How to Bet on MLS Soccer
The popularity of Major League Soccer has grown dramatically since the league began play in 1996.
Building on the success of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which took place in the United States, the MLS has enjoyed rapid expansion since beginning operation with just 10 teams, and currently fields 23 teams in two conferences playing annually for the MLS Cup. Further expansion plans are in place to bring the MLS to Cincinnati, Miami, and Nashville over the next two years.
While the 1994 World Cup experience initially stoked fan interest, it has been maintained by the arrival of some of the soccer world’s biggest stars, including David Villa, Bastian Schweinsteiger, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who have crossed the Atlantic following illustrious careers in Europe, while MLS stars like Landon Donovan, Sebastian Giovinco, and Josef Martinez have proven that the MLS is a legitimate destination for soccer stars in their prime playing years.
As the MLS has gained in popularity with both players and fans, it has also attracted the attention of sports bettors across North America. Seasoned bettors raised on Premier League and UEFA Champions League action are increasingly turning to the MLS during the European football offseason, while novices are learning more about their sports betting options as they embrace the Beautiful Game for the first time.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the ways you can get in on some MLS betting action this season.
Spread and Moneyline Betting
Betting on the spread and the moneyline are the two most popular forms of wagering on Major League Soccer. Simply put, a moneyline bet enables you to wager on the outcome of a game, including bets on a win, loss, or draw, while betting on the spread allows you to wager on the winning team’s margin of victory.
Seattle Sounders -150
Vancouver Whitecaps +350
The above example illustrates what a moneyline bet looks like at the sportsbook. The Seattle Sounders are listed as a -150 favorite, meaning that you must bet $150 to win $100, while the Vancouver Whitecaps trail as +350 underdogs, which means a successful $100 bet will win you $350.
Since there is no overtime in MLS regular season games, it is very common for a match to end in a draw following 90 minutes of play. In this example, a successful $100 bet on a tied match would win you a tidy sum of $275.
In the event where extra time is added to a tied match, such as in certain situations during the MLS Playoffs where teams play two 15 minute periods of overtime, the outcome of a bet on the draw is determined by the score at the end of 90 minutes.
Seattle Sounders -1.5 (-140)
Vancouver Whitecaps +1.5 (+115)
Betting on the spread is illustrated in the above example, with the Seattle Sounders favored by a 1.5-goal spread in their date with the Vancouver Whitecaps. This means that the Sounders must win by at least a two-goal margin for the bet to be a winner. Conversely, Vancouver is pegged as a 1.5-goal underdog, meaning they must come away from the game losing by no more than a one-goal margin for a bet on the Whitecaps to be a winner.
Moneyline odds are added to each spread, which determine how much a winning bet will pay. In this example, you must bet $140 to win $100 on a successful bet on Seattle, while a $100 wager on the Whitecaps to cover wins you $115.
Totals betting enables you to bet on the combined number of goals that will be scored by both teams during a Major League Soccer match.
Seattle Sounders O 2.5 (-125)
Vancouver Whitecaps U 2.5 (+105)
In the above example, the total has been set at 2.5 goals, which means a bet on the OVER, as indicated by the O on the betting line, requires both teams to score at least three goals for your bet to be graded a winner.
A bet on the UNDER, as indicated by the U on the betting line, is only a winner if the two teams combine to score fewer than three goals. Just like betting on the spread, payouts in totals betting are determined by the moneyline odds attached to the OVER and the UNDER. A successful bet on OVER 2.5 goals means you must wager $125 to win $100, while a successful $100 bet on the UNDER will return you $105 in winnings.
First Half Betting
While all the above examples of betting on the moneyline, the spread, and the total are presented in the context of a complete match, betting on the outcome of the first half of an MLS match is also available. First Half betting options are typically and easily accessed by clicking through to the match’s betting page at the online sportsbook, and are typically indicated by a 1H on the betting line.
MLS Props Betting
While betting on the outcome of an MLS match and how many goals will be scored is the most popular form of Major League Soccer betting, an array of additional betting options are typically available, commonly known as prop bets, which cover all aspects of the match, including individual player performances.
MLS Props Betting – Game Props
Game Props focus on the score of the match, as well as the margin of victory. But instead of simply focusing on which team will win, Game Props also enable you to bet on the exact score at various times in a match, both at half time and at the conclusion of a match.
Half Time / Full Time wagering allows you to bet on which team will be leading at the half, combined with which team will emerge as the winner.
Seattle Sounders – Vancouver Whitecaps +4000
Draw – Vancouver Whitecaps +900
Seattle Sounders – Draw +1400
Three examples of Half Time / Full Time wagers are illustrated above. In the first example, Seattle must be leading at the half, and Vancouver must emerge as the winner of the match for the wager to be successful, and pay $4000 on a $100 bet.
In the second example, the two teams must be level at half time, and Vancouver must emerge as the winner of the match for this bet to pay out on +900 odds, while the third example illustrates a bet on Seattle to lead at the half, with the match ending in a draw to pay out on +1400 odds.
MLS Props Betting – Goal Props
Goal Props include bets on which team will score the first goal of the match, the exact number of total goals that will be scored during the match, and during the first half. Additional wagering is also available on when goals are scored throughout the match, with betting on which teams will score in each half of the match, if at all.
MLS Props Betting – Player Props
Player Props enable you to bet on the offensive performance of individual players in a match, often combined with the final outcome of the match.
Wagering is available on who will be the first goal scorer in a match, as well as betting on a player to score at anytime during the contest. A significant layer of complexity is added with Scorecast Betting, which allows you to wager on an individual player scoring at anytime during the game, combined with the final score of the contest.
Clint Dempsey (SEA) and Seattle Sounders 2-1 +7000
The above example illustrates the layout of a Scorecast bet at the sportsbook. In this example, Clint Dempsey must score and Seattle must win by an exact score of 2-1 for the bet to be a winner, and pay out on generous +7000 odds. That means a $100 bet will win $7000.
Betting on MLS Futures
While all of the above MLS betting options focus on the outcome and player performances during a single MLS match, it is possible to bet on how your favorite MLS team will finish the regular season and perform in the MLS Playoffs.
The most common type of MLS futures bet involves wagering on which team will win the MLS Cup, awarded annually to the league champions. MLS futures betting odds are subject to dramatic change depending on the performance of individual teams, and are typically available year-round with the opening odds coming available within days of the end of the MLS season.
In addition to wagering on the winner of the MLS Cup, betting on which team will emerge as the winner of the Eastern and Western Conferences is periodically available, as well as betting on the winner of individual playoff series.
MLS futures also enable you to wager on individual player performances over the course of the season, with odds available on which players will win individual awards including top goalscorer and league’s Most Valuable Player. However, availability of futures betting on player performance is often limited to the preseason and the early days of the MLS campaign.