NYCFC remain a solid bet to retain the MLS Cup despite a slow start to the new season.
Who do Bettors Favor?
There’s a clear favorite at the top of the MLS Cup futures market, according to the best online sportsbook sites. LAFC are significantly shorter in odds than their rivals, at +400, while their closest challengers, Philadelphia and reigning champions NYCFC, are around +1000. The chasing bunch are led by surprise contender Austin and LA Galaxy, both at +1400, with NY Red Bulls, New England Revolution and Seattle Sounders not far behind at around +1600 in the outright market.
|NY Red Bulls||+1600||+1600||+1625|
Which Teams are the Main Contenders in MLS 2022?
LAFC, Seattle Sounders and New England Revolution were expected to be the main challengers, alongside NYCFC, but their fortunes have diverged so far.
After losing only one of their first nine, it is no surprise to see LAFC even shorter in the market than they were before the season kicked off. They finished strongly in the 2021 regular season campaign and with Carlos Vela available, they have one of the best forward lines in MLS.
Still, their record isn’t quite as impressive as it looks. They have taken seven points from games against three of last season’s Western Conference top four, but all those games were home fixtures, and they are yet to play any of the big teams from the East. At their current odds, they don’t offer much value, particularly given that they have yet to prove they can sustain this form for a whole season.
At this point, the best bets appear to be the East, in the form of the reigning champions and the Philadelphia Union. NYCFC had a tough start to the campaign, losing three of their first five, but that is not unusual for teams with Champions League obligations at the start of the MLS season. They also had a tough start, with games against Philadelphia and LA Galaxy in their first four. Since the middle of April, however, they’ve won three in a row, scoring 14 goals in the process, to get back on track.
Philadelphia’s season has gone more smoothly so far. The second-best regular-season team in the East last year, they’ve lost only once so far in 2022, although they have only scored 13 in 9 games, which hints at a potential goalscoring issue over the longer term. Still, they have the best defensive record in MLS, and that makes them reliable and resilient, so they remain a good bet to win it all.
Which Teams are Challenging in the MLS Futures Market?
Two teams who were expected to mount a challenge in 2022 have had extremely poor openings to the campaign. New England Revolution were the dominant force in the 2021 regular season but they seem to be suffering a hangover from their shock playoff exit and their performances so far are a world away from their consistency of last season. The same can be said for regular contenders Seattle Sounders, and neither team can be considered as good bets at this point.
Pre-season I highlighted Atlanta as possible contenders, but their performances so far have been way off where they should be, particularly on the road, and they can’t be relied upon at this time. We can probably have more faith in another pre-season pick, Toronto. They had a terrible 2021 campaign, but the arrival of Bob Bradley, one of the greatest coaches the MLS has seen, was an excellent move and the franchise have added Lorenzo Insigne to their roster that was already one of the most underrated in the competition.
Early results have been mixed, as Bradley has clearly taken some time to get the measure of his squad, but there are some promising signs. Toronto have already played the reigning champions twice, beating them at home and largely matching them in a 5-4 defeat at Yankee Stadium. They are also the only team to beat Eastern Conference leaders Philadelphia so far. There is no doubt about Bradley’s ability to guide a team through the many challenges of a long season and Toronto remain a good option.
A slightly riskier proposition is Austin. The Black and Verde had a tough first season, but they recruited significantly over the winter, particularly in defensive positions, and crucially, are looking like a different team in attack. Having scored barely more than one per game last season, they are the current MLS top scorers, registering 2.44 goals per game.
This is clearly a very different Austin outfit to the one that we saw last season, but bettors should also note that so far they have not beaten any of last year’s top ten teams, so you may want to see how they perform against better opponents before picking them to win the Cup.