NYCFC finally lifted the MLS Cup in 2021 but they face a big challenge to hold onto their title in what looks like being another competitive season.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Looking at the latest prices from the best online sportsbook sites, it isn’t clear which team is the favorite for this season’s competition, although there is a group of three that are consistently rated highly across all of the sportsbooks. LAFC is the favorite in some places, but New England Revolution also have their supporters and Seattle Sounders are also prominent in the betting.
Below the top three, there is considerable disagreement among the sportsbooks about the MLS pecking order, illustrated by the case of Toronto. Rated a +2500 chance by BetUS, they are +1450 with MyBookie and +800 with BetOnline, and they can’t all be right!
|MLS Cup Winner|
|NY Red Bulls||+2000||+1900||+3000|
Which Teams are the Main Contenders in MLS 2022?
As the betting suggests, some familiar teams are expected to compete for the 2022 title, with LAFC, New England Revolution, and Seattle Sounders all fancied at this stage.
New England was the form team of the regular season but became just the latest in a long line of franchises to crash out in the playoffs. That experience may take a while to recover from, given their dominance throughout most of the year. Of course, they can compete again, but with other teams improving around them, they may have missed their chance.
Losing in the first round of the playoffs was not the plan for Seattle last season although in truth they had hit a patch of bad form at the end of the regular season. That anti-climatic end to the campaign should motivate a settled and experienced squad in 2022 and they rate the most reliable option.
LAFC is strongly rated across the sportsbooks, thanks mainly to their strong finish to the 2021 regular season, powered by the goals of Cristian Arango. With Carlos Vela back, they will certainly have one of the stronger front lines in the league.
Still, it isn’t yet clear whether they will be able to sustain that form across a whole season and they would be a very short-priced pick given the uncertainty so NYCFC looks a better choice. It is surprising to see the reigning champions outside the top three in the futures betting markets, given that they were extremely solid throughout 2021 and triumphed despite missing some key players at important moments.
Which Teams could Get into Contention?
We highlighted Toronto’s price volatility above, which could imply an opportunity for punters. Toronto endured a nightmare in 2021 but some sportsbooks are wary of underestimating them this time around, and there is some reason to agree with that assessment.
Toronto moved very quickly to secure the services of Bob Bradley as soon as he left LAFC, which means they have one of the very best and most experienced MLS coaches leading their team. They’ve also signed Italian international Lorenzo Insigne, and can already boast several top-class players including Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. They look a good pick at a big price.
At the other end of the MLS map, Atlanta United is another contender worth keeping in mind. They had a nightmare start to the 2020 campaign, winning only twice before mid-August but they finished extremely strong, going undefeated in their last six, only to come up against the eventual champions in the First Round of the playoffs.
It isn’t that long ago that Atlanta was the dominant power in MLS and they still have much of that squad in place, including the prolific Josef Martinez. With a better start, I’d expect them to be much more prominently positioned throughout the season this time around.
Checking out the MLS Newcomers
The MLS becomes a 28 team league with the arrival of Charlotte FC in 2022, with the new team entering the Eastern Conference and Nashville SC shifting over to the West.
It’s hard to be sure how the new team will go. In recent seasons there have been mixed results for new arrivals. LAFC and Nashville both made strong starts, but Austin FC and FC Cincinnati have struggled to make the grade. Still, the signs are good for Charlotte. They have a promising young coach in Miguel Angel Ramirez and a sprinkling of experience and flair throughout the roster, as well as the number one draft pick Ben Bender, who was in terrific form last season.
We can’t expect Charlotte to go deep into the playoffs, but don’t be surprised if they cause a few shocks along the way and they could be a team to pick in Match Winners markets in the first half of the season.