Upcoming Match-ups

Opening Odds to Win & Qualify from Each Group in the MLS is Back Tournament

Ryan Metivier

by Ryan Metivier in Soccer News

Updated Mar 12, 2021 · 7:50 AM PST

Seattle Sounders' Gustav Svensson
Seattle Sounders' Gustav Svensson (4) is surrounded by teammates after scoring the team's third, and winning, goal against Minnesota United in an MLS playoff Western Conference final soccer match, Monday, Dec. 7, 2020, in Seattle. The Sounders won 3-2. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
  • The MLS is Back Tournament group stage draw was held last Thursday
  • Odds have been released for the favorites to win each group and to qualify for the knockout round
  • Read on for our early take on each of the groups with the tournament still about one month away

Major League Soccer will be back on the pitch, in Orlando, starting on July 8. The league will resume with a World Cup-style tournament taking place over one month.

The league’s 26 teams have been split up over six groups and will each play three group stage matches to advance to the knockout rounds. The top two teams from each group, plus the four best third-place teams will move on to the round of 16.

With odds released for each group, we’re taking an early look at which teams could advance from the group stage starting with the three Eastern Conference groups, followed by the West.

Eastern Conference Group A Odds

Team To Qualify Odds To Win Odds
NYCFC (A3) -250 +150
Philadelphia (A4) -180 +250
Inter Miami (A2) +150 +600
Orlando (A1) +150 +600
Chicago (A5) +175 +750
Nashville (A6) +400 +1800

All odds taken June 15

Group A is a little different in that there are six teams, instead of four and includes the host city Orlando City. As the group has extra teams, not every side will play each other. The schedule and matchups for this group are below.

  • Team A1: vs. A2, A3, A6
  • Team A2: vs. A1, A4, A5
  • Team A3: vs. A1, A4, A5
  • Team A4: vs. A2, A3, A6
  • Team A5: vs. A2, A3, A6
  • Team A6: vs. A1, A4, A5

There’s no doubt New York City FC are the favorites from this group, but let’s not forget in this quick group stage format, plus a group with additional sides in it, advancing from Group A will be tough. NYCFC had a solid 2019 season but didn’t last long in the playoffs. They also were slow out of the gates losing their first two matches.

They should advance but I’m not sure they offer the best value. The Union, should they be able to defeat NYCFC in their second match could be the better value bet. However, they have lost each of their past four games against New York.

The longshot could be Orlando. The hosts won’t have their fans, but will at least be playing close to home. Though everyone is playing on a new pitch at Disney World. The Lions have been dreadful in MLS since joining the league, but do have talent, and Nani and co. will surely be wanting to make a strong account of themselves in this special event in their home state.

The rest of the group is made up of expansion teams Inter Miami and Nashville, plus Chicago who went through a huge roster overhaul themselves this offseason.

Picks to Qualify: Philadelphia, Orlando

Eastern Conference Group C Odds

Team To Qualify Odds To Win Odds
Toronto FC -600 +120
Montreal -200 +300
DC United -150 +400
New England -130 +400

Sticking in the Eastern Conference, we’ll jump to Group C which features MLS Cup finalists Toronto FC as the top favorites.

Both Toronto and Montreal started the season 1-1-0 (WDL) and will surely offer some fireworks when the Canadian rivals square off. Toronto has plenty of experience in the MLS Cup Playoffs and CCL to build off, though Montreal won the Canadian Championship last year and were participating in the CCL Quarterfinals earlier this year. New Montreal head coach Thierry Henry knows all about a World Cup format and could give his side an advantage.

But don’t discount New England who have a ton of firepower and who are a team I expect to advance from this group in some fashion. To note is Montreal and New England played earlier this year in the brief regular season where Montreal won 2-1 in Week 1.

If DC stands a chance, it’s that they typically play a strong defensive style, something that may be easier to pick back up with after the long layoff, and should they grind out some results could make it through.

Picks to Qualify: Toronto, New England

Eastern Conference Group E Odds

Team To Qualify Odds To Win Odds
Atlanta -800 +100
Columbus -250 +300
New York Red Bulls -250 +300
FC Cincinnati +180 +900

The last team drawn into this group to me is the best choice to come out on top in Eastern Conference Group E. The Columbus Crew play good defense and bolstered their side in the offseason with offensive talents like Lucas Zelarayan and Fanendo Adi, plus midfield veteran Darlington Nagbe.

You can never look past 2018 champions Atlanta United but they will be playing without star striker Josef Martinez.

Plenty of questions remain around New York and Cincinnati, as the Red Bulls had moved on from the likes of Luis Robles and Bradley Wright-Phillips and Cincinnati are coming off a horrendous 2019 season and are working several new bodies into their lineup.

The Red Bulls and FCC played in Week 2 which resulted in a 3-2 New York win.

Picks to Qualify: Columbus, Atlanta

Western Conference Group B Odds

Team To Qualify Odds To Win Odds
Seattle -1000 -120
FC Dallas -200 +260
San Jose -150 +500
Vancouver +100 +750

Winners of two of the past four MLS Cups and finalists in another during that span, how can you look anywhere other than the Sounders to win this group?

The point against them would be that FC Dallas pushed Seattle to the brink in the playoffs last year losing 4-3 and won twice (2-1) while drawing another (0-0) against Seattle in last year’s regular season.

Vancouver are still a work in progress, while San Jose did little to improve in the offseason and stumbled out of the blocks with a draw and loss in the opening weeks this year. Their seven goals allowed in those games was two more than any other side to start the year.

Picks to Qualify: Seattle, Dallas

Western Conference Group D Odds

Team To Qualify Odds To Win Odds
Minnesota -400 +155
Sporting KC -350 +185
Real Salt Lake -160 +350
Colorado +110 +600

Western Conference Group D would appear to be one of the most balanced groups on paper. Sporting KC had a down year in 2019 but are historically one of the West’s top sides and had taken steps towards improvement in the offseason. They looked impressive in a short sample size this season with two wins, scoring seven goals and only conceding once.

But two other sides in this group also started the year in impressive fashion as both Minnesota and Colorado won each of their opening matches. Minnesota scored the most goals in the league with eight in those two games. Colorado missed out on MLS Cup last year but were in the hunt right down to the end and were very strong once Robin Fraser took over as head coach.

Real Salt lake reached the playoffs last year and played out two low-scoring draws to start the year, 0-0 and 1-1. That means none of these four teams had lost a game to start the year.

Picks to Qualify: Sporting KC, Minnesota

Western Conference Group F Odds

Team To Qualify Odds To Win Odds
LAFC -2000 -105
LA Galaxy -400 +200
Houston +100 +600
Portland +135 +750

The final group, Western Conference Group F is probably the most intriguing. I’m labeling it the Group of Death with both LA-based clubs, the 2015 MLS Cup champs and 2018 finalists Portland, plus a Houston Dynamo side capable of pulling some upsets. The Dynamo are typically horrible away from home but will have an advantage of familiarity with playing in extreme heat in the summer, over a team like Portland.

I wouldn’t say any of these teams looked hugely impressive over the opening two rounds earlier this year, yet LAFC were the only undefeated side of the four (1-1-0) and are the defending Supporters’ Shield winners.

The Timbers were 1-0-1 to start while neither the Dynamo or the Galaxy picked up a win in their opening two games. However, Houston and the LA Galaxy did play out a 1-1 draw in Week 1. Both teams have scored in each of the past seven matches between the Dynamo and the Galaxy and Houston holds an impressive run of recent results with a 3-3-1 (WDL) record.

Someone is going to be disappointed early in this tournament and it may be the Galaxy. They were slow to adjust to the departure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic this offseason and the whole team still looked like they needed more time to learn how to properly utilize his replacement, Chicharito into the squad.

Picks to Qualify: LAFC, Portland

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