side.
Hany Mukhtar Still Favorite
Hany Mukhtar finished as the top scorer in 2022 and is once again leading the way with Nashville, having scored 13 goals at the time of the mid-season break, making him the clear favorite.
Can he hang on and win for a second time? He has every chance of doing that. Unlike some of his main rivals in this race, Mukhtar’s stats back up his goals record, with an Expected Goal tally of over 10 based on the season so far. It is possible that last season he benefited from the fact that the 2021 winner, Valentin Castellanos, left NYCFC halfway through the campaign, but Mukhtar ticks all the right boxes. He takes Nashville’s penalties and is always involved in the action. It is rare for a player to win this award twice, but Mukhtar looks like a solid pick at this point.
Bouanga Offers No Value
LAFC striker Denis Bouanga is second in the goalscoring list, only one goal behind Mukhtar and given that he plays for last season’s MLS Cup winners, some bettors may be tempted to wager on him this time around, but a closer look at the stats shows that Bouanga offers no value.
Unlike Mukhtar, his Expected Goals stats do not back up his goalscoring record. With an Expected Goals figure of 8, Bouanga is scoring significantly higher than his expected rate and it is going to be tough for him to maintain that level for the rest of the season.
Bouanga may also suffer from the team’s struggles. Since losing the Champions League final, LAFC has struggled to maintain its high standards, and to add to the difficulty of Bouanga’s challenge, the team’s penalty-taking duties belong to Carlos Vela.
MLS Golden Boot Contenders
The next two contenders in the MLS Golden Boot markets are Luciano Acosta and Giorgios Giakoumakis. Acosta has found the net 12 times so far this season, putting him level with Bouanga, but five of those goals have been penalties, and that level of penalty opportunity is unlikely to be sustained through the season.
Giakoumakis is an excellent forward, and although Atlanta is not performing as strongly as fans would like, the team is still firmly in the playoff chase. Crucially, Giakoumakis is the team’s main striker and takes all of its penalties. He is on 10 goals at the moment, so will have to catch up, but there is still time and he could represent a good value pick here.
And what of Lionel Messi? The arrival of one of soccer’s all-time greats at Inter Miami has created a huge amount of excitement both in Miami and the league as a whole. Few players are as prolific or as indispensable as Messi, and his goalscoring feats for Barcelona and PSG have been legendary.
Yet even for Messi, the size of the task could be too great. If the Golden Boot winning tally is once again in the mid-20s, then Messi will need to play in every game until the end of the season and average a rate of two goals per game. That level of scoring is surely too much for any player to sustain, so Messi doesn’t look like a good bet in this market in 2023.
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