Major League Soccer kicks off its season this weekend, and with it comes MLS betting. We’ve heard from one or two or 50 people who swear up and down that baseball is too fickle and they’re not going anywhere near the diamond. (We get it. You can only suffer through so many closer meltdowns in your life.)
To those people, it might be the right time to give the U.S.A.’s Other Football a shot. Here’s what you should know to get started.
What Books Carry MLS Betting Lines?
MLS lines can be found at every major sportsbook. Their betting menus can be almost as robust as what you’ll see in the European soccer markets. Retail sportsbooks including DraftKings, FanDuel, William Hill/Caesars, and BetRivers all go nearly as deep as they might on the Euro leagues. Market-maker books like SuperBook, Circa, and Pinnacle also have lines up as well. If you want to get down on Inter Miami CF, you’ll have no shortage of places to do it.
What Bets Are Available in MLS?
With retail books, you can bet virtually any prop you would also find on a Premier League matchup. These include alternate spreads and Asian handicaps, first goal scoring markets, and even more niche props like corner kicks and cards issued. The menu is going to have more corners than an F1 race.
However, your options get more limited in the futures market. Where books typically offer a wide Premier League menu, MLS futures betting tends to be more restricted to simple markets like league winner and top scorer.
Who Are Some Of The Sharper Books for MLS Betting?
As with many other markets, Pinnacle is seen as the top market-making book when it comes to MLS betting. Many U.S.-based books will copy their lines when setting prices, thanks to a combination of lower volume and a lack of detailed league knowledge behind the counter in most shops.
If you are looking for a source of truth for a top-down approach, Pinnacle is your most accurate measuring stick against the retail shops.
Do Lines Move Much From Opening to Closing?
Yes. Due to low liquidity in the market, as well as the league’s niche nature among bettors, small bets can move lines much faster than in other markets. Particularly underdogs, who can often be priced in the +200/+300 range due to the three-way betting market (win/loss/tie), can see their price move by 80 cents or more from open to close.
Saturdays are the big slate for MLS betting. Lines tend to move in the hour before kickoff after teams release the starting lineups and confirm who’s playing. Timing in life, is everything.
How Does MLS Betting Differ From European Soccer?
The biggest difference between MLS and top European leagues from a statistical standpoint is in goal scoring. MLS features an average of an entire extra goal per game vs. the EPL (3.64 points per game vs 2.65 PPG).
Scoring is much more prevalent in MLS, and the totals market reflects that. By midseason totals are often in the 3 to 4 goal range, vs. the EPL’s standard 2 to 2.5.
Home field advantage is also much more prevalent in MLS than in other leagues. Home teams win matches 53 percent of the time in MLS, compared to 46 percent of the time in the EPL. (Clearly there’s a direct correlation between serving beer cold and being able to win at home.) As a result, you will often see home teams more heavily juiced in MLS markets.
What’s New In MLS?
Another major difference between the leagues is that unlike in Europe, the MLS playoff bracket has become extensive. This year, 18 of the league’s 29 teams will make the postseason.
It’s an absurd number, made even more absurd by the format. The eighth and ninth seeds in each conference will play a one-game Wild Card round, followed by a best-of-three first round. After that, the semifinals and final will each be a single game.
This format change will help create some value in longer shots in the futures market, but the best-of-three first round series should have a dampening effect on the unpredictability of a Cinderella story.
Where Can I Find MLS Stats and Info?
There is no shortage of data available on MLS teams. In-depth stats like expected goals allowed and home/road expected goals can help paint a clearer picture when handicapping. Just a few sources are: