MLS Cup Playoffs Preview
The leading teams in the country will battle for glory when the MLS Cup playoffs get underway this weekend. Twelve teams have secured safe passage through to the First Round, where they will fight to join Conference winners New England and Colorado in the Conference Semifinals. We have previewed all six games and provided a futures betting update.
Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls
November 20 at Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia Union clinched second place in the Eastern Conference table after closing out the regular season with a four-game unbeaten streak. Its reward is a First Round clash with the New York Red Bulls, who scraped into the playoffs with a seventh-place finish.
Philadelphia has home advantage, it had a much stronger regular season record, and it is unbeaten in its last five games against the Red Bulls. It is therefore easy to see why it is the favorite to win this game.
However, this will represent a stern test for Jim Curtin’s men. The Red Bulls finished the regular season with seven wins, four draws and just one defeat from their final 12 games. That saw them defy the odds to secure a playoff berth, and they will be keen to maintain that momentum.
The Union beat the Red Bulls 1-0 at Subaru Park earlier this year, and these teams have since played out two 1-1 draws in New York. Both teams to score looks like an interesting bet in this game. FanDuel has -118 on that outcome. You can combine it with under 4.5 goals in a same game parlay for more value.
Philadelphia had the second best home record in the MLS this season, while the Red Bulls lost nine out of 17 away games, so the +115 available at DraftKings for Philly to win this game looks tempting too.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps
November 20 at Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City
Sporting Kansas City and the Vancouver Whitecaps will renew hostilities in the First Round of the MLS Cup playoffs. Sporting KC eased to a 3-0 victory over Vancouver when the teams met at Children’s Mercy Park back in May.
Dániel Sallói put Kansas City 1-0 up in the first-half, and then Alan Pulido grabbed a brace to settle matters. That was Sporting KC’s third straight win against Vancouver.
However, the Whitecaps gained revenge by beating Peter Vermes’ team 2-1 in Vancouver on October 18. That was their first win against Sporting KC since 2017.
Sporting KC ended the season with three straight defeats and slumped down to third in the table, so it must now play sixth placed Vancouver for a spot in the Conference Semifinals.
Yet key players have now had a couple of weeks to rest, and there is a chance that Pulido may recover from injury in time for this game, so Sporting KC to win and over 1.5 goals looks like a great option.
New York City FC vs. Atlanta United
November 21 at Yankee Stadium, New York
These teams finished level on points at the end of the regular season. However, New York City had a superior goal difference, so it has home advantage for this playoff clash.
That was largely down to New York City’s offensive prowess. It had the second highest goals tally in the Eastern Conference, and star striker Taty Castellanos won the Golden Boot. He will be crucial to his team’s chances of success in this game.
It finished 1-0 to NYCFC when the teams met at the Yankee Stadium earlier this year, and they then drew 1-1 in Atlanta last month.
It is worth noting that NYCFC had a very strong home record this season – 10 wins, four draws and just three defeats from 17 home games. It scored 37 goals at home, which was the highest of any team in the league.
Atlanta won just four of its 17 away games, so losing home advantage was a real blow for this clash. Yet we should also point out that the Five Stripes ended the season with a six-game unbeaten run. They lost just six away matches, and they were all by a single goal margin, so giving Atlanta a +1 Asian handicap might appeal in this game.
Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United
November 21 at Providence Park, Portland, Oregon
These teams finished fourth and fifth respectively in the Western Conference table. Portland had the third best home record in the league and the best in the west, so it should be able to get the better of the Loons in this match.
Minnesota had a dreadful away record, with just three wins from 17 games on the road. It conceded 30 goals in that time, which does not bode well for a trip to Portland. The Timbers banged in 35 goals in their 17 home matches, which was the best record in the Western Conference.
It all points to a comfortable home win for Portland. The only problem is that Minnesota Utd has won its last three games against the Timbers – two of which came in Oregon – and it has not lost to this team since April 2018.
Can Portland break the hoodoo on Sunday? DraftKings has +100 on a home win, while BetMGM has a massive +270 on Minnesota Utd to beat the Timbers for the fourth time in a row. You can avoid the outrights entirely if you are unsure, as a same game parlay of both teams to score and over 2.5 goals looks tempting.
Nashville vs. Orlando City
November 23 at Nissan Stadium, Nashville
Nashville was the only team in the league that went the entire season without losing a home game. It secured eight wins and nine draws from 17 home games, and it was also very prolific in front of goal at Nissan Stadium.
Its leaky defense cost it a few times, but Nashville may feel confidence in its ability to get the better of Orlando, which lost seven of its 17 away matches.
Nashville took third place in the east, despite finishing just three points clear of sixth-place Orlando City.
These teams look evenly matched. They have drawn with one another three times in the past three months, and we could see yet another draw on November 23. The draw is priced at +250 with DraftKings, which looks like a fantastic option.
Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake
November 23 at Lumen Field, Seattle
Perennial MLS Cup contender Seattle Sounders should make short work of Real Salt Lake in this game. It is now bidding to reach its third consecutive MLS Cup final, and it has enough quality to go all the way.
The Sounders were winless in their final six games of the regular season, which saw them finish second in the Western Conference – a point behind Colorado. That means they must deal with a First Round clash, but key players Nicolás Lodeiro, Raúl Ruidíaz and João Paulo should return from injury in time for the game.
Their return would give Seattle a great chance to return to winning ways. The Sounders won just eight of their 17 home games in the regular season, but Real Salt Lake was woeful on the road. RSL lost 10 of 17 away matches, so it stands little chance of success at Lumen Field.
It finished 1-0 to RSL when these teams met in Utah on September 18, but the Sounders have won their last three home games against Freddy Juarez’s men, and they should reassert their dominance in this clash. DraftKings has -145 on a home win, but you can get more money by betting on Seattle to win and under 4.5 goals.
Futures Betting Update
New England Revolution remains the favorite to win the MLS Cup after clinching the Supporters’ Shield in record-breaking fashion. The Revs will face either New York City FC or Atlanta United at home in the Conference Semifinals, and they really should win that game.
They had a terrific regular season record at Gillette Stadium, with 12 wins, three draws and only two defeats, while neither NYCFC nor Atlanta Utd impressed on the road. Carles Gil has the quality to unlock either defense, and the likes of Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa and Tajon Buchanan should continue to flourish.
It is easy to see the Revs reaching the Conference Final, which takes place on December 4, and it would be undaunted by the prospect of facing Nashville, Orlando City, Philadelphia or the Red Bulls. A bet on the Revs to win the Eastern Conference looks tempting.
Its greatest challenge could come from the Western Conference. Colorado is priced at +450 to win the MLS Cup and just +110 to win the Conference, but you cannot write off the Sounders.
They should improve considerably with Lodeiro, Raúl Ruidíaz and Paulo back in the team. The squad has a wealth of postseason experience, and the players know how to get the job done in tight playoff clashes. FanDuel has +850 on the Sounders lifting the MLS Cup for the second time in three years, and that looks very attractive.