With the all-star break upon us, Major League Soccer has given us a fair amount of talking points this year already. From the new signing of world-class, or at worst, former world class, players, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney, to Atlanta forward Josef Martinez’ rise to fame, its all happening in 2018. Let’s take a look at where the cup favorites lie.
Front Runners – Atlanta United. At 4/1 (or +300 if you prefer) Atlanta are the strong favorites for cup glory in 2018. Easily top of their division (also top of both divisions combined, highest scorers, and best goal difference), their march the playoffs is nothing more than a foregone conclusion at this point. With Josef Martinez scoring 24 goals (9 more than 2nd place, a certain Swede called Zlatan) they are a force not many teams can stop. For an expansion team in 2017, this has a certain Las Vegas NHL feel about it, with many predicting glory in just the teams 2nd season. Playing at arguably the best stadium in the world can’t help either. If the Falcons can keep up with their circular balled friends, an Atlanta Cup/SuperBowl double at 60/1 odds cant be too far away from the mark this year.
New York City & New York Red Bulls – Unlike the NFL, both New York teams are flying high (Its a shame neither has a bird nickname that would make a joke there easy to use!). Underneath Atlanta, NYC has the 2nd best record in MLS, boasting 43 points from just 22 games. Their close town rivals are just 2 points back, making this 5 boroughs race one for the ages. With New York either tanking in NFL, losing key players in NBA, or just plain bad in the NHL, these 2 teams should at least give sports fans something to cheer for in the coming months. Both of them are around 7/1 with most bookmakers, making this bet a coin flip bet between the two. The Red Bulls take it for me between these 2 teams, their defensive record is better, they have more firepower, and their goalkeeper has conceded fewest goals in the league.
FC Dallas – In a sport where America doesn’t really care which is its team yet, Dallas play with a lot less pressure than their Cowboy neighbors in the NFL. At 42 points from 21 games, and top of the Western Conference by 6 points, they are the commanding pick to make a deep run into the MLS Cup finals again. At 6/1 to win it all though, and with history on their side, few would bet against them. For once though, Dallas is having problems scoring goals. Their forwards are not clicking, and a recent run of red cards is limiting player options for key games. With LAFC and Galaxy sporting some huge names, and winning huge games, Dallas is in danger of not being the force it once was. They are a very good team, but against the current growing level of skill in MLS compared to recent years, they are not the powerhouse of the sport they once year, ultimately winning the West conference in 2016, and the US Open Cup. that same year. This is a bet I would fade, and look to the Eastern conference to provide the MLS champions this year.
Overall, it looks like a close race in the East, between 4 or 5 teams who have a realistic shot of making it to the final this year. The West should come down to Dallas and an LA side (depending on whose big names show up), so the finals should be gripping. My outside tip – Sporting KC to reach the final and take it down at +1400. They have the knowledge, the history, and the skill, and if they can recapture early season form when it matters, they will be a very tough team to beat.