MLS 2024 – Season Outright Tips and Betting Preview

The new Major League Soccer season begins on Wednesday night as arguably the most anticipated MLS campaign to date gets going with 29 teams once again looking to work their way through to the MLS Cup final where overall glory could await them.

Columbus Crew defied the arrival of Lionel Messi into the league last season to come out on top at the MLS Cup Final and they will be looking to put up a decent defence of their title but a number of teams have strengthened significantly to attempt to stop that from happening.

Recent Winners

2023 – Columbus Crew

2022 – Los Angeles FC

2021 – New York City FC

2020 – Columbus Crew

2019 – Seattle Sounders

2018 – Atlanta United

2017 – Toronto FC

2016 – Seattle Sounders

2015 – Portland Timbers

2014 – LA Galaxy

The Format

For the first time in quite a while there is no new team in MLS this season so we have 29 teams in full. 15 of those teams are in the Eastern Conference while 14 will be in the Western Conference. Each team plays 34 matches in the regular season with Decision Day coming on October 19. We also have the same playoff system as last term. The top seven in each Conference once again automatically qualify for the postseason while the eighth and ninth team in each play a knockout match to complete the bracket. The first round of the playoffs is a best of three series with teams finishing first to fourth being at home in the first and third matches and the teams fifth and below at home in the second game. The teams who get two wins go through to the Conference semi-finals where they, the Conference finals and the MLS Cup Final are all one-leg knockout matches. MLS Cup Final takes place on December 7. The highest ranked team in the regular season is at home in all knockout matches.

The Champions

Columbus Crew were the most entertaining team to watch in the entire MLS by far last season and that isn’t likely to change this time around with Wilfried Nancy very much at the helm still. He delivers his teams to play with control that isn’t seen in many places in MLS but with a structure that allows them to dictate the game. There will be times where their playing out from the back style comes back to haunt them but it worked so well last year. Crew are 12/1 to regain their title but will need to overcome the loss of Julian Gressel, although the Pachuca recruit Marino Hinestroza looks to be a decent recruit. Columbus will make the playoffs but they might need to overcome Messi and co to make MLS Cup final.

The Finalists

Los Angeles FC were a game away from making a successful defence of their title last season and they will be eager to get back to MLS Cup Final for a third season in succession. That won’t be easy with Carlos Vela getting no younger and reports suggesting that Denis Bouanga sees his future elsewhere in the summer but one man who will improve them is Eduard Atuesta, who is back after a couple of seasons away. Overcoming the loss of Giorgio Chiellini and Kellyn Acosta might determine their success or otherwise this season. They have reinforced but this was an aging squad which might find this a season too far at 8/1.

Best of the Rest

Inter Miami will begin the season as the 3/1 favourites to win MLS Cup this term. That is no surprise when you consider that they have a certain Lionel Messi in their ranks but he isn’t the only standout star, albeit at the end of their career, that has been attracted to the Miami part of Florida. The summer addition of Luis Suarez looks a good one as he should be potent at this level while Julian Gressel joins up with Tata Martino for the first time since their Atlanta United days. They have lost a key defender in Kamal Miller though and that could be significant because while the front players are great going forward, tracking back isn’t their forte. Whoever beats Miami will have every chance of winning MLS Cup.

FC Cincinnati are the current holders of the Supporters’ Shield so they have to be taken seriously even though they couldn’t convert that into the overall silverware last term. They are 14/1 to win MLS Cup this season but the loss of Brandon Vazquez could be tough to overcome. They have also lost Yerson Mosquera but he has been replaced with one of the best defenders in MLS in Miles Robinson. You get the impression that Cncinnati will be hard to beat but they might need Luciano Acosta to perform at MVP levels again to emulate the successes of last term.

New York Red Bulls are 16/1 to win MLS Cup this season. They reached the playoffs last season against the odds somewhat and despite some unforeseen things like the Dante Vanzeir suspension and not having Lewis Morgan at any stage of the campaign. Morgan is expected to start the season and the Red Bulls might well have the best newcomer this term in Sweden international Emil Forsberg. He could well be a contender for MVP in this vibrant side and I would expect an even better showing from the Red Bulls even with the departure of Luquinhas.

Philadelphia Union have been one of the best teams in the MLS over the last couple of seasons but they haven’t been able to translate that into MLS Cup success. Expectations might be a little lower this term in a red hot Eastern Conference though and that might benefit the Union. Something else which could benefit them is that they have kept the majority of their important players together and the new contracts agreed with Alejandro Bedoja and Kai Wagner certainly help. You just wonder if they might find one too good again though.

The Contenders

Seattle Sounders looked like they were on course to really challenge for the Western Conference title last term but came unstuck in the postseason, which to be fair is unlike them. Nico Lodeiro has been a key fixture in much of the Sounders’ success but he has departed for Orlando and he will be missed. Heber was useful when he was included in the side but he has gone too. The first thing Seattle need to do this term to be successful is keep their key attacking players fit. That would give them a chance but others in the Western Conference look stronger.

Orlando City had a wonderful regular season last term but they came up massively short when it really mattered in the postseason, offering a little challenge to eventual champions Columbus Crew. Orlando tended to be strong defensively last season but Antonio Carlos heading back to Brazil punches a huge hole in that setup and Mauricio Pereyra is also a key departure. Lodeiro might replace him but the key addition of Luis Muriel certainly catches the eye and with the Duncan Maguire transfer to Blackburn falling through in January we might see a more progressive Orlando side this term which makes them interesting at 22/1 but rivals Inter Miami are a huge stumbling block.

We have a pair of teams at 25/1 to win MLS Cup this season and they both come from the Western Conference. They are LA Galaxy and the US Open Cup winners Houston Dynamo. Dynamo looked very good last season and if there is any natural progression in a second campaign under Ben Olsen then they are entitled to at least finish high up in the standings if Hector Herrera can be as effective again in the centre of the park. Galaxy look like they are a work in progress with the departures of Douglas Costa and Chicharito. They have made the appealing signings of Joseph Paintsil and Gabriel Pec but they were below the level required last season and might need too long to catch up this term.

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Outright Betting

Clearly Inter Miami are going to take some beating this season but in one off matches at the end of a long campaign there is a chance an aging squad falters down the stretch so I’m reluctant to get involved in them at 3/1. The problem with them in the league is they are such a daunting prospect in the Eastern Conference that it is tough to take anyone else in that side of things as if we run into Miami on a going day we’re done before we can get a payout. With that in mind, I’ll side with a couple of value teams in the Western Conference.

Real Salt Lake are the first team I like smack in the middle of the market. You can get bits of 50/1 on them for MLS Cup and they are the sort of side who with a high finish in the West can use home advantage well. In Chicho Arango they have one of the better forwards in the Western Conference and a young, creative midfield have another year of experience to put to good use. Jefferson Savarino leaving probably isn’t a help but it has freed up a DP spot and Matt Crooks should be a good addition from Middlesbrough. RSL were progressive last term and if they can continue that progression there is nothing to suggest that they can’t be one of the best in the West, if not the entire competition.

Colorado Rapids were absolutely horrendous last season but they have signed very well in the winter, to the extent that they could make a bit of a mockery of their 100/1 quotes for this term. Remember when betting on MLS Cup we are not necessarily looking for the best team in MLS, we are looking for someone to finish in the top nine in their Conference and then catch fire in October and November. The number of signings Colorado have made might mean that they need time to gel but in the second half of the season in particular I expect them to come good. Zack Steffen, Djordje Mihailovic and Omir Fernandez have plenty of MLS experience while Sam Vines has been at Colorado before. Lamine Diack should shield the defence better than they were offered last season so if Chris Armas can prove to be the coach many think he is despite his mixed results at the clubs he has managed so far then the Rapids could just be the sleepers in this field.

Conference Betting

I won’t get involved in the Western Conference market because hopefully I have the winner of it in one of the two I have just mentioned but the Eastern Conference market might be worth a go in the hope that the scenario that Inter Miami just run out of steam at the end of a long season comes true. In which case there is plenty of value to be had, not least on the reigning champions Columbus Crew. A Champions Cup tilt in the early part of the season and the distraction that comes with that puts me off getting involved with them again while the same applies to FC Cincinnati and Orlando City as well as the Philadelphia Union.

One team who I think there is a lot of progression in is New York Red Bulls and at 10/1 I think they might be the value play. They were going to progress anyway if Lewis Morgan remains fit but the addition of Emil Forsberg should bring a much needed dimension to their attacking play, which is probably where they were short last season, even though they made the playoffs. The Red Bulls philosophy is of youth and improvement so a class act like Forsberg, who unlike historical MLS signings certainly isn’t washed up or anything like that, should be crucial. I’ll pay to see how close they can go here.

Player Markets

There are two player markets which catch my eye this season as well. The first is the top goalscorer market where I like a couple of Western Conference forwards to deliver the goods. I have already highlighted Chicho Arango as a key player for RSL and with him playing a whole season through the middle I’m expecting big things from him. At LAFC he played 51 times and found the net on 30 occasions and in just 11 appearances for RSL last term, in which two of them were from the bench, he netted six times. Any striker who is averaging more than a goal every other game in MLS is dangerous and Arango could be a huge price.

The other number nine who I think is a big price this season is Alan Pulido. The obvious stumbling block with the Sporting Kansas City is his injury record and even his suspension record but in 28 appearances last season he notched 14 times in a Sporting Kansas City side who floundered for all but the last couple of months of the season. If SKC are more at it from the start this term then their striker should see plenty of opportunities coming his way and as good a finisher as he is I think he’ll fill his boots. He is on penalties as well which should help so he is another who looks overpriced.

Finally I can’t ignore the stats markets that Bet365 have put up and the 7/4 that Lionel Messi provides 15 or more assists over the course of the regular season is hard to resist. He only made five assists in 14 appearances last term although around half of those matches saw him either start on the bench or substituted with a fair amount of the game to go when Miami have been on top. That was due to his late arrival and carrying on a year which saw him complete a season with Paris Saint Germain. He has no such issues this time around and so I expect plenty more minutes and three times the assists from him over the course of the campaign.


Back Real Salt Lake to win MLS 2024 (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)

Back Colorado Rapids to win MLS 2024 (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)

Back them here:

Back New York Red Bulls to win Eastern Conference for a 1/10 stake at 11.00 with Bet365

Back C.Arango Top Goalscorer (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Betfair (1/4 1-3)

Back A.Pulido Top Goalscorer (e/w( for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Betfair (1/4 1-3)

Back L.Messi 15 or more assists for a 3/10 stake at 2.75 with Bet365