As soccer in America continues to improve, the nation has collectively started paying attention to the home-grown talent on display here on American soil.
If the All-Star Game taught us anything, it is that the MLS has a core of promising talent that can hang with the world’s best. Midway through the season, a few teams have risen to the top and look to be real contenders for the title.
We will review each of these favorites and highlight a few underdogs to watch as the MLS season winds down in 2018.
As of August 2, 2018, Oddsshark favors Atlanta United +400, NYC FC +550, with LA FC, Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls all at +800 to win the MLS Cup.
Atlanta United +400
With 47 points and a seat atop the powerful Eastern Conference, it’s easy to see why Atlanta United are the current favorites for the MLS Cup. They are on pace to challenge the season-long points record, the season-long goals record, and are lucky to own one of the MLS’ best stars in forward Josef Martinez.
The city of Atlanta has rallied around this squad for good reason. They’ve transitioned from high-press football to become an adaptable club that can adjust to every opponent and break down defenses in many ways. With the combination of Martinez and midfielder Miguel Almiron, this is a squad that can score goals quickly and could bring home a Cup to Georgia.
New York City FC +550
Sitting at 2nd place in the East and despite losing their manager Patrick Vieira, NYC FC has remained a contender in the MLS. This club plays some of the most attractive football in the league, but isn’t quite as consistent as they were this time last year.
Captain David Villa continues to recover from his knee injury but should return soon, which may give NYC FC the boost they need heading into the postseason. They’re currently on a franchise-best 13-match unbeaten run at home and are hoping that 19-year-old signing Valentin Casellanos will provide a spark in the midfield while Villa continues to recover. Nevertheless, this is a squad to keep an eye on as the season winds down.
Los Angeles FC +800
Chasing FC Dallas in the West, LA FC has been the MLS’ hottest team in recent time. Through their inaugural season, the squad is on-par for the best start ever by an expansion side in the MLS- tying the 1998 Chicago Fire and two points ahead of the 2017 Atlanta United squad.
This team has the highest goals per game in the league, the third-highest goal differential and will host 9 of their final 16 games at home. They have a very legitimate shot to compete for the MLS Cup and bring home hardware in their first ever season in the league. If Adama Diomande can continue his dominance, this squad will be a terrifying draw in the postseason.
Sporting Kansas City +800
Fifth place in the West doesn’t sound too impressive, but Sporting Kansas City is a team used to being in the hunt in the MLS Cup. Despite their defense not being as powerful as years past, this squad will continue to compete until the season’s conclusion. They were first in the West earlier this year before a losing streak has seen them slide down the standings.
They’ve allowed multiple goals in 8 straight matches and will hope to turn things around heading into the postseason. They will need their defense to heal up and solidify the holes that have been exploited consistently if they want a chance to raise any hardware in 2018.
New York Red Bulls +800
Easily among the hottest squads in the league, New York Red Bulls are a threatening squad that can compete with anyone they face. They’ve proven they can beat the best with a convincing 4-0 thumping of NYC FC last month and a victory over Atlanta United earlier this season. They’ve only lost twice in their last 10 matches and will look to continue their winning ways as the season winds on.
Kemar Lawrence has emerged as the league’s best left back and veteran Bradley-Wright Phillips is playing some of the best soccer of his career. This is a team to bet on if you’re looking to put money down now, as their odds will only continue to improve as their campaign endures.
As any sports fan knows, crazy things can happen in the postseason. These are a few teams to keep an eye on if you’re looking for an underdog to bet on this year.
Portland Timbers +1100
After a miserable start to the season, the Timbers have simplified their tactics and are relying on their three-headed attack of Diego Valeri, Sebastian Blanco and Samuel Armenteros to score goals in front of a heavy defensive lineup. They’ve got a home-heavy schedule the rest of the season and could be a team that catches people by surprise this postseason.
FC Dallas +1100
They’re first in the West, but don’t strike fear in opponents like some of the other squads in their conference. They’re a solid defensive team that sometimes struggles to finish, which could be their downfall in the postseason. If a young offensive talent can step up for this squad, they could ride their defense deep into the postseason.
Toronto FC +1200
It’s rare to consider a defending champion as an underdog, but injuries have derailed the 2018 campaign for Toronto.
It’s rare to consider a defending champion as an underdog, but injuries have derailed the 2018 campaign for Toronto. They’re currently not even in the playoff picture, but are only six points back and will hope to make a playoff push as the season continues.
The only reason I’ve placed them on this list is their championship experience and the fact that they just got Victor Vasquez back, which could make the difference for them if they can get some momentum going. Don’t bet on them yet, but if they string a few wins together and get a couple more key players back from injury, they might be able to turn things around.
LA Galaxy +1800
Third in the West and one point behind their hometown rivals, the LA Galaxy are a team that relies heavily on offense and beating the teams that they are supposed to. Their backline is suspect, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be enough to outscore a team or two in the postseason. They need to do something about their defense if they want any chance at a postseason run.
All in all, the MLS season is sure to be entertaining as the second half continues. Whether it’s the league’s newest squad or one one of the Big Apple’s contenders, the race for the cup should be close and worth watching.
Did we miss a team or underestimate your squad? Let us know in the forum!