Check out our picks for who will win the 2021 MLS championship.
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It's a big year for Major League Soccer. They are welcoming in their 27th expansion team, Austin FC, and there will not be as many limitations placed upon their schedule and travel now that the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to reign in. So, of course, we feel more emboldened than ever to discuss MLS Futures.
You already know where our interest lies: with the 2021 MLS championship. Last year, the Columbus Crew FC took home the MLS Championship, beating out the Seattle Sounders in the Final, with a 3-0 shutout. They remain prominently featured once again in this year's championship discussion. But are they the favorites? And are they worth your investment?
Before we get to our MLS futures picks, let's take a look at the latest MLS championship odds, courtesy of :
|MLS Championship Pick|
|Los Angeles FC||+500|
|New York City FC||+1100|
|New England Revolution||+1600|
|Sporting Kansas City||+2000|
|New York Red Bulls||+2200|
|Inter Miami CF||+2800|
|Real Salt Lake||+8000|
|San Jose Earthquakes||+8000|
As we always remind you, make sure to double-check these soccer odds before deciding on a wager. They will shift as the 2021 MLS season unfolds.
MLS Futures Breakdown
For anyone who's new to MLS betting, here's how the MLS Cup playoffs work:
The postseason tournament is hosted at the end of the regular season. Under the current format, 14 of the 27 teams will qualify for the playoffs. This group is chosen by which squads secure the most regular-season points: The top seven teams from both the Western Conference and Eastern Conference all receive a nod.
Having this tournament is unique. Most soccer leagues around the world determine champions by awarding titles to the club with the most points at the end of each regular season, without a playoff tournament or bracket. But MLS' schedule isn't as long and caters to the model that appeals to North American sports fans, as leagues like the NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB all have postseason tournaments themselves.
Best MLS Futures Bets
It's MLS futures picks time! Well, sort of.
Below, we've outlined the teams that we believe have the best betting value. This doesn't always mean they're the squad most likely to win the MLS Cup—though, they could be. It is instead a list of teams that provide the most bang for their buck, or that right combination of championship proximity and potential payout.
Columbus Crew (+600)
Reigning champions always deserve a level of respect when they haven't suffered any major losses over the offseason. The Columbus Crew are intriguing because they don't check in as favorites yet they've actually improved since they won their title.
And we're not talking about marginal improvement, either. They signed Kevin Molino, who was widely considered the best free agent on the market. That is wild. They also added another goal-scorer in Bradley Wright Phillips. He ranks sixth all-time on MLS' scoring list.
With stars Gyasi Zardes, Darlington Nagbe, and Lucas Zelarayan all back in the fold, you definitely need to keep an eye on this team.
Seattle Sounders (+650)
We're taking some risk here.
Yes, the Seattle Sounders have made four MLS Cup Finals in the past five years. But Jordan Morris is slated to miss the entire season, and they lost some key contributors from last year's roster overall.
Color us unconcerned. They still have midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, forward Raul Ruidiaz and midfielder Joao Paulo. Many have midfielder Danny Leyva pegged as a future star, too. Factor in the addition of Fredy Montero, an original Sounder who leads the franchise in goals scored, and the offense figures to pop.
New York City FC (+1100)
New York City FC is providing excellent value at +1100. They may not have the depth of some other contenders, but the tippy-top of their roster can compete with anyone.
Maximiliano Moralez. Anton Tinnerholm. Heber. Even Andres Jasson. This team has its fair share of stars and fringe stars.
Granted, New York City opted out of making any major veteran additions this year. They went the younger round by scooping up mystery-box international prospects Malte Amundsen and Chris Gloster. That could come back to bite them if they suffer a handful of injuries.
Still, we like the upside from some of their youngsters, and they have enough top-end veterans at both ends of the pitch to do more than get by.
Minnesota United (+2500)
The Minnesota United came within grasp of an MLS Cup Final appearance last year and once again have the roster to challenge for a top spot in the Western Conference. That they're being treated as a heavy underdog here, barely laying top-16 odds, is mind-boggling.
Emanuel Reynoso swung their fortunes coming over in the middle of last season, and he's back. They also have Juan Gregus and Romain Metanire, along with young forward Patrick Welsh. Beyond that, they beefed up their defense with the additions of Wil Trapp and Juka Raitala.
Take this team more seriously than the oddsmakers.
MLS Cup Prediction
A lot will change between now and the end of the 2021 MLS season, but we feel pretty good about our championship pick.
Because we have the Seattle Sounders.
We already noted there is a risk here. The Sounders lost a ton of talent—particularly speed—over the offseason, much of which came from longtime contributors. They are also only three deep at the center position for the moment.
Look at the rest of their depth chart, though, and they're better than solid. They have the deepest midfielder rotation in the league, and an above-average crop of defenders. They might even have another midseason move left in them, and we shouldn't rule out the emergence of Danny Leyva.
Depth is on the Sounders' side. And so are we.