Major League Soccer is the premier North American football competition and has fans of the sport on the edge of their seats from March right through until December. The league boasts some of the biggest names from both local shores and overseas and continues to grow with the addition of a brand new franchis in 2018. The race for the MLS Cup is proving to be as exciting as ever.
MLS Cup Futures 2018
It’s quite incredible to think that out of all the potential matchups, Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders have faced off in the league’s showpiece event for the last two consecutive seasons. Will these two sides dominate the MLS again in 2018, or will we see another team put up their hand and claim the coveted trophy? Only time will tell!
Who Will Win The MLS Cup 2018?
The 2018 edition of the MLS kicks off on Saturday, March 3rd, and will feature a season consisting of 34 matches per team, plus a postseason featuring the top six sides from each conference. It sure is a long road to the MLS Cup, likely to be held on the first Saturday in December, and with new additions, potential injuries and suspensions all a factor throughout the season, it’s certainly a tough task to pick the winner this far out!
The futures market is great if you believe one of the outsiders are going to exceed expectations in this year’s competition. While Toronto FC are rightly favourites after a dominant 2017 in which they set all kinds of records, at +350 they don’t offer much value (especially considering they entered last year’s postseason at odds of +250, and there is far less risk in picking a team who is already in the playoffs).
For that reason, this is the time of the year to put your hard-earned down on a team that the sportsbooks are offering decent odds for. Do you think the Houston Dynamo can build upon their fantastic postseason performance in 2017? You will get +2000 if you think they are a chance of winning the MLS Cup. Or perhaps you believe that the trophy will travel up the 401 to Montreal for the first time? +2500 is available for that bet.
So which teams actually have a chance of winning this season’s event? The addition of LA FC to the competition means there are now 23 teams in with a shot, making it even more challenging to pick a winner. Let’s take a look at the best from each conference, followed by our pick for the 2018 title and some extra information about MLS futures betting.
The Favourites – Toronto FC (+350)
They won an unprecedented domestic treble in 2017 and once again it is Toronto FC that are the best chance of winning this year’s MLS Cup. Last season, the odds for the men in red didn’t drop below +500, and they are unlikely to drop much further than the +350 currently available unless they have a drastic form reversal. We can’t see that happening and agree with their overwhelming favouritism.
FC might actually be the most dominant favourites in terms of odds that we’ve ever seen in the MLS. In 2017, FC Dallas, Seattle, Toronto and New York City were all around the +400 to +600 mark before the season commenced. This year, Toronto FC appear at less than half the price of their nearest competitors, meaning that the leading sportsbooks are convinced the Canadians will go back to back.
It’s hard to argue against it – Toronto FC have more or less kept the exact same team that have taken them to two MLS Cup finals in a row. The addition of Victor Valdez in 2017 was a masterstroke, and arguably lifted the team from contenders to the dominant side in North American football. This year it will be Dutchman Greg van der Wiel who enters the fray, and he looks to be quite the player with an impressive European pedigree.
Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore will again lead the line, meaning once again the Reds will be lethal from both regular play and set pieces. Michael Bradley has helped his defence look impregnable, and has really stepped up a notch since the USA national team were knocked out of FIFA World Cup contention. And don’t forget Bono, who has claimed the spot between the sticks and looks superb in that position.
Greg Vanney has turned a team of also-rans into one of the best squads in MLS history, but his biggest challenge will be motivating this same group to go back to back in 2018 after they won everything there is to win last season. They say it is hard to win a title and even more difficult to defend one – we’ll see just how true that is when Toronto FC hit the pitch.
The Top Contenders
Atlanta United (+800) may have just one season of MLS experience, yet proved in 2017 that they have the squad and fan base to compete with all of their more experienced counterparts. In stark contrast to Minnesota United, who also debuted last season, Atlanta hit the ground running, and the quality of their attack was a sight to behold. They ended the year as the second-highest scorers in the league, and it’s no surprise that they also topped the competition in terms of attendance.
Can the United train keep on rolling? According to the leading sportsbooks it most certainly can. We are wary of second-season syndrome, although we were so impressed with Atlanta’s 2017 that we are on board with the hype. Watch out for Atlanta vs Toronto this year – these will be some of the best matches you will see in the regular season, and with a bit of luck we’ll also see the pair lock horns in the postseason. Atlanta are a real shot at the Eastern Conference title.
The Seattle Sounders (+800) are also up there with the leading contenders, which is no surprise considering how easily they cruised through the postseason in 2017. While they eventually lost in the MLS Cup final, they were so far ahead in the Western Conference when the big games came around that we can’t see why they can’t make it three consecutive final appearances.
With a fit and firing Clint Dempsey in the squad, Seattle can beat anyone on their day, and are one of the few Western Conference teams that know they can defeat Toronto FC. Their talisman was pivotal in November, scoring twice in the semi-final against Vancouver and once more against Houston. If he features in the majority of the Sounders’ games in 2018, they should make the playoffs comfortably, and we all have seen what they can do once they make it that far.
The Portland Timbers (+900) and New York City FC (+1000) appear next in the outright market, although we feel as though both sides are not as close as the bookies are suggesting.
Portland made the most of a weak Western Conference last season to finish atop the standings after the home and away matches, and were found out in the playoffs, going out in a shock loss to Houston. Manager Caleb Porter resigned at the end of last year’s campaign, and their new boss Giovani Savarese has no first-division management experience. The Timbers are still a decent chance of making it to the postseason, but may struggle again when it comes to crunch time.
New York’s positive start to the MLS has been cancelled out by their lack of fight in the playoffs. It will take something special for the league’s newest glamour club to breakthrough and win the MLS Cup Final, particularly as Toronto FC have the wood on them. Unless they can beat their northern neighbours, we won’t see NYC in the final again this season.
There’s no secret that we like Toronto FC’s chances of winning the MLS Cup, although we are also big fans of Atlanta United, and feel that the Eastern Conference representative will be one of the two. While both of these sides would likely win over any team in the West right now, there is always the chance of an upset in the final, as demonstrated by Seattle in their 2016 victory.
For this reason, the smart money is with the team that you think will win the Western Conference final. Seattle are the favourites once again, with Portland second, and it’s FC Dallas that are the next best option at +1600. The Texans were odds on to win the competition in early 2017, yet fell away dramatically in the second half of the season. If they can recapture their form from this time last year and maintain it, they are certainly a chance, and at a great price.
LA Galaxy are never too far away according to the leading sportsbooks, and we could see their price drop further if they manage to secure the services of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. At +1600 they are another team that offer a tempting price, although we think they have far too much to improve on and will not go from last to first in 2018. If you disagree, now is the time to get on them.
Toronto FC are the overwhelming favourites once more, and in all likelihood will win the competition, although a lot can go wrong in a long MLS season. We are excited to see what Atlanta United can do this season, and at odds of +800, we figure they’re the best chance to snatch the Eastern Conference title off the Reds and move forward to claim an MLS Cup title in just their second season. Whatever the outcome, it’s sure to be an epic MLS season – we can’t wait for the action to unfold!
MLS Soccer Future Bets Explained
Betting on futures represents a departure from the most popular type of wagering, which typically involves betting on a single match or stringing together several wagers into a parley or accumulator.
Predicting the outcome of long-term events, like an Eastern Conference championship, Supporters’ Shield, MVP or MLS Golden Boot winner, requires solid knowledge of the league, as well as a bit of luck. Anything can happen over the course of a half year, which leads to the certainly of a few unpredictable outcomes during any campaign.
For MLS Cup futures, you’ll notice that the odds for each team are relatively high, even for teams considered favourites. Winning an MLS Cup is extremely difficult even for the best sides, so the payout you receive when you win your futures bet tends to be far more profitable than less ambitious types of wagering. Few predicted Seattle’s first MLS Cup championship, leading to solid winnings for anyone who placed money on the Sounders.
If you don’t have a good grasp of the potential outright winner, you can still wager on which team will win their conference, or bet on individual player achievements. In some cases, you may want to keep track of line movements. Waiting for a dip in odds on the team you think will win can increase the payout you receive, creating added value for patient punters.