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2021 MLS Cup Playoffs Betting Preview with Odds and Contender Analysis

| November 10, 2021 9:45 am PDT

Following one of the most dramatic Decision Days in the history of Major League Soccer, the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs are set.

DC United, Columbus Crew, and CF Montreal narrowly missed out on a top-seven finish in the Eastern Conference. Consequently, the Red Bulls snuck into the postseason at the eleventh hour.

Over in the West, Real Salt Lake netted a 95th-minute winner to advance at LA Galaxy’s expense. The Rapids leapfrogged Seattle and SKC to snatch top spot and book their spot in the conference semifinals.

The postseason gets underway on Saturday, November 20, but who will be crowned the 2021 MLS Cup champion on Saturday, December 11?

Join me as I discuss the odds for the 2021 MLS Cup. After checking out the bookies’ prices, I will analyze the main contenders and potential sleepers before sharing my predictions for the MLS Cup Playoffs.

Latest 2021 MLS Cup Odds

Are you really surprised that New England (3.25) is the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the trophy on December 11? I mean, the Revs have been the best team in Major League Soccer throughout 2021.

That said, you may be slightly surprised that Colorado (4.50) isn’t too far away from New England on the bookies’ 2021 MLS Cup odds list.

After the top two, the best MLS betting sites view Seattle (8.00), New York City (10.00), Sporting KC (11.00), Philadelphia (11.00), and Nashville (13.00) as realistic challengers.

The odds then take a significant leap to Portland (21.00) and Orlando (26.00), while Atlanta (34.00) and Minnesota (34.00) are evenly priced.

Both the Whitecaps (41.00) and Red Bulls (41.00) are seen as outsiders. Last but not least, Real Salt Lake (51.00) is the rank underdog after scoring a stoppage-time winner against SKC on Decision Day.

Before I analyze the teams and make some predictions for the MLS Cup Playoffs, let’s take a quick look at the postseason schedule.

2021 MLS Cup Playoffs Schedule

The conference winners, New England and Colorado, have already booked their spot in the conference semifinals. However, the other 12 teams must battle it out for a place in the last eight.

Here is the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs schedule in full.

First Round

  • Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls – Saturday, November 20
  • Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps – Saturday, November 20
  • New York City FC vs. Atlanta United – Sunday, November 21
  • Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United – Sunday, November 21
  • Nashville SC vs. Orlando City – Tuesday, November 23
  • Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake – Tuesday, November 23

The first round of the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs kicks off on Saturday, November 20, with Philly hosting RBNY and Vancouver visiting Kansas City.

The following day, New York City welcomes to Atlanta to Yankee Stadium before Minnesota travels to Portland.

On Tuesday, November 23, Nashville, and Orlando go head-to-head at Nissan Park, with the Sounders and RSL wrapping up the first round in Seattle.

Conference Semifinals

  • Colorado Rapids vs. Portland/Minnesota – Thursday, November 25
  • SKC/Vancouver vs. Seattle/RSL – Sunday, November 28
  • Nashville/Orlando vs. Philadelphia/RBNY – Sunday, November 28
  • New England Revolution vs. NYCFC vs. Atlanta – Monday, November 29

The Rapids are waiting to face the winner of Portland vs. Minnesota in the semifinals. Colorado has the home-field advantage on Thursday, November 25.

The winner of SKC vs. Vancouver comes up against the victor of Seattle vs. RSL, while winner of Nashville vs. Orlando faces either Philly or the Red Bulls.

New England has to wait until Monday, November 29 to return to action. Bruce Arena’s side plays the winner of NYCFC vs. Atlanta at Gillette Stadium.

Other Key Dates

  • Western Conference Final – Saturday, December 4
  • Eastern Conference Final – Sunday, December 5
  • MLS Cup Final – Saturday, December 11

The conference finals are schedule to take place on Saturday, December 4 and Sunday, December 5, with the MLS Cup Final slated for Saturday, December 11.

The winner of Colorado’s semifinal will take on the last remaining team in the West, while the victor of New England’s semifinal will battle it out with the last remaining team in the East.

It is worth noting that the higher-seeded teams in each conference will host the conference finals. The highest-ranked team in the overall standings will then host the final.

It’s time to take a closer look at the contenders.

Analyzing the 2021 MLS Cup Favorites

Since New England and Colorado have each earned a first-round bye, they immediately have a huge advantage over the rest of the field. Essentially, they are both three wins away from lifting the trophy.

Let’s assess the frontrunners’ chances of going all the way.

New England Revolution (3.25)

New England heads into the playoffs on the back of a record-breaking campaign. The Revs claimed the MLS single-season points record, chalking up a whopping 73 points in the East.

Arena’s men finished 19 points clear of second-place Philly and 12 points ahead of Colorado in the overall standings. That tells you everything you need to know about their dominance.

The Revs have called upon numerous heroes throughout the season. Adam Buksa (16 goals) and Gustavo Bou (15 goals) have been immense, while Tajon Buchanan has earned himself a move to Belgian side Club Brugge.

Still, there is no denying that Carles Gil has been the star of the show. The Spanish DP has notched 18 assists and 117 key passes this year, cementing his status as the league’s best playmaker.

With guys like Matt Turner, Andrew Farrell, and Henry Kessler keeping things tight at the other end of the field, New England is seriously strong in every department.

Colorado Rapids (4.50)

The Rapids had been trailing Seattle and SKC in the Western Conference for the entirety of the regular season, but on Decision Day, they managed to secure top spot in the division.

Robin Fraser’s men thrashed LAFC 5-2 last time out. Meanwhile, the Sounders drew with Vancouver, and the Wizards lost to RSL.

Colorado finished the regular season with the second-best defensive record in the West. It goes without saying that William Yarbrough deserves huge credit for his team’s success.

MOST CLEAN SHEETS – 2021 MLS SEASON
Player Team Games Goals Conceded Clean Sheets
William Yarbrough Colorado Rapids 33 32 13
Joe Willis Nashville SC 34 33 13
Carlos Coronel New York Red Bulls 34 33 13

No goalkeeper has achieved more shutouts in MLS than Yarbrough this year. Although Joe Willis and Carlos Coronel have both managed 13 clean sheets, Yarbrough has conceded fewer goals.

Fraser knows he can rely on Yarbrough, but Colorado’s forwards have not been prolific in 2021. The head coach will be hoping that guys like Maichael Barrios and Jonathan Lewis rise to the occasion when the postseason gets underway.

Breaking Down the Chasing Pack

There are five sides priced between 8.00 and 13.00 to win the MLS Cup. New England and Colorado are the favorites for a reason, but the teams below are more than capable of going all the way.

In this section, I break down the five-team group sitting just outside the bookies’ favored duo.

Seattle Sounders (8.00)

The Sounders have now finished second in the West in each of the previous five seasons. During that time, they have reached four MLS Cup Finals – winning two and losing two.

Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup Playoffs – Past 5 Years
  • 2016: Champions
  • 2017: Runners-Up
  • 2018: Conference Semifinals
  • 2019: Champions
  • 2020: Runners-Up

Not only did Brian Schmetzer’s boys finish the regular season with the best defensive record in the West, but they also registered the best goal difference.

If Raul Ruidiaz continues to fire at the opposite end of the pitch, Seattle could easily reach a fifth final in six years. The Peruvian has already netted 17 goals this season.

New York City FC (10.00)

New York City picked up more points than any other side across the final five regular season games. The Boys in Blue head into the playoffs on a five-match unbeaten streak, carrying momentum into the postseason.

Valentin Castellanos clinched the Golden Boot on Decision Day, netting his sixth goal in four outings. The Argentine has now bagged 19 goals and eight assists in 32 MLS games this year.

MOST GOAL INVOLVEMENTS – 2021 MLS SEASON
Player Team Games Goals Assists Total
Valentin Castellanos New York City FC 32 19 8 27
Hany Mukhtar Nashville SC 31 16 10 26
Damir Kreilach Real Salt Lake 33 16 13 24

With Castellanos arguably in the form of his life right now, nobody will want to come up against New York City in the playoffs. Could this finally be the year that NYCFC fulfils its potential?

Sporting Kansas City (11.00)

Not so long ago, Sporting KC looked destined to clinch the Western Conference title. However, they ended up losing each of the final three regular-season games.

The Wizards suffered defeats to Minnesota, Austin, and SKC, meaning they have lost six of their previous 12 games. With the playoffs on the horizon, that is not good news.

Still, it is worth remembering that Peter Vermes’ men have netted a whopping 58 goals this year. With Daniel Salloi (16 goals, 8 assists) and Johnny Russell (15 goals, 7 assists) firing on all cylinders, SKC is a match for any opponent.

Philadelphia Union (11.00)

Following a shaky start to the 2021 campaign, Philadelphia ended the regular season on a high. In fact, the Union have lost just one of their last ten matches.

The 2020 Supporters’ Shield winners finished second in the East, level with third-place Nashville on 54 points. They also registered the second-best defensive record in the conference.

Jim Curtin’s side carries a four-game unbeaten streak in the playoffs, having secured a hard-fought draw with NYCFC on Decision Day.

Having clinched the Shield last year, the U knows what it takes to win silverware. Can they go one better and get their hands on the MLS Cup trophy this time around?

Nashville SC (13.00)

It is easy to forget that this is Nashville’s second season as an MLS outfit. I mean, the team from Tennessee has adapted to the league seamlessly and is now ready for another shot at the playoffs.

The Boys in Gold stunned everyone by reaching the conference semifinals in their debut campaign. Fast-forward to today – they are expected to challenge for the title.

If Hany Mukhtar (16 goals, 10 assists), CJ Sapong (12 goals, 4 assists), and Randall Leal (8 goals, 7 assists) can pick up where they left off in the regular season, Nashville could surprise even more people this year.

Let’s not forget that no team has conceded fewer goals than Gary Smith’s side in 2021.

The Best of the Rest

The Timbers will fancy their chances of causing a stir in the playoffs. They picked up more points than any other Western Conference team across the last 15 games and head into the postseason on a three-match winning streak.

By contrast, Orlando City stumbled over the finish line. Oscar Pareja’s men have won just one of their previous five outings, so they will need to up their game when the playoffs get underway.

At 34.00, Atlanta United looks like an excellent outside bet. Not only have the Five Stripes lost just five of their past 20 games, but they have also won nine of their previous 15.

It is difficult to predict exactly how Minnesota United will fare in the postseason. Adrian Heath’s boys have endured an inconsistent campaign up to now, so they could find it tough to compete with the top teams in the playoffs.

The Whitecaps have lost only one of their last ten games and come into the postseason on a six-match unbeaten run. Needless to say, they will be confident of upsetting the 2021 MLS Cup odds.

The Red Bulls have also suffered just one defeat in their previous ten outings. They may not score too many goals, but it is worth pointing out that RBNY boasts the joint-best defensive record in the league.

Although it would be a big surprise if Real Salt Lake went all the way, you shouldn’t write them off altogether. After all, the club will be brimming with belief after sneaking into the playoffs at the eleventh hour.

My 2021 MLS Cup Picks

Are you ready for some MLS Cup bets?

Having analyzed all the teams, I have decided to share three picks with you. If you’re looking for a safe bet, I have got you covered. But if you’re looking for better value, you may want to consider my outside and longshot bets.

My Safe MLS Cup Bet – New England Revolution

Few would argue that New England hasn’t been the best team in Major League Soccer this season.

The Revs have already broken all kinds of records in 2021, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they added the MLS Cup to their Supporters’ Shield triumph.

Led by the seemingly unstoppable Carles Gil, Arena’s side heads into the playoffs as the team to beat. That’s why the Revs are my safe bet for the 2021 MLS Cup.

My Outside MLS Cup Bet – Seattle Sounders

Okay, this isn’t exactly an outside bet, as Seattle is one of the strongest teams in the entire league. But since the Sounders are priced at 8.00 to lift the trophy, it feels like something of an outside bet.

Schmetzer’s’ side has reached four of the last five MLS Cup Finals, triumphing on two occasions.

At the end of the day, they know what it takes to secure the title. If everything clicks for them in the postseason, they could secure a third crown in six years.

My Longshot MLS Cup Bet – New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls are priced at 41.00 to get their hands on the top prize this year. That is hardly surprising, though, as they finished a whopping 25 points behind New England in the East.

Still, RBNY has only suffered three losses in 15 games and heads into the postseason on a high.

Boasting the joint-best defensive record in the league, Gerhard Struber’s boys can prevent even the top teams from scoring. Even a $5 wager on RBNY could land you a tasty profit.

Keep an eye on our soccer blog, as we plan to add more MLS Cup Playoffs content in the coming weeks.

You will also be able to find free betting picks and predictions for the 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs in the soccer picks section of our site.

Ben Morris

Ben is a sportswriter and tipster who specializes in soccer. Currently based in the UK, he has traveled all around the world watching – and betting on – his beloved sport.

Alongside his regular soccer content, Ben publishes blogs and picks for cricket, Formula 1, Aussie rules, darts, and various other sports.

Ben is a diehard fan of Nottingham Forest and England, so he hasn’t had much to cheer about in recent years!

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