Philadelphia has been one of the most consistent teams in MLS over the last two seasons and it looks like a good pick in the 2023 Eastern Conference Futures market.
Who do Bettors Favor?
Checking out the best-rated online sportsbooks we can see that Cincinnati FC is rated as the overwhelming favorite among bettors to win the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia Union, one of the strongest teams in the East over the last two seasons is next in the betting, a little way ahead of the current second-placed team New England, while Nashville, Atlanta and Columbus are all still in the mix and Orlando and Inter Miami are also attracting support.
|Eastern Conference Winners|
Cincinnati Build Big Lead
Cincinnati FC went into the mid-season break with a tally of 51 points, which is already two more than it managed in the whole of last season, when it finished fifth in the East.
Pat Noonan’s team has not had things all its own way this year. Although it has built up a big lead at the top of the East, it hit a rough patch at the end of June, losing 3-0 in DC and being held to a draw by both Charlotte and New England. It was also trailing 1-0 against the New York Red Bulls with ten minutes remaining before goals from Lucho Acosta and Obinna Nwobodo secured a 2-1 win.
Cincinnati followed that up with an excellent home win against playoff rival Nashville last weekend and goes into the break eight points clear of its nearest rivals. But despite the big lead, there is a long road to the Eastern Conference title and at the moment Cincinnati looks too short in the futures market given that it has yet to be tested down the strength.
Philadelphia Has Momentum
Philadelphia Union has finished as runner-up in the East and runner-up in the MLS Cup in the last two seasons and it has maintained a level of consistency that is remarkable in such a competitive league.
Still, the big prize has eluded the team so far and after a poor run earlier this season, it looked as though MLS Cup glory was as far away as ever for Jim Curtin’s team. Union had won just one of its last five when it traveled to Nashville earlier this month, but an impressive 2-0 win was followed by a home victory over old rivals NYCFC to put Philadelphia back on track.
Philadelphia is now up to fourth in the Eastern Conference and only three points behind second-placed New England. Assuming that momentum is maintained, it could be in a great position to put pressure on the Eastern Conference leaders in the final weeks of the season.
New England Surprise
New England’s strong showing so far this season has been a surprise, but at the mid-season break, Bruce Arena’s team is only eight points behind the leaders and lies in second place in the East.
That has been achieved largely thanks to a run of one defeat in its last seven, and it has been particularly strong at home, winning all of its last five.
That said, there are some clouds on the horizon. For one thing, the squad is still suffering with injury absences. Dylan Borrero, Lucas Maciel, Christian Makoun and Henry Kessler have all spent time on the sidelines and that has hampered one of the smaller squads in the competition. The other issue is that the team has recorded a relatively high number of draws, finishing level on seven occasions so far, and three of the last four draws have come after taking a two-goal lead. That level of fragility makes the team hard to wager on at this point.
Eastern Conference Contenders
Of the other main contenders in the East, both Nashville and Atlanta have lost their way a little, and are in danger of slipping out of the playoffs if their current form continues, so aren’t good picks at the moment, and Orlando’s inconsistency makes it a risky proposition.
Columbus lost 3-2 in Portland last time out, but the team is still in a strong position in the East, having put together an eight-game unbeaten run prior to that trip to the West, and is only seven points behind New England in second place. The team has also shown the ability to perform strongly on the road and to come from behind in games, and that fighting spirit and consistency may yet give it an outside shot at the Eastern Conference title.
The other team to consider in the East is Chicago. Up until the middle of June, Chicago was having a typically disappointing season, but a run of five wins from six, including four clean sheets, has propelled the Fire back into the playoff mix. There’s a lot of ground to make up, of course, but few teams are in stronger form and those odds are tempting.
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