Finding value in 2021 MLS Cup odds

The MLS Cup trophy is seen before the start of a game between the Seattle Sounders FC and the Chicago Fire at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
The MLS Cup trophy is seen before the start of a game between the Seattle Sounders FC and the Chicago Fire at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports /

A new MLS season means plenty of things. Exciting prospects to make their debuts, a new name for Montreal, Austin FC celebrates their inaugural season and plenty of opportunities to increase your bankroll. With five days to go until opening kick-off, game lines are already out, but we’ll hold off on those until later. For now, let’s dive into MLS Cup futures to break down each team’s odds and find the best values for your money.

Odds to Win 2021 MLS Cup by DraftKings


LAFC (+400)

For the second year in a row, LAFC checks in as the pre-season favorite to win it all, although they don the role as favorite in a very different position to last year. Heading into last season, LAFC was coming off a season that saw Carlos Vela break records while hosting the conference-best defense led by Walker Zimmerman. In 2020, LAFC would have to do without both of their stars as injuries plagued Vela, and Zimmerman was traded to Nashville SC. Zimmerman would win 2020 MLS Defender of the Year, while LAFC’s defense would concede more goals in 12 fewer games than the previous year. A small caveat is, the defense was incredibly unlucky posting a 29 xGA but giving up 39. The Black and Gold have plenty of goal-scoring potential, especially with a healthy Carlos Vela; their defense will need to step up in a big way if they are to be successful.

Columbus Crew (+550)

As defending champions, Columbus will be looking for a repeat, and sportsbooks highly value their chances. Last season, the Crew finished the season with the league’s best defense and put the public on notice with three straight shutouts to claim the 2020 title. As rabid as Head Coach Caleb Porter’s defense was, their attack was as ferocious. Striker Gyasi Zardes finished second on the scoring charts with 12 goals, and new arrival Lucas Zelarayán established himself as one of the league’s most creative forces. Columbus has avoided any major departures this off-season while adding valuable depth around the team. I’d place their odds closer to +400 than LAFC’s.

Seattle Sounders (+650)

Seattle has never missed the postseason and is again coming off a finals appearance for the second consecutive season. This time, the team did not return to the Emerald City as champions. Fortunately for Seattle, they return three and potentially four core pieces in Raúl Ruidíaz, Nicolás Lodeiro, Christian Roldan, and Jordan Morris, who will miss a majority, if not the entire season due to a torn ACL. Morris had arguably his best season last year, registering 11 goals and eight assists in 27 appearances for the club. While much of their midfield and forward options remain intact, Seattle’s defense has undergone a massive transformation over the past two off-seasons that has seen 2019, and 2020 contributors Brad Smith, Kelvin Leerdam, Roman Torres, and Gustav Svensson depart the club. Seattle will make the playoffs, but a return to the finals feels unlikely.

Toronto FC (+900)

Toronto looked to be a strong contender for much of last season before the wheels fell off as the campaign came to a finish. Despite having the league MVP, Alejandro Pozuelo, in their ranks, Toronto limped to a 1W-0D-4L, including a first-round playoff exit to league debutants Nashville SC. The Reds will enter 2021 wish a fresh slate with a new coach, former New York Red Bulls man Chris Armas. Outside of Pozuelo, there is an interesting pool of talents such as right-back Richie Laryea, striker Ayo Akinola, defender Ralph Mavinga, midfielder Jonathan Osorio, and wingers Jayden Nelson and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty. The talent is there for Toronto; the biggest question is if Armas is the right man to Toronto back on track.


NYCFC (+1100)

Last season was not ideal for new manager Ronny Delia. After finishing top of the Eastern Conference in 2019, the team was plagued by inconsistent play. The new manager lost each of his first four games and five of the first six overall. The next 19 games saw Delia’s men finish 12W-3D-4L before losing to Orlando City FC on penalties in the first round of the playoffs. Of the nine losses experienced by the pigeons, seven were by just a single score and all to fellow playoff teams. With the knocks from last season and plenty of talent, NYC could be on the verge of a breakthrough.

Philadelphia Union (+1100)

Even though the season was shortened, there is no denying last season was the most successful in Philadelphia’s 11-year history. While the forward duo of Sergio Santos and Kacper Przyblko, combined with 19 goals and seven assists last year, returns, creative engine Brendan Aaronson and defensive stalwart Mark McKenzie have moved abroad. Despite some shrewd moves to replace the departed, if Philly couldn’t win a championship with Aaronson and McKenzie last season, they aren’t winning one this year.

New England Revolution (+1400)

In the 50 games, before Bruce Arena took over the Revolution, New England was 14W-17D-19L. In the 50 since Arena has led a revolution in New England. The Revs have gone 20W-16D-14L since coming under new management. Under Arena, New England has developed a stout defense capable of frustrating opponents on the block. With only 25 goals conceded last season, New England was a top-five defense. Now they need goals. Scoring has been an issue for New England outside of striker Gustavo Bou, with 17 goals in 18 appearances. With their defense backing up Bou goals, the Revs have yet to lose a game the Argentine has scored in. In last season’s playoffs, New England managed to score multiple goals in three straight games for the first time all season before falling to Columbus. If that sample indicates the players growing into Arena’s offensive style, this team could be dangerous.

Orlando City SC (+1400)

Orlando returns the core that surprised much of Major League Soccer last season. After an exciting MLS is Back Tournament, Orlando continued to score plenty of regular-season goals. Former Manchester United man Nani continues to leave his mark on the league. All while U.S.A’s own Chris Mueller took a major leap in his development. Orlando shouldn’t surprise people with their success this time around with an electric attack and a defense to match.

FC Dallas (+2500)

Dallas faced two significant departures this off-season. First midfielder Michael Barrios and his 179 club appearances were sent to Colorado. Next, talented teenager and 2020 Team MVP Bryan Reynolds was sold to A.S Roma. Luckily for FC Dallas, they’ve positioned themselves as a wonderkid factory, giving themselves plenty of young coveted options to pick from when the time comes. Dallas’s talent and the system are enough to win games in the regular season. Translating to playoff wins for this group is a different story.

Portland Timbers (+2500)

The Timbers have continued to find success since their 2015 MLS Cup victory. Plenty of regular-season wins have come, including MLS is Back Tournament title. Two players remain on the roster from 2015, Diego Valeri and Diego Chará. Both are well over 30 and could be gearing up for their last run. Portland’s biggest strength is in its depth. Portland is home to one of the league’s most potent attacks, including Valeri, Felipe Mora, and Sebastian Blanco but can back them up with  Jeremy Ebobisse, Jaroslaw Niezgoda, and Andy Polo, to name a few. If Portland’s defense can step up with their new fullbacks, watch out.

Atlanta United (+2800)

United supporters and betters can rejoice as they enter this season with Frank de Boer in charge. That alone should boost their odds 500 points.

Since Gerardo “Tata” Martino left Atlanta, the burgeoning MLS giant has sunk back into the field. Winds are seemingly turning in their favor with a slew of off-season moves, including hiring new manager Gabriel Heinze and $21.95M in player deals all while shedding the roster of dead weight. Not to mention the return of Josef Martinez. Atlanta should be higher on this list.

Colorado Rapids (+2800)

After three consecutive years of missing the playoffs, Colorado made its return in 2020. The core of last year’s team returns includes Kelyn Acosta, Jonathan Lewis, Jack Price, Lalas Abubakar, and breakout star 19-year Cole Bassett. Colorado’s talent will help them win games, but don’t expect this young team to handle the more experience and tougher teams when the lights get brighter.


Inter Miami (+3000)

Yes, Miami is exciting. And yes, Beckham has gotten some European stars like Matuidi and Higuain to come on over. Do I think all the fanfare and hype will result in a title? No, at least not this season. Miami is a more interesting team to read about, whether it’s for transfer rumors or for being investigated. There is too much sensation around the club which will adversely affect the product on the field.

Minnesota United (+3000)

When looking at xGD, Minnesota should have finished -6, which looks a lot worse than +10. Minnesota needed luck in the goal-scoring department with a lack of talent up front, and luck is exactly what they got. Last season 14 players scored a goal for Minnesota, only five players scored multiple goals. Of those 14 scorers, five are no longer with the club, not including Ike Opra, who also happens to be the club’s best defender and is expected to miss substantial time.

New York Red Bull (+3000)

Last season saw coach Chris Armas lose his job because he couldn’t get goals out of his team. After he was fired, the struggle only improved slightly. Gerard Struber, who has experience in the Red Bull network, is the latest man to try his hands in the big apple. Struber’s experience in the system will surely enforce the Red Bull philosophy. Turning it into wins with a squad whose average is 23 years old will be an entirely different challenge. The value lies with the other New York club.

Sporting KC (+3000)

Despite finishing last season atop the Western Conference standings, KC comes into the season with minimal expectations from books. They outperformed their xG by five last season and have since lost winger Gerso. Alan Pulido, Gianluca Busio, and Johnny Russell are still there to create chances, but the depth behind them on the field and the depth chart will challenge KC.

Chicago Fire FC (+3300)

Chicago endured a bitterly disappointing season, missing the playoffs on the final day of the season. It was reflective of the entire season. Though they scored only 33 goals, their xG was up at 38.9, while they conceded 39 goals with only a 35.4 xGA. In all, Chicago was very unlucky during an already tumultuous season. Although they lost their assist leader in Djordje Mihailovic, the front office has done well to bring in creative options that should help Chicago break into the playoff picture.

LA Galaxy (+3300)

Could this be the year that the Galaxy returns to their former glorious heights atop MLS? No. But this could very well be the start of the return to the summit as a new coach, Greg Vanney, takes over. LA has continued to spend big on offense while filling in their defense with MLS-proven options. Most importantly for LA’s success is the integration of their academy products. Several have signed Homegrown contracts this offseason, opening up their path to the first team. While the core being built could eventually get LA back to the top, it won’t be this season.

Nashville SC (+5000)

Nashville enjoyed a successful first season in MLS, finishing seventh in the east and making it to the conference semi-finals. Throughout the season, they developed and embraced a defensive identity led by Walker Zimmerman. This offseason has been devoted to complimenting that defense by adding Rodrigo Piñeiro, CJ Sapong, and Jhonder Cádiz. Nashville should find themselves in the playoffs once again with the potential to make a deeper run.

Austin FC (+6000)

The Precourt’s and league’s newest club comes in with the 20th best odds to win the title for my glass half full people and the 8th worst for my glass half empty folks. What does this mean? It is probably that all the teams below are pretty salty that an inaugural club is getting more respect than them. It’s understandable from both a sporting and betting perspective. Austin looks to be taking a page out of Atlanta playbook, as they have already begun investing heavily in South American talent while bringing in established quality MLS talent. Players such as Tomas Pochettino, Rodney Redes, Cecilio Dominguez could get Austin up and running faster than many expect. That doesn’t mean a title in year one, though.

FC Cinncinati (+6000)

Life hasn’t been kind to Cincy since arriving in the MLS. Each of the first two seasons has ended with them at the foot of the table and finishing with a league-low total of goals. Brazilian starlet Brenner comes into the fold for a club-record $13M. While full of talent, the 21-year old will not be able to carry Cinncinati to title on his own.


CF Montreal (+7500)

Will a new name and new coach change the fortunes of Montreal’s club? I’ll admit; personally, I’m incredibly low on Theirry Henry as a manager, so I do believe new man Wilfried Nancy will do a better job than his predecessor. Nancy’s biggest task will be fixing a defense that allowed 43 goals last season and has seen minimal reinforcements arrive. You won’t find much value here.

Real Salt Lake (+8000)

Don’t expect much from the league’s most underwhelming roster.

Vancouver Whitecaps (+8000)

If Vancouver’s spending says anything, it says that they plan to outperform expectations from the public and bookmakers alike. The Blue and White have spent $7.6M on players this off-season while acquiring experienced fullback Bruno Gaspar on loan from Portuguese side Sporting CP. While they almost surely won’t win a title, Vancouver could surprise people with their success with this talent-infused roster. To get the most of their talent, it may be time to move on from Coach Marc Dos Santos, who has guided the team to 17W-10D-31L since 2018.

DC United (+15000)

DC is doing the old Galaxy strategy of ignoring their defense while continuing to spend on offense. To be fair, almost the entire roster needs to be rebuilt, expect one of the league’s worst defenses to get worse.

Houston Dynamo (+15000)

Houston struggled mightily last season, especially after the sale of the team’s best player, Alberth Ellis. The Dynamo did a good job filling in roster holes with established MLS talents like Tim Parker and Wilfried Zahibo. While smart moves, they won’t be enough to push Houston anywhere near contender status.

San Jose Earthquakes (+15000)

It’d be a Leicester-esque story, but it’s not happening. No reason to believe in this San Jose team that conceded 51 goals last season.