Major League Soccer Betting Tips
by Trevor Whenham - 04/01/2009
The Major League Soccer season has been underway for a couple of weeks now, and the overwhelming majority of North American sports fans have yet to notice. Actually, most sports fans probably don't notice the league at any time during their season. The quality of the soccer is definitely very much inferior to what can be easily seen from Europe, but there is at least one good thing to be said about the league - it's quite bettable. The lines often have value in them, and the betting volume is reasonably low. With college sports over and baseball just getting going, the MLS can be a worthwhile and profitable diversion for bettors now that things are a bit slower. If that's the kind of thing that you are looking for then here are some Major League Soccer betting tips to get you up to speed on the league.
- The league started in 1996 with 10 teams. There are now 15 teams, with three more expansion franchises awarded for future play. The teams play in two conferences - Chicago, Columbus, Washington D.C., Kansas City, New England, New York and Toronto play in the Eastern Conference, while the Western Conference is composed of two teams in Los Angeles along with Denver, Dallas, Houston, Salt Lake City, San Jose, and the new expansion team in Seattle.
- Each team plays 30 games in the regular season - one home and away against each team in the league, and two other games against rival teams. Eight teams make the playoffs - the top three in each conference, followed by the two best remaining teams from either conference. The first round of the playoffs is a two-game, total goal format, while the second round is a one-game showdown. The final is also a one-game affair, with the winners earning the cleverly named MLS Cup. Columbus is the defending champion, ending a two-year reign by Houston. D.C. United leads the way with four titles, though they haven't won since 2004.
Expectations This Year
Columbus won it all last year, and with the exception of a coaching change, they have largely the same team this year. League MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto leads the way, and he keys an offense that outscored opponents 50-36 last year. Chad Marshall, last year's Defender of the Year, keys the backfield, and provides a dangerous second dimension to this squad. Columbus carries the momentum into the season, and they are certainly well positioned to repeat their success.
The main challengers to Columbus will be Chicago and New England. Chicago plays outstanding defense, and their unit returns intact. Their offense also returns, with the notable exception of Diego Gutierrez. The team needs to take a step forward this year, but a couple of very promising rookies should help them do just that. New England is a perennial power in the league, having made three of the last four championship games. They have done that with largely the same core of players, and that core is mostly intact again, though age is beginning to become a serious issue. One absence that will definitely need to be overcome is Michael Parkhurst, a former Defender of the Year who is now playing in Denmark.
If you are looking for a longshot, you should settle on Toronto. They are a relatively recent expansion team that has been one of the big financial successes in the league. Their play has been less successful, but they have worked hard to build their team this year, and should be competitive. Their sold out stadium of rabid fans gives them a real boost.
There is a very good chance that the West will be won by a team based in Carson, just outside of L.A. Chivas USA finished second last year, but they faced an impossible number of injuries. They are healthy this year, and if they can stay that way then they will be tough to beat. They have the same basic squad they had last year, and they have solid depth at every position. They are a near lock to make the playoffs for the fourth year in a row. What they do from there depends upon their health.
If they don't win then their likely challenger is the team they share a stadium with - the L.A. Galaxy. The best-known component of their team, of course, is David Beckham. After trying to stay in Europe, he'll be back and in action by July. He's not the only star power here, though. Landon Donovan is back with the team after a loan to Bayern Munich, and he's one of the key offensive threats in the league. Edson Buddle is also a seriously good goal scorer. The big fault this team had was their incredibly lousy defense, but they have worked hard to address that. They have dismantled their backfield and upgraded their talent. If the facelift works then the team should be very competitive.
The third major contender is Houston. They won two titles in a row, and were upset in the first round as favorites last year. They will be competitive again, but they have gone through some significant personnel changes, and will have to adapt to the new faces quickly.
The season is just two weeks old, and there have been some early surprises. Chief among those is the very strong play of the expansion Seattle franchise, owned in part by Drew Carey. They have won their first two games, and both have come against playoff teams. There is a big asterisk here, though - they have played both games at home in front of massive, crazed crowds. That's not a good indicator of what this team really is. They may be respectable, but they will fall back from where they are.
Chivas USA has been strong so far this year. The Galaxy have yet to win, but they had a bye week last week. With an odd number of teams, the bye is going to be a factor to consider. We'll have to see how teams respond to the extra rest.
In the East Columbus has looked good, Chicago has started very strong, and Toronto looks like it may have turned a corner.