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How to Bet on MLS
Major League Soccer (MLS) is North America's premier professional soccer league. It is one of the most popular US sports leagues, alongside NFL, NHL, MLB, and NBA. Sportsbooks offer MLS odds in pre-game, live in-game, and futures markets. This article covers how to bet on MLS, which culminates in the MLS Cup - the championship decider.
MLS Structure and Format
There are 28 teams in the league (29 from the start of the 2023 season) divided into Eastern and Western Conferences. There are 25 franchises in the United States and three in Canada. The team with the highest points tally at the end of the regular season wins the Supporter’s Shield.
The top seven teams in each Conference qualify for the playoffs that lead to the MLS Cup championship match, which is the last fixture of the season. It is one of the few professional soccer leagues that don’t use a system for promotion and relegation. The format and structure provide plenty of MLS betting opportunities.
Pre-Game Betting Markets
Sportsbooks calculate odds for pre-game markets, the most popular of which are explained below:
The moneyline is a wager on the winner of an MLS fixture after 90 minutes and added time. It is a three-way market, including the draw, with a home win and away win as the other potential outcomes. The extra time and penalties do not count in knockout and playoff matches. Here is a typical MLS moneyline market:
Columbus Crew -145
FC Cincinnati +295
In this example, Columbus are favorites to defeat Cincinnati in this battle of Ohio, as illustrated by their negative odds. If you agree with the sportsbook and think the Crew will win, a $145 bet would return $100 in profit. Conversely, if you want to back FC Cincinnati for the upset, a $100 bet would return a profit of $295. At +330, you would receive $330 in profit if you placed a winning bet on the tie in this fixture.
The spread is the headstart given to the underdog in goals when there is a big favorite. It is also known as a handicap, and the line is directly related to the moneyline. The odds in the above example could convert to the following spread lines:
Columbus Crew (-0.5) -120
FC Cincinnati (+0.5) +115
The spread is expressed in half goals, eliminating the tie as there is always a definite outcome. If Columbus wins 1-0, they win the spread market; if the match is tied, Cincinnati win the spread market, and if Cincinnati win the match 1-0, they also win the spread market.
You can bet on over or under a specific number of goals during normal times in the totals market. The most common wager is on over or under 2.5 goals. The totals market is also expressed in half goals, so the bet can never be a push with returned stakes.
You can bet on the correct score after 90 minutes in each MLS fixture during the regular season and playoffs. The options range from 1-0 to the favorites to bigger scores and include odds for goalless and scoring draws. This market does not include goals in extra time.
First, Last, and Anytime Scorer
Goalscorer markets are more speculative than other pre-game markets due to the number of variables. However, the lines reflect the dynamic, but there is plenty of juice for the bookie. You can bet on the first, last, and anytime scorer during 90 minutes and stoppage time in MLS games.
Live In-Game Betting Markets
Now that we’ve covered your pre-match betting options, let’s take a look at some of the in-game markets that are available to MLS fans:
Next Team to Score
You can bet on the first team to score from the start of a game. After the first goal and subsequent goals, the market becomes the next team to score. Here are typical odds in this 3-way market:
Columbus Crew -135
No scorer +400
FC Cincinnati +250
The no-scorer odds shorten as the match progresses, and you can place a bet until the final whistle. The no-scorer odds equate to the odds for the current score.
Next Player to Score
This market works the same way as the next team to score, but the outcomes are for each player on the field. Bookmakers have rules for players who have not joined the match from the replacement’s bench or have appeared during the game.
Cash Out Betting
The cash-out option allows you to close a bet before the outcome to guarantee a profit or limit a loss. For example, you could cash out a moneyline bet on Columbus Crew if they score the first goal against FC Cincinnati. The win is fixed even if Columbus don’t go on to win the match.
The value of the cash out depends on the odds and stakes for the original bet and the odds at the time of the request. Sportsbooks take down the odds after a key event (goal, red card, or penalty). They display the updated odds after a short delay, so in-game and cash out betting continues.
When sportsbooks suspend in-game betting, you cannot cash out a bet. This is because there has been an incident that has a significant bearing on the game markets. You can cash out a bet placed before the game begins or earlier during the live event.
Here is a selection of MLS futures and examples of the odds:
- Columbus Crew to win the MLS Cup at +2000.
- FC Cincinnati to win the Supporter’s Shield at +2500.
- Columbus Crew to win Eastern Conference at +1400.
- Sporting Kansas City to win the Western Conference at +1000.
- Any named player scorer to be the top scorer at odds of +800 and bigger.
Sportsbooks issue futures odds before the start of the regular season. They offer the odds up until the MLS Cup but change them after each match. You can cash out a futures bet to make a profit when the odds move in line with your bet or loss when the odds move against your bet.
Recap: Betting on MLS
Soccer is increasing in popularity in the United States, and MLS is attracting international attention. If you’re a big soccer fan, you can use the above guide to back your favorite MLS teams and players t help you profit from the sport throughout the season.
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