After nearly a year of stoppages, tournaments, and empty stands, the 2021 MLS season will begin this weekend, as most teams will welcome back some fans. Austin FC will join the West as the league expands to 27 clubs. Most games will be intraconference as Major League Soccer tries to climb out of the massive deficits that were run up last season.
The league continues to grow in popularity and BetMGM offers futures prices on who will lift the MLS Cup in December. Los Angeles FC is the morning-live favorite at +500 but there are some interesting options for some dark horses.
Riding the Rapids
“Few bettors are interested in the favorites but we have seen strong support, especially from bettors in Colorado, on the Colorado Rapids,” said Seamus Magee, Sports Trader at BetMGM. “The Rapids have the highest ticket and handle percentage and are BetMGM’s biggest liability.”
Colorado, at +4000 (40-1) odds, leads the field with the most tickets sold and money wagered. Their numbers have been helped by the enthusiastic local bettors who moved their price down from +5000.
Despite playing a league-low 18 matches last season, the Rapids finished fifth in the West, falling 3-0 in the conference quarterfinals to Minnesota.
The team returns all their main contributors from 2020, notably locking up starting GK William Yarborough. The team also added a notable veteran in Yaya Toure, along with Michael Barrios in a deal with Dallas.
The Rapids will challenge teams with their depth of scoring and defense. Robin Fraser gets a full season (hopefully) at the helm and can keep the team growing.
Digging deeper down the odds board
DC United has drawn the most money of any Eastern Conference club. At +10000 they can certainly make backers some cash. How that will happen is not certain.
DC finished second to last in the competitive East last season. They enter 2021 without much of an identity. The side that has featured names like Wayne Rooney in prior years has no leading man as of now. The most recognizable name might be goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Ben Olsen’s tenure as bench boss is over and Hernan Losada hopes to spark what’s been a moribund offense as of late. Nigel Robertha could be that catalyst, with or without established striker Ola Kamara.
At +2000, Atlanta United might be the best value bet on the board. After missing the playoffs last season, the Southern powerhouse welcomes back former league MVP Josef Martinez, who missed most of 2020 with a knee injury.
The team’s sluggish performance at MLS Is Back led to a dismal campaign, finishing 12th in the East with only 23 goals scored in 23 games. The return of Martinez should bring back the offense that thrilled fans since the team’s debut.
Gabriel Heinze will take over at the helm and retooled the squad’s focus. A name to watch will be Emerson Hyndman in the middle.
The campaign is off to a nice start with matching 1-0 wins to reach the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. They’ll take on last year’s Supporters Shield champs in Philadelphia.
Atlanta has a tremendous home advantage when the Mercedes Benz dome comes alive. Fans will return at 50 percent capacity with the home opener, and there’s a chance to expand as the season progresses. Of the top three handle sides, they are the most likely to win the MLS Cup.
If there is a team that might not be bet as much as they should, it is Minnesota United. The Loons have become the side in the West no one wants to see. Colorado entered the playoffs white-hot and Minnesota threw ’em right in a lake.
Minnesota had an interesting offseason. Top scorer Kevin Molino left on a free transfer to Columbus, while Juan Agudelo and Wil Trapp joined. It will be curious to see how the Loons line up and execute this season.
While the squad may not be intimidating, this is always a tough team to face. They play sound football and challenge opponents. If they can come together, they can be a force in the West.