Major League Soccer (MLS) is still a smaller betting market compared to sports like football, basketball, baseball, and football, but interest in the sport has increased in recent years. Soccer wagering in the United States and Canada will never be what it is in other parts of the world, but MLS odds are now fixtures at just about every bookmaker online.
North American Soccer League
The MLS was not the first professional soccer league in North America. That distinction goes to the North American Soccer League (NASL), which ran from 1968 to 1984. The league’s popularity peaked in the 1970s where they averaged more than 13,000 per game. The championship final was called the Soccer Bowl.
The most successful team in the NASL was the New York Cosmos. They won five titles and averaged over 28,000 in attendance from the late 70s until 1982. The Cosmos signed many legendary players, including Pele and Franz Beckenbauer. The NASL was reformed in 2009 as a Division II league with the MLS already entrenched as the top flight, Division I league in North America. It currently has 12 teams, with nine located in the United States, two in Canada, and one in Puerto Rico.
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MLS Betting – Low Wagering Limits
MLS betting certainly falls into the small market category. The amount wagered on MLS markets is insignificant compared to any more prominent leagues in North American, such as basketball and football.
Many recreational MLS betting sites, such as Bovada.lv have a maximum wager of just $500 on soccer moneylines and futures. This drops to just $300 on totals and props. BetOnline.ag is a medium sized sportsbook and our current top-rated choice for betting offshore. Their limits are considerably bigger than Bovada’s, but MLS markets while considerably more than Bovada are still small compared to larger markets. MLS wagering has a maximum of $2,000 on spreads, $3,000 on money lines, and $2,000 on totals. BetOnline takes up to $25,000 on NFL sides and up to $10,000 on NBA totals.
In fact, they take larger wagers on European soccer and internationals than they do in MLS markets. The oddsmakers are more confident on those odds since there is a lot of action on them in worldwide betting markets. We’re not discounting the sport as an entertainment product. The league has done a tremendous job growing since they were established, but the betting action on the MLS isn’t close to most of the world’s other soccer leagues.
Betting Markets In Major League Soccer
Those who are betting the MLS will continue to be impressed with the number of options available. You’re not going to get as many markets as you do with larger sports, but a healthy list of choices is available for both pre-match and live betting.
Asian handicaps are also offered at most sportsbooks these days. These markets typically offer much better prices than traditional 1X2 betting. BetOnline.ag and Bovada.lv both offer Asian Handicap odds for MLS matches.
Become MLS Betting Expert?
Like most small market sports, there is money to be made betting MLS, provided you know the sport inside and out. The low betting limits are not a sign of confidence from the oddsmakers. They simply can’t pay too much attention to MLS markets because their handle on them is a paltry sum compared to larger markets.
If you truly want to win at MLS, devote yourself to understand the game of soccer and then dive into the league itself. Learn the coaches, teams and understand the rivalries, different pitches, and playing environments.
Major League Soccer Handicapper
However, keep in mind that if you do become a successful MLS handicapper, you may not get action for long. If you’re max betting these markets, that may draw the attention of management and your account may be limited.
For that reason, bettors need to gauge if focusing on the MLS is going to be worth their time. They may be better off focusing in larger market leagues, where wagering is much easier to scale as you begin to win. There is also a lot more interest in more high profile games, making public betting a factor. For the most part, the bookmakers know that most players who are betting large on MLS contests have much more a clue than say, the average NFL fan.
Major League Soccer History and Format
The MLS was originally formed in 1993 in part due to the United States’ victorious 1994 FIFA World Cup bid. It wasn’t until 1996 that the MLS played their inaugural season. In league began with ten teams.
The MLS struggled heavily in its early years. Player salaries were extremely low to begin with, but the league was still losing millions of dollars. Attendance was extremely poor for some franchises. Two teams folded in 2002. If we fast-forward to today, we find the MLS in much better shape. As of 2016, the league has 20 teams. This will expand to 22 teams by the 2018 season with the inclusion of Atlanta United FC and Los Angeles FC franchises.
The MLS season runs from March to October each year with each team playing a total of 34 games. The team with the best regular season record wins the Supporters’ Shield. 12 teams make the playoffs, which are played from November to December. A single team makes it out of each conference to play in the MLS Cup where a champion will be crowned.
MLS vs European Football Leagues
The biggest difference between the MLS and other professional leagues worldwide is the lack of promotion and regulation. The NASL would seem like a likely partner for a promotion and regulation scheme in North America, but there are no plans to introduce this format.
The playoff format is also a big difference from most European football leagues. Most leagues have domestic cups, but the league champion (by default, there is no postseason), almost across the board, is the team with the best regular-season record.
The playoff format isn’t utilized in most other soccer leagues. It is likely that league went this route to make the MLS more related to North American fans. All the major professional sports in the United States and Canada use a similar playoff format to decide a champion.
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