The popularity of MLS continues to soar as legendary players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kaka and David Villa cross the Atlantic to ply their trade in the US. The number of franchises has more than doubled in the past 15 years and each new team quickly earns a solid fan base. Average attendance broke through the 22,000 barrier for the first time in the 2017/18 season and TV audiences are treated to a wide range of game.
There was a fear that Team USA’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup might dent soccer’s popularity, but the MLS franchises are still thriving. Soccer is a global game and the finest stars in the league hail from a wide range of countries, so its popularity is by no means tied to the performance of homegrown stars. However, it obviously helps if fans can root for local talent. In recent years, Delaware has produced some exciting youngsters, and both Anthony Fontana and Mark McKenzie have signed first-team contracts with the Philadelphia Union in the past couple of years.
With Wayne Rooney, the all-time record goalscorer for Man Utd and England, joining DC United, Delaware residents are spoiled for choice when it comes to exciting MLS action on their doorsteps. Visiting rosters are packed full of talented players like Ibrahimovic and Bastian Schweinsteiger, plus exciting youngsters such as Miguel Almiron and Ezequiel Barco, so its popularity should continue to spiral. Now that sports betting has been legalized in Delaware, MLS will be a crucial part of the offering, so here are the key betting categories to be aware of:
A futures bet is a wager on a long-term event and the most popular option is choosing the winner of the MLS Cup. The odds shift on a weekly basis, but the general favorites these days are Atlanta Utd, FC Dallas, New York City FC and Sporting Kansas City. You might find odds of +700 (also listed as 7/1 or 8.0) on New York City FC, and that means you win $700 for every $100 you lay down on them winning the trophy. Philadelphia Union are not given much hope of glory and you can find odds of +10000 (100/1 or 101.0) on Fontana and co. In soccer betting, you have plenty more futures options, including who will be the top scorer for the season.
Moneyline betting in MLS differs to other US sports because there are three potential outcomes: home win, draw or away win. In NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, the game would go to overtime to decide on a winner, so you only get two moneyline options, but in MLS the game can simply end in a tie. This makes moneyline betting trickier, but you also get more attractive odds on each outcome.
For example, when Philadelphia recently took on Vancouver, the sportsbooks offered -119 (0.84/1 or 1.84) on a Philadelphia win, +249 (2.49/1 or 3.49) on a draw and +315 (3.15/1 or 4.15) on a Vancouver win. Odds of -119 (0.84/1 or 1.84) mean you have to stake $119 in order to win $100, while odds of +315 (3.15/1 or 4.15) mean you win $315 for every $100 you stake, so that shows Philadelphia to be the clear favorite.
Some sportsbooks offer various options to allow you to mitigate against a draw. One is “draw no bet”, whereby you accept less attractive odds but your bet is a push and you get your money back if your team draws. Another is “double chance”, where you accept even less attractive odds but you get paid out if your team either wins or draws.
Another way to get more value out of an MLS game is to give one team a handicap. For example, if you did not find that -119 on Philadelphia attractive enough, you could have given the Union a -1 handicap. That would require Philadelphia to win by two clear goals, but you would get far more appealing odds (+200 in this case) as a reward. Another option is an Asian handicap line, which typically offers poorer odds but provides greater security on your bet.
This is pretty self-explanatory. You simply predict what the score will be at the end of the game, and if you guess correctly you will enjoy strong odds. Philadelphia 1-0 Vancouver was +450 (4.5/1 or 5.5), Philadelphia 2-1 Vancouver was +500 (5/1 or 6.0), Philadelphia 2-0 Vancouver was +600 (6/1 or 7.0) and so on. You can cover a few different scores if you like, ensuring you get paid out if any of them come in.
Many soccer fans like to bet on who will score the first goal in a game, and you get pretty appealing odds on this. You can also often bet on who will score the last goal, or back a player to score at any time, which results in lower odds but gives you a greater chance of winning.
If you want to push it even further, you can sometimes bet on who will score first and what the correct score will be. For example, Cory Burke to score first and Philadelphia to win 2-0 might get you odds of +3300 (33/1 or 34.0). Both have to be correct for you to be paid out, so this is a difficult market, but a lucrative one.
The sportsbooks will set a line – typically 2.5 goals – and you simply have to guess whether the total goals in the game will go over or under that mark. Alternate lines will sometimes be offered on 0.5 goals, 1.5 goals, 3.5 goals and 4.5 goals. Another popular option is “both teams to score – yes or no”, and it is a good option if you have a feeling that a game will be open or tight. You can sometimes double up and go for something like “both teams to score and over 2.5 goals” at greater odds.
To get more value out of a game, you can back a team to be winning at half-time and at full-time. Or you could back a draw at half-time and a Philadelphia win at full-time. Or Philadelphia at half-time and Vancouver at full-time. These bets are harder to win, but again the odds are more attractive. This option becomes particularly appealing when one team is the clear favorite and you want to find more value.
You can find sportsbooks that take bets on a team to win to nil, the result at half-time, how many cards there will be, how many corners, man of the match, to win both halves, first half result, second half result, time of the first home team goal, time of the first away team goal, whether a player will score a hat-trick and many more special betting options to keep you interested.
You can bet on the outcomes of multiple games in order to accrue higher odds, and this is called a parlay. For example, you might back Philadelphia to beat Vancouver, Chicago to beat Seattle Sounders and Atlanta Utd to beat Portland. All three would have to win for your bet to pay out, but the rewards are lucrative. You can add many more than three teams to a parlay bet, and this has allowed many bettors to become extremely rich overnight.