Major League Soccer is back this weekend when the new season gets underway as 23 franchises go in search of glory in the MLS Cup final come the end of the campaign. Last season was one of the best in MLS history and the signs are that this one is going to be every bit as good.
The standard of the league went through the roof last season and with some quality signings being added to the ranks of most of the teams we can expect that trend to continue over the next nine months.
2017 – Toronto FC
2016 – Seattle Sounders
2015 – Portland Timbers
2014 – Los Angeles Galaxy
2013 – Sporting Kansas City
2012 – Los Angeles Galaxy
2011 – Los Angeles Galaxy
2010 – Colorado Rapids
2009 – Real Salt Lake
2008 – Columbus Crew
Toronto FC will be the ones looking to defend their title. They were head and shoulders the best side in MLS last season with arguably the best front two in the competition in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore and their goals fired them to MLS Cup glory. They didn’t need to do too much work with their squad and you would have to expect them to feature very strongly again this year.
Seattle Sounders came within a win of defending the MLS Cup last season despite a raft of injuries hurting them at certain times and a start to the season which was little better than useless. They finished with a real flourish which will give them plenty of confidence to take into this season and with Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro in attacking areas you would be surprised if they struggle at any point in this campaign.
Best of the Rest
At one stage last season it looked like Atlanta United were going to do the unthinkable and win MLS in their first year in the league. Ultimately they were beaten on penalties by the Columbus Crew but since then they have spent big to bring Darlington Nagbe into the squad from Portland Timbers while Ezequiel Barco looks a genius piece of business from the best manager in the competition. With a huge support base behind them expect the three stripes to be challenging again this season.
Columbus Crew went on to make it to the Eastern Conference final last term with some of the best attacking football and philosophy in the league but whether they can replicate that with their new front line remains to be seen. They generally have enough to get into the playoffs though and once they begin this competition is for anybody to win so maybe they shouldn’t be ruled out.
Over in the Western Conference it was the Houston Dynamo who lost in the Conference final. They rode an amazingly strong home form last season but doubts will persist over whether they can be that good on their own patch again and even if they are they don’t look as strong man for man. I’d be happy to pass on them.
I’m more inclined to take the side they knocked out of the playoffs last year in Sporting Kansas City. They look to have all bases covered and are another side who are very strong at home. They have had enough time to adjust to the departure of Dom Dwyer now and should be looking to get right back among the latter stages of the competition.
Fairytale of New York?
There are two sides in New York in MLS and both will be looking to win MLS Cup for the first time. The New York Red Bulls are usually contenders throughout the course of the regular season but when it comes to the playoffs they go missing and strangely their rivals New York City FC have followed suit.
I’m less convinced about the Red Bulls this season with Sasha Kljestan away to pastures new while NYCFC will need David Villa to remain fit for the entire campaign if they are to achieve their ultimate aim of glory.
The New Boys
The MLS likes to bring new sides into the league each season and this year there is one debut franchise and that is Los Angeles FC. They will be coached by Bob Bradley and will compete in the Western Conference with their derbies against LA Galaxy already being eagerly anticipated. New teams generally need a season or two to establish themselves in this league but whether the success of Atlanta last year allows LAFC that remains to be seen. There shouldn’t be much expectancy on them but in the gaze of Hollywood there just might be.
As with any division or league betting on the season outright is never easy because you need so many things to go in your favour and in this particularly league nine months is a long time. The beauty of this league though is you only need to find a team to finish in the top six of either Conference and then catch fire for three weeks.
With that in mind I’m going to seek out some value as I so often do in ante-post football betting. Orlando City have made some good additions to their squad over the last six months or so and while the retirement of Kaka is not great and the departure of Cyle Larin not brilliant either they do have one of the best strikers in the league in Dom Dwyer while the supply line to him should be strong. You need goals in this league, especially in the East, and Orlando definitely have them. At a big price it is worth paying to see how deep they can go in the playoffs if they make the top six, which they certainly should do.
Back Orlando City to win MLS (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)