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Early Betting Odds for the 2021 MLS Cup – Assessing the Favorites and Sleepers
The last Major League Soccer season may have only just ended, but did you know that you can already bet on the winner of the 2021 MLS Cup?
That’s right – just days after Columbus beat the Sounders 3-0 to clinch the 2020 trophy, bookmakers were already rolling out their odds for the next season.
Of course, the Crew is among the favorites to defend their crown. But it’s fair to say that there are a few shocks on the odds list for the upcoming campaign. There will also be 27 teams competing for the main prize in 2021, with Austin FC joining the league.
In this post, I take a look at the early 2021 MLS Cup betting odds and discuss the bookies’ favorites and sleepers.
Opening 2021 MLS Cup Odds
Here are the early betting odds for the 2021 MLS Cup, courtesy of BetOnline.
At this stage, the bookmakers are favoring New York City (+700) to win the 2021 MLS Cup.
FC Dallas (+750) is the surprise second-favorite, with Columbus Crew (+800), Portland Timbers (+800), and Seattle Sounders (+800) all expected to challenge.
As expected, reigning Supporters’ Shield champion Philadelphia Union (+1100) is also high up on the odds list.
Elsewhere, the bookies clearly don’t think that newcomer Austin FC (+5000) is a threat to the frontrunners.
Assessing the 2021 MLS Cup Favorites
New York City (+700)
Ever since the club entered Major League Soccer in 2015, New York City has been a constant threat.
Following a testing maiden campaign, the Boys in Blue didn’t finish outside the top three in the Eastern Conference for four straight seasons – finishing atop the East in 2019.
The bookmakers have clearly taken note of NYC’s track record in recent years, although the team didn’t exactly impress the last term. Ronney Deila was only able to lead his side to a fifth-place finish, with a playoff defeat to Orlando coming soon after.
There is no denying that NYC’s squad is packed with quality. Argentine Valentin Castellanos was among the league’s star performers in 2020, while youngster Keaton Parks enjoyed an outstanding breakthrough campaign.
However, there are more likely winners of the 2021 MLS Cup in my eyes.
FC Dallas (+750)
At first glance, you could be forgiven for being pretty shocked at FC Dallas’ inclusion among the bookies’ favorites to win the 2021 MLS Cup. After all, the Texans experienced a relatively uneventful 2020 campaign – ending up sixth in the Western Conference.
But having reached the conference semi-finals last term, Toros supporters have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Luchi Gonzalez’s men finished the regular season with the second-best defensive record in the West. Only two goalkeepers kept more clean sheets than Jimmy Maurer in 2020, while Thiago Santos was a rock in defensive midfield.
If Dallas can add more goals to their game, it is difficult to think of too many reasons why they can’t challenge for the title in the upcoming campaign.
Columbus Crew (+800)
The Crew won the 2020 MLS Cup by remaining ruthlessly efficient at both ends of the pitch throughout the entire season.
Not only were Caleb Porter’s men among the top scorers in the Eastern Conference last term, but they also let in the fewest goals in the division – conceding just 21 in 23 regular-season outings.
It will be difficult for Columbus to maintain such a high level for the duration of the 2021 campaign. But if Gyasi Zardes continues to score goals and Johnathan Mensah remains solid at the other end of the pitch, the reigning champions could defend their title.
Portland Timbers (+800)
After enduring a couple of below-par years, the Timbers proved that they can still win silverware by going all the way at the MLS is Back Tournament.
Portland was nowhere near the bookies’ favorites before the competition began. In fact, the Oregon outfit was priced at +2800. With that in mind, you’d be foolish to disregard Giovanni Savarese’s side in 2021.
The Timbers were the highest scorers in the West last season, although they also ended up with the worst defensive record in the top six. It goes without saying that Savarese must tighten up his backline during the offseason.
Portland suffered an agonizing penalty-shootout loss to Dallas in the playoffs last term. Can they bounce back?
Seattle Sounders (+800)
Are you really surprised that Seattle is up there with the favorites to win the 2021 MLS Cup?
After finishing the regular season with the best defensive record and the second-best scoring record in the West, the 2019 champions made it to the final again last season, only to fall at the last hurdle.
Raul Ruidiaz (14 goals, 4 assists), Jordan Morris (12 goals, 9 assists), and Nicolas Lodeiro (8 goals, 8 assists) were all named in the 2020 MLS Best XI. If Seattle’s forward trio can pick up where they left off last term, the team from Washington will be extremely difficult to stop in 2021.
Brian Schmetzer has enjoyed huge success with the Sounders since returning to the club in 2016. With two MLS Cup triumphs and two final losses in the last five years, write off Seattle at your peril.
Another record ✅— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) December 19, 2020
1️⃣5️⃣ straight wins at home in the postseason. pic.twitter.com/cYXH152GtS
Sleepers to Consider for the 2021 MLS Cup
Orlando City (+1800)
Following five tough seasons, the Lions finally established themselves as a genuine force in Major League Soccer last season.
Prior to 2020, Orlando hadn’t finished any higher than seventh in the Eastern Conference. But after reaching the MLS is Back Tournament final, the Florida club finished fourth in the East – before going on to reach the conference semi-finals.
Chris Mueller was the star of the show last term, notching up ten goals and six assists. But let’s not forget that Nani (9 goals, 5 assists) and Daryl Dike (8 goals, 3 assists) also played commendable supporting roles.
I’m backing Dike to shine in 2021. With a season of MLS action under his belt, the young striker could fire Orlando to glory.
Nashville SC (+2800)
It could be argued that Nashville just enjoyed the best maiden season of any expansion team in MLS history.
The Tennessee side gained countless admirers for their eye-catching approach throughout 2020, reaching the conference semi-finals in their very first top-flight campaign. But could the Boys in Gold go one better in 2021?
Well, I can’t think of too many reasons why they couldn’t.
Of course, there are more likely winners. But with goalkeeper Joe Willis achieving the most shutouts last season and Walker Zimmerman being named Defender of the Year, Nashville’s backline is as good as anyone’s.
All I’m saying is – don’t write them off altogether.
Inter Miami (+4000)
Sure, Inter Miami didn’t quite make the impact that fellow newcomers Nashville did in 2020. However, the Herons showed plenty of signs last season that they are turning into a top team.
David Beckham’s franchise managed to lure World Cup-winner Blaise Matuidi to Florida midway through the previous campaign. And as if that wasn’t enough, Miami signed Argentine goal-machine Gonzalo Higuain a few weeks later.
Given Beckham’s pulling power, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more high-profile arrivals during the offseason. Manchester United’s Sergio Romero has been heavily linked with the club, with many other stars on their radar.
Inter Miami was new to Major League Soccer last term, but the team will be heading into the new season with a years’ worth of experience.
Yes, +4000 is a massive longshot. But considering that the Herons are able to attract a level of player that other teams in the league can’t, why not give it a go?
When Does the 2021 MLS Season Start?
Although there isn’t currently a definitive start date for the 2021 season, MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott has said that the new campaign should kick off in early March.
Due to the impacts of the pandemic, the 2020 season finished later than planned. Teams will need to be given a decent offseason, but the league is also keen to get the new campaign up and running as quickly as possible.
It is important to remember that the odds for the 2021 MLS Cup will fluctuate in the coming months. As drafts take place and teams trade players, the bookies will adjust their prices accordingly.
But if you’re planning to make an early prediction, hopefully, this post has helped you to make a decision.
Remember, you can keep up to date with all the latest offseason movements in our soccer blog.