The 2021 MLS season is almost upon us. Break out the future plays. It’s time to pick a winner.
The reigning champs, the Columbus Crew, were tied for 12th in the league at +2900 when the 2020 MLS Cup odds were released last year, enter the 2021 season as the favorites to win the East and are +500 favorites to win the MLS Cup. Odds like that is why the MLS Cup is one of the more friendlier leagues when it comes to picking a season-ending champion. Let’s breakdown the favorites for this upcoming MLS season. Plenty of teams with strong opportunities this season.
Is this the year where the Cup favorite wins? LAFC enter the year again as MLS Cup favorites at +400, which is a tad more favorable then their +350 odds for last season. Not shocking to see LAFC back in the drivers seat as MLS Cup favorites at +400. Every team was heavily impacted by Covid last season, but it can be argued that LAFC took the hardest blow with Carlos Vela opting out of the season in addition to the injuries that mounted up in the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. Maybe this is the year the new boys of LA soccer get the job done in the postseason, but +400 isn’t enough value to take the bait on the favorite.
Based on how MLS history has transpired over the years, it’s not the smartest decision to take the favorite or the reigning champs because the value is relatively low compared to other clubs in the league. In the East there are 2 teams that jump out to me. The first is defending Supporter Shield (best regular season team) winners Philadelphia Union at +800. The Union losing Brendan Aaronson and Mark McKenzie, two homegrown talents, to RB Salzburg and Genk respectively hurts them, but the cap space available from those moves gives them a lot of options moving forward in terms of signings. If Andre Blake can even give them 75% of what he gave them last year then the Union are definitely going to be threats to win the Cup.
The other team in the East with sneaky strong value is Atlanta at +1600. The past 2 seasons, especially the Frank de Boer era, have been far from what Atlanta fans were used to seeing. The addition of Argentina legend and underrated FIFA player Gabriel Heinze as head coach has the potential to give this team the flair they had during their 2018 championship run. Definitely a dark horse pick at +1600 worth keeping an eye on.
The past few seasons of the MLS has been very similar to the NBA. A deep Western Conference combated with a typically weaker Eastern Conference with one or two powerhouses. This year is much different though. Only three teams from the West are in the top 10 for winning the MLS Cup (LAFC +400, Seattle +500, and Portland +1200). We’ve already covered that taking the chalk favorite isn’t for me, but I LOVE Seattle at +500 after they came up so close last season. Even without Jordan Morris I think Seattle has the experience and the talent to make it back to MLS Cup.
Portland has a strong value at +1200, but another year of an aging Diego Valeri and company adds more pessimism than optimism to my gambling demeanor. The window in Portland is closing faster than people want to think. Keep an eye out for FC Dallas at +2000 as a sleeper in the West. This team is young, and the Dallas Academy has been pumping out quality players like Ricardo Pepi and Tanner Tessmann who will have major impact seasons this year as teenagers.
The season kicks off on April 16th, so don’t feel rushed to get your future plays in right this second, but let’s take this second to thank the soccer gods that the MLS is right around the corner.