IT’S not quite in the class of the big four, but Major League Soccer is one of the fastest growing sporting competitions in America.
The USA’s premier football competition – yes, we called it football, even though it’s soccer in our country – has attracted some of the finest talents from across the world – albeit most at the end of their glittering careers.
The 22 teams in the MLS are owned by a single body and are franchised out, with the league having overarching say in how the clubs are run. Kind of like a fast food chain, if you will.
From humble beginnings – born in 1993 and starting off with 10 teams in it’s inaugural season 1996 – the league has more than doubled its teams and expanded its reach across the United States.
And the competition is by no means done yet. Another team in Los Angeles and a Miami team are on the cards for next season and there are already bids in for the 25th and 26th teams, which would see it just four off the NBA’s 30 team format.
Legends like Arsenal star Thierry Henry, Spanish maestro David Villa and Aussie striking gun Tim Cahill, among other soccer greats, have played in the MLS, increasing its profile.
And, with increased profile, comes increased betting interest.
Soccer is already one of the highest wagered sports on the planet and that is only a good thing for American punters looking to have a go at the sport on their home shores.
Here’s a look at how the MLS works and where to start if you want to have a bet.
How do I bet on the MLS?
Guys, before you even contemplate putting one red cent on a Major League Soccer game, it is imperative that you make sure you can actually afford it. Make sure all your bills are paid, the kids are fed and the mortgage or rent is covered. Once you have ticked all those boxes, it’s time to play. The first thing you need to do is find a reputable bookmaker to place your bet with. There are thousands upon thousands of bookmakers across the world wide web, they are based all over the world, but beware – not all of them are legit. Fortunately, we’ve scoured the the online world to find the most secure bookmakers who will look after your bets – and your money – while providing a wide variety of markets, with the best odds and promotions available. Here they are:
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How many teams are in the MLS?
There are 22 teams in Major League Soccer:
New England Revolution
New York City
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City
How does the MLS season, playoffs and finals work?
Unlike the majority of soccer competitions across the world, the MLS – as with most major sports in the USA – uses a regular season structure that feeds into playoffs and then finals.
The competition is split into conferences, East and West, with the top six teams after the regular season qualifying for the playoffs.
The top two teams get the first round off, going straight through to the conference semi finals, giving them a week to rest and recuperate, while the bottom four teams battle it out in the first round.
These are elimination matches, that see the winner advance and the loser vanquished.
With four teams gone, there are eight left – four in each conference and they play a home and away series – one on each team’s deck – with the result and goal difference used to determine which team advances to the final.
Winner takes all in the cut throat cup final, hosted by the team with the most points in the regular season.
Drawn games go into extra time and then penalties if a winner cannot be found after 90 minutes and the victorious team wins a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Typical bet types available on MLS
Like any sporting competition, a decent bookmaker will have a wide variety of betting markets available. From futures markets, to match odds and exotics in between, if you there’s a result at stake, you should be able to find a bet for it. Here are some the typical betting markets that you might find on any given MLS market.
FUTURES MARKETS AND TEAM EXOTICS
Futures markets are exactly that – a result that you bet on that will occur down the track. These include, but are not limited to:
Team to make playoffs
Team to finish on top of the table
Team to miss the playoffs
Team exotics often come down to wins and goals scored on the season and will usually be presented as a handicap of plus or minus a certain number of wins.
Ie, if a team wins under or over 12.5 games. or scores under or over 40.5 goals, etc.
Golden Boot: Who will score the most goals for the season?
Season MVP: Which player will be named the Landon Donovan Award winner for best player at season’s end.
MATCH MARKETS AND PLAYER EXOTICS
Unlike most sports, the draw is a real and regular possibility in soccer and that means there are three options, compared to the traditional two in its winners market. Team A to win, the game to draw, or team B to win. How will you bet?
Means exactly that – you get two bites of the cherry, with either both teams to win, or one of the teams, plus s draw. If any one of your results occurs, you win.
Total game score:
This is presented as an over or under and the stock figure is 2.5 goals. Some online bookmakers will provide alternate scores, such as 1.5, 3.5 or even 4.5, with odds varying accordingly. The total match score between the two teams has to go either over or under for you to win, depending on which way you bet.
Both teams to score:
A simple yes or no answer will do and all you have to do is choose correctly.
Predict how many goals there will be in a bracket. IE: 0-1, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, etc.
Half Time Full Time double:
You get several options here and have to pick the game result at both half time and full time in the game. So it might be draw at half time, Team A to win at full time, etc. It’s basically choosing two results.
Mean’s exactly that, predict exactly what the score will be in the match and you can win big.
Number of corners:
Same thing – how many corners will there be in the match.
Will there be a red card and total number of yellow cards:
It’s a yes or no answer for the red card and the yellows will be presented as an over or under, similar to the total match goals.
First goal scorer, last goal scorer and any time goal scorer:
These markets are good fun, especially when you’re favourite player is involved and are pretty self explanatory.
List of MLS champions
The MLS Cup has been fought for and won 19 times. As mentioned, the final is played in a best of three format, with the first team to two games awarded the cup. The LA Galaxy are the competition’s most successful franchise, winning the title five times – that’s a strike rate of better than once every four years. DC United is not far behind with four titles and three teams have two apiece, Sporting Kansas City, Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes.
1998 D.C. United defeated Kansas City Wizards 2-1
1999 San Jose Earthquakes d Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1
2000 Chicago Fire d New England Revolution 2-1
2001 San Jose Earthquakes (2) d Miami Fusion 2-1
2002 Colorado Rapids d Dallas Burn 2-0
2003 New Jersey Metro Stars d Kansas City Wizards 2-1
2004 Columbus Crew d Los Angeles Galaxy
2005 New England Revolution d Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1
2006 New England Revolution (2) d Kansas City Wizards 2-1
2007 Chicago Fire (2) d Colorado Rapids 2-1
2008 Houston Dynamo d Columbus Crew 2-1
2009 Houston Dynamo (2) d D.C. United 2-0
2010 Columbus Crew (2) d New York Red Bulls 2-1
2011 D.C. United (2) d Toronto Reds 2-1
2012 Los Angeles Galaxy d Philadelphia Union 2-0
2013 New England Revolution (3) d Portland Timbers 2-0
2014 New England Revolution (4) d Chicago Fire 2-0
2015 Los Angeles Galaxy (2) d Chicago Fire 2-0
2016 Toronto Reds d Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1
List of Landon Donovan Most Valuable Player Award winners
1996 Colombia Carlos Valderrama, Tampa Bay Mutiny
1997 United States: Preki, Kansas City Wizards
1998 Bolivia: Marco Etcheverry, D.C. United
1999 United States: Jason Kreis, Dallas Burn
2000 United States: Tony Meola, Kansas City Wizards
2001 Honduras: Alex Pineda Chacón, Miami Fusion
2002 Guatemala: Carlos Ruíz, Los Angeles Galaxy
2003 United States: Preki, Kansas City Wizards
2004 Honduras: Amado Guevara, MetroStars
2005 United States: Taylor Twellman, New England Revolution
2006 Argentina: Christian Gómez, D.C. United
2007 Brazil: Luciano Emilio, D.C. United
2008 Argentina: Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Columbus Crew
2009 United States: Landon Donovan, Los Angeles Galaxy
2010 Colombia: David Ferreira, FC Dallas
2011 Canada: Dwayne De Rosario, D.C. United
2012 United States: Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes
2013 United States: Mike Magee, Chicago Fire
2014 Republic of Ireland: Robbie Keane, Los Angeles Galaxy
2015 Italy: Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC
2016 Spain: David Villa, New York City FC