- The 2021 MLS regular season kicks off Friday with two matches, followed by eight on Saturday and three more on Sunday
- Austin FC joins as the 27th team, while Montreal vs Toronto and Orlando vs Atlanta rivalries highlight Saturday’s action
- Read on for our Major League Soccer Week 1 best bets and opening weekend trends below
MLS is back! And this year it’s not just the name of a summer tournament. The 2021 MLS season kicks off with a full season expected for every team starting on Friday, April 16. MLS opening weekend gets rolling with Houston vs San Jose and a Western Conference Final rematch of Seattle vs Minnesota on Friday before the rest of the schedule continues on Saturday and Sunday.
Almost every team will be in action with 26 of the 27 clubs taking to the pitch on opening weekend with only Real Salt Lake getting the week off until their debut on April 24. The league’s 27th club, Austin FC, will be in action though, traveling for a tough away debut to Banc of California Stadium to face LAFC.
MLS Week 1 Odds
|Houston Dynamo vs San Jose Earthquakes||-114||+270||+280|
|Seattle Sounders vs Minnesota United||-120||+275||+290|
|CF Montreal vs Toronto FC||+250||+260||-103|
|Orlando City SC vs Atlanta United||+104||+250||+250|
|Los Angeles FC vs Austin FC||-225||+350||+575|
|New York Red Bulls vs Sporting Kansas City||+138||+255||+175|
|FC Dallas vs Colorado Rapids||+104||+260||+240|
|DC United vs New York City FC||+310||+270||-124|
|Nashville SC vs FC Cincinnati||-134||+265||+360|
|Chicago Fire vs New England Revolution||+165||+245||+150|
|Inter Miami CF vs Los Angeles Galaxy||-120||+265||+300|
|Columbus Crew vs Philadelphia Union||-120||+265||+300|
|Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland Timbers||+350||+280||-137|
All odds as of April 14 at DraftKings
Given the times, we of course will have some quirks to the season. Much like other North American sports, due to travel restrictions across the border, each Canadian team, for now at least, has a newly adopted home. So welcome to the league Fort Lauderdale (Toronto and Montreal), while Real Salt Lake will get a roommate as the Vancouver Whitecaps will play at Rio Tinto Stadium.
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With no US Open Cup last season, the first three games for each US-based team will count towards qualification for this year’s tournament.
Schedules have also been adjusted to limit travel and group teams against more conference opponents. Nashville has remained in the East, but Austin will join the West.
— Portland Timbers (@TimbersFC) April 14, 2021
The CONCACAF Champions League will wrap up the round of 16 tonight when Columbus hosts Real Esteli. The Crew won 4-0 in Nicaragua in leg one and look primed to advance later tonight. Already through to the quarterfinals are Atlanta, Portland, Toronto and Philadelphia.
MLS Opening Weekend Trends
|Year||Home Record (WDL)||Over/Under 2.5||Both Teams to Score||Average Goals|
Some people can shy away from MLS betting, given many teams are often relatively balanced, and because, well it’s MLS, a lot of wacky things often happen in games. But that wackiness often results in goals. Lots of them. Last season, MLS games averaged 2.86 goals per game as per SoccerStats. For reference, compared to this current season in Europe, that’s higher than the EPL (2.67), La Liga (2.48) and Ligue 1 (2.71). It’s also a little below leagues like Serie A and the Eredivisie (3.01) and the Bundesliga (3.00).
Basically, during the season, I like to look for spots to back both teams scoring and/or OVER 2.5 goals.
Can you order these competitions based on their average goals per game? 🤔
⚽ Primeira Liga 🇵🇹
⚽ Premier League 🏴
⚽ Bundesliga 🇩🇪
⚽ Brazilian Serie A 🇧🇷
⚽ Serie A 🇮🇹
⚽ MLS 🇺🇸
⚽ Ligue 1 🇫🇷
⚽ Eredivisie 🇳🇱
⚽ La Liga 🇪🇸
⚽ Jupiler League 🇧🇪
— FlashScore.com (@FlashScorecom) March 12, 2021
In 2020, four teams (LAFC, Colorado, Houston and Chicago) all saw 91-percent or more of their games go OVER 1.5 goals. The lowest percentage here was Toronto, NYCFC and Nashville at 57-percent. But for OVER 2.5 totals, six teams (LAFC, Minnesota, Inter Miami, Montreal, San Jose and Chicago) saw at least three goals in their games 70-percent or more of the time. In fact 15 of the league’s 26 teams went OVER 2.5 goals 61-percent or more. Just don’t bet Nashville. Their stingy defense and low-scoring ways only saw them go OVER 30-percent of the time.
No team saw more of their games feature both teams finding the back of the net than Orlando City who was 19-4 in that category. Each of Montreal, Portland, Miami and Houston were 16-7. Dallas at 9-13 and Cincinnati at 6-17 were the only two teams to not have double-digit matches with both scoring.
Goals, goals, and more goals!
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 15, 2021
But how does that translate to opening weekend? Well, by looking at the table above, I’d say it’s pretty hit or miss. In the past ten years, opening weekends in MLS have slightly tilted to UNDER 2.5 toals at 53-48. Both teams scoring in opening matches is just 52-49 in that time period. However, the past two years, OVERs are 16-9 and both teams scoring is 20-5. That has a lot to do with 11/12 opening weekend matches doing so in the 2019 season.
Home teams, like they do most of the season, also have a better record. They’ve won 47 of 101 matches, while road teams have won 30, (24 draws).
Previous Year Champions & Finalist Week 1 Results
|Year||Champion Result||Finalist Result|
|2020||Seattle Won 2-1||Toronto Draw 2-2|
|2019||Atlanta Lost 2-0||Portland Draw 3-3|
|2018||Toronto Lost 2-0||Seattle Lost 1-0|
|2017||Seattle Lost 2-1||Toronto Draw 0-0|
|2016||Portland Won 2-0||Columbus Lost 2-1|
|2015||LA Galaxy Won 2-0||New England Lost 3-0|
|2014||SKC Lost 1-0||RSL Won 1-0|
|2013||LA Galaxy Won 4-0||Houston Won 2-0|
|2012||LA Galaxy Lost 3-1||Houston Won 1-0|
|2011||Colorado Won 3-1||Dallas Draw 1-1|
|Total||5-0-5 (WDL)||3-4-3 (WDL)|
The 2020 MLS Cup champs are the Columbus Crew, who defeated the Seattle Sounders 3-0. Past season success doesn’t necessarily translate to MLS opening weekend though. Current champions are just 5-0-5 (WDL) in their first match since lifting the trophy in the past ten years. Past champs are just 1-0-3 the past four years. And finalists have had no better luck, going 3-4-3 in the past ten years. In fact, an MLS Cup finalist hasn’t won on opening weekend since 2014.
With both Seattle, home to Minnesota (West finalists), and Columbus, home to Philadelphia (Supporters’ Shield winners), facing tough opponents this weekend, you may want to avoid a bet on these home teams.
MLS Expansion Team Debuts; Odds Against Austin FC
Major League Soccer continues to grow each season with several expansion teams joining in the last number of years. This year Austin FC make their debut, with several more teams scheduled to join in the coming years.
Austin are wide outsiders to defeat LAFC on Saturday with odds of +575. Any casual observer of the league wouldn’t be surprised by that.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 14, 2021
But betting an expansion team to win their first game in MLS should be done at your own peril. The Vancouver Whitecaps won 4-2 in their 2011 debut, but since then, new squads are just 1-2-6 (WDL). The only other win was LAFC defeating Seattle 1-0 in 2018. And even the two draws, are really only one since New York City and Orlando both joined the league in 2015 and debuted against each other in a 1-1 draw.
Last year Inter Miami lost 1-0 to LAFC, while Nashville lost 2-1 to Atlanta. In 2019, FC Cincinnati lost 4-1 to Seattle.
MLS Opening Weekend Best Bets
Orlando City vs Atlanta United Prediction
Like many matchups in 2020, these teams saw each other a lot last season. Four times to be exact. In three of those matches, both teams found the back of the net. The four matches were also bookended by 3-1 and 4-1 Orlando wins. Atlanta’s time of owning the Lions is no more, however, star striker Josef Martinez was out for all of these matches with an injury and he’ll surely be an impact in this rivalry in 2021.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) April 14, 2021
Orlando has the recent upper hand and the home-field advantage. But Atlanta will have more recent big-game experience, though could be fatigued. They’ve already played twice in the CONCACAF Champions League—two 1-0 wins over the Costa Ricans in Alajuelense.
As mentioned earlier, 19/23 Orlando City games saw both teams score last season and I think that trend continues. They also should be a little fresher with Atlanta having played Tuesday. Therefore an Orlando City win where both teams score at +300 would offer the most bang for your buck. But for a lesser payout, simply backing both to score also looks good.
Pick: Both Teams to Score – Yes (-148)
LAFC vs Austin FC Prediction
Bob Bradley’s LAFC were 7-2-2 at home last season. They were 13-1-3 in 2019 and 9-1-7 in 2018. Carlos Vela is healthy, they had no arduous pre-season travels in CCL this year and are facing a squad making their debut in the league.
Last season’s home and season opener saw LAFC play one of the 2020 expansion teams and they won 1-0. In 2019 they beat that year’s expansion team, FC Cincinnati at home 2-0. So while it’s a small sample size, new teams facing LAFC for the first time, so far, haven’t had much success.
We’re excited to welcome a limited number of fans back to @BancStadium. While things may be different, the health and safety of our fans and players are our top priority.
Here’s everything you need to know for the return. 🧵
— LAFC (@LAFC) April 13, 2021
Combine that with the record we compiled for expansion sides in Week 1 earlier and the odds look stacked against Austin in this one. A reminder that expansion teams in Week 1 are just 2-2-6 (WDL) and one of those wins came from LAFC in their expansion year in 2018.
I’ve been watching the odds for a home win continue to shorten for a home win all week, to the point, that at -225, we need to get a little more creative. Vela and Diego Rossi are both Golden Boot favorites and at -132 and -103 odds respectively to score a goal, they could be worth a play.
It’s hard to see LAFC not scoring. But with an improved defense and much of last year’s roster intact, they could also keep a clean sheet in MLS Week 1.
Pick: LAFC to win to nil (+175)
Chicago Fire vs New England Revolution Prediction
The Fire weren’t great in 2020. But they did have the highest expected goals (xG) in the East. Striker Robert Berić had the third-highest individual xG in the league. He also finished tied in second for most goals with 12. It was the Chicago defense that was the problem, allowing the third-most goals in the East. Overall, 70-percent of the Fire’s matches went OVER the 2.5 total.
New England was the opposite. Only 39-percent of their matches went OVER 2.5—the same as the New York Red Bulls, and only above Nashville. The 2.22 average goals scored per Revolution match, made the Revs one of just six to average below 2.5. However, with Carles Gil, Adam Buksa, Gustavo Bou, Teal Bunbury and new signing Arnor Traustason, Bruce Arena’s side will always be goal dangerous.
The countdown to @ChicagoFire FC's 2021 season continues! Tonight on GN Sports, the club's 2020 leading scorer Robert Berić speaks with @paytonsun about what he's looking forward to over the next few months. Watch the interview at 10:30 PM on @WGNNews. pic.twitter.com/veMrXTwuow
— GNSportsTV (@GNSportsTV) April 10, 2021
For Chicago, 15 of their 23 matches saw both teams scoring, while 13/23 saw the same for New England.
Last season the Revs claimed a 2-1 road win over Chicago and the two split the points in a 1-1 draw in New England. Across their past ten meetings in MLS, each have scored on eight occasions. The Fire have actually scored in 11-straight matches against New England in any competition.
I see too much offense on each side for both not to score (-175), or even both scoring and OVER 2.5 (-105), but think a scored-draw offers the best value.
Pick: Draw + both teams to score (+325)