Toronto are serious MLS contenders under their veteran head coach.
Who do Bettors Favor?
There’s a big favorite at the top of the MLS Cup futures market, according to the online sportsbook sites. At odds of +400, LAFC are even stronger favorites than they were pre-season, while their nearest rivals, Philadelphia and reigning champions NYCFC are both at +1000. The pursuing pack is led by surprise contenders Austin and LA Galaxy, both at +1400 in the outright market, with the New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution, and Seattle Sounders not far behind at about +1600.
|NY Red Bulls||+1600||+1600||+1625|
Which Teams are the Main Contenders in MLS 2022?
Pre-season, NYCFC, LAFC, Seattle Sounders, and New England Revolution were projected to be the key teams in the 2022 MLS betting, but their fortunes have so far diverged widely.
It's no surprise that LAFC is significantly shorter in the market than they were before the season began, after losing only one of their first nine games. They had a good regular-season finish in 2021, and with Carlos Vela available, they have one of the finest attacking lines in the league.
Their track record, though, isn't exactly as impressive as it appears. They have seven points from games against three of the Western Conference's top four teams from last season, but all of those games were at home, and they have yet to face any of the East's major clubs. They don't provide much value at their present odds, especially as they have yet to demonstrate that they can maintain this form for an entire season.
Two of the big teams in the East, NYCFC and Philadelphia Union, are much better options at this point and at bigger odds than LAFC. NYCFC had a rough start to the season, losing three of their first five games, but that is to be expected for teams with Champions League commitments. They had a difficult start too, with games against Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Galaxy in their first four games. They've won three straight games since the middle of April, scoring 14 goals and are back on track.
So far, Philadelphia’s season has gone more smoothly. They were the East's second-best regular-season club last year, and they've only lost once so far in 2022, despite only scoring 13 goals in nine games, indicating a possible longer-term goalscoring issue. They do, however, have the top defensive record in MLS, which makes them reliable contenders to win the Cup.
Which Teams are Challenging in the MLS Futures Market?
Two teams that were supposed to challenge in 2022 have had disastrous starts to the season. The New England Revolution were the most dominant force in the regular season of 2021, but they appear to still be feeling the effects of their playoff exit, and their performances thus far have been a long cry from their previous season's steadiness. Regular contenders Seattle Sounders are in a similar situation after an alarming opening, and neither team can be considered safe bets at this time.
Atlanta were considered viable contenders in pre-season, at least, by this writer, but their performances thus far have been well below par, particularly on the road, and they cannot be trusted at this time.
Instead, another Eastern contender and former champion, Toronto, are a stronger pick. They had a bad 2021 season, but bringing in Bob Bradley, one of the best coaches in MLS history, was a solid move, and they've added Lorenzo Insigne to a squad that was already one of the most undervalued in the league.
The early results have been uneven, as Bradley has clearly spent his time getting to know his team, but there are some encouraging indicators. Toronto has already faced the defending champs twice, defeating them at home and matching them in a 5-4 loss at Yankee Stadium. They're also the only team in the league to beat Philadelphia so far this season. Bradley's ability to lead a club through the numerous rigors of a long season is undeniable, and Toronto are likely to improve throughout.
Austin could also be worth a look. The Black and Verde had a difficult first season, but they recruited heavily during the winter, notably in defensive positions, and, more importantly, they appear to have sharpened up considerably in the attack. They are the current MLS leading scorers, averaging 2.44 goals per game, after scoring barely more than one per game last season.
This Austin team is certainly not the same as the one we saw last season, but bettors should keep in mind that they have yet to beat any of last year's top ten teams, so you might want to wait and see how they play against better opponents before picking them to win the Cup.
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