Understanding the MLS Futures Market
The "MLS futures market" pertains to the odds offered by sportsbooks for either the MLS Cup, which is awarded to Major League Soccer's overall champion, or the Supporters' Shield, which is awarded to the team with the best regular season record. Importantly, Dimers.com's MLS futures are specifically geared toward the MLS Cup, much more commonly bet upon between the two awards. On this page, you'll find the current sportsbook odds for the MLS Cup, along with Dimers' constantly updated projections for each Major League Soccer team's chance of actually winning, represented as a percentage.
To make the best possible MLS futures wagers, bettors should carefully analyze sportsbook odds, and the implied probabilities they represent, to ensure favorable value. Though it can be enticing to bet on teams with long odds, due the extraordinary theoretical payouts, caution is paramount. It's much more common to find favorable betting edges for future wagers on teams with higher likelihoods of winning it all, even if the potential payouts are lower.
To demonstrate the point above, on May 8, 2023, Dimers' model suggested the best Major League Soccer futures edge belonged to NY City, who were given +1400 odds to win the MLS Cup, the third highest of any MLS team. Those +1400 odds carried an implied probability of 6.7%, whereas Dimers' model pegged NY City as having a 7.8% chance at the championship, more than a full percentage point better than the value a bettor would secure at +1400 odds. By contrast, on May 8 Charlotte FC carried sportsbook odds of +10000, which imply a 1% chance of success; however, Dimers' model suggested Charlotte's likelihood of winning the MLS Cup was less than half that, at 0.4%. So, even though NY City's +1400 odds would produce a much lower payout than Charlotte at +10000, our model indicates there was more than double the value to be found by betting on NY City than Charlotte FC.
MLS Playoffs and MLS Cup Schedule
In 2023, Major League Soccer will debut a new format for the MLS playoffs and MLS Cup. You can find the updated MLS playoff and MLS Cup schedule below, and a breakdown of the new MLS postseason format in the next section.
2023 MLS Cup Playoffs Schedule
- Oct. 21: Decision Day
- Oct. 25 – 26: Wild Card Matches
- Oct. 28 – Nov. 12: Round One (best-of-three series)
- Nov. 25 – Dec. 3: Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals
- Dec. 9: MLS Cup
MLS Cup Odds Movement: How the Lines Change as the MLS Playoffs Progress
As the MLS playoffs progress, the futures odds for teams will change based on their performance and advancement in the tournament. The structure of the playoffs, with different rounds and elimination formats, influences these odds, and is particularly noteworthy at present, because Major League Soccer changed the format of the MLS playoffs beginning in 2023.
Initially, the top nine teams from both the Eastern and Western Conferences qualify for the playoffs, playing in separate brackets. The top seven teams in each conference receive byes to the conference quarterfinals, while the teams ranked 8th and 9th in each conference compete in the Wild Card round.
In the Wild Card round, the winner advances to face the 1 seed in Round One of the playoffs. The winners of the first round series move on to the Conference Semifinals. The Conference Semifinals and Conference Finals were formerly conducted in a home-and-away, aggregate-goal format. However, since 2019, they have transitioned to single-match eliminations hosted by the team with the better regular season record.
If the teams are still tied after regulation time in any game, extra time (two 15-minute periods) is utilized from the Conference Semifinals onwards. If necessary, penalty shoot-outs are used to determine the winner.
As teams progress through the playoffs, their performance and success will impact their odds in the futures market. Teams that demonstrate strong form and advance to later stages of the tournament will likely see their odds improve, reflecting their increased chances of winning the MLS Cup. Conversely, teams that are eliminated or underperform may see their odds decline.
The changing dynamics of the playoffs, including the single-match eliminations and the potential for upsets, make Major League Soccer futures odds a dynamic and evolving market as the competition unfolds.
MLS Futures Odds: Early Look at the Betting Landscape for the 2023 MLS Cup
Odds for the MLS Cup are constantly evolving, with Major League Soccer boasting some of the highest parity of any US sports league. Nonetheless, 2023 began with LAFC, the defending MLS Cup Champions, carrying by far the best odds at the 2023 MLS Cup, at +450. There was then a steep drop off, with the Seattle Sounders (+2150), FC Cincinnati (+2150), Atlanta United (+2250), and New England Revolution (+2850) rounding out the top five.
MLS Cup: Previous Champions
The first MLS Cup was played in 1996, with D.C. United defeating the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-2 in overtime to claim the inaugural title. D.C. United, based in Washington, D.C., proceeded to win three of the league's first four championships, establishing themselves as the early dominant force in Major League Soccer.
From 1999 – 2002, four different teams won the MLS Cup. However, since 2002, a small group of teams has dominated the league, with only seven different teams winning the MLS Cup in the last 20 years.
The Houston Dynamo, who joined the league as an expansion team in 2006, have been one of the most successful teams in recent years, winning the MLS Cup in both 2006 and 2007. The Dynamo have a reputation for being a tough, physical team that is difficult to beat in the playoffs. They have also had some of the league's best players on their roster over the years, including Brian Ching, Brad Davis, and Dwayne De Rosario.
From 2011 – 2014, the LA Galaxy were the dominant force in Major League Soccer. Led by star players such as David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane, the Galaxy won the MLS Cup in 2011, 2012, and 2014.
In 2017, Toronto FC won their first MLS Cup, becoming the first Canadian team to win the championship. Toronto FC's 2017 season, in which they boasted star players such as Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, was one of the best in MLS history, with Toronto FC winning the Supporters' Shield (awarded to the team with the best regular-season record) as well as the MLS Cup.
The Seattle Sounders FC, an expansion team that joined MLS in 2009, won their first MLS Cup in 2016. The Sounders had come close to winning the championship in previous years, always falling just short. Led by head coach Brian Schmetzer and stars Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro, the Sounders finally broke through in 2016, defeating Toronto FC in a penalty shootout.
Fresh off their first MLS Cup championship in 2022, the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) appear poised to solidify themselves as the next dominant force in Major League Soccer. However, despite LAFC entering 2023 as the oddsmakers favorites to win the MLS Cup again, Los Angeles FC has a long way to go before joining the ranks of MLS dynasties.
Below is a complete list of all MLS Cup champions.
- 1996: D.C. United
- 1997: D.C. United
- 1998: Chicago Fire
- 1999: D.C. United
- 2000: Kansas City Wizards
- 2001: San Jose Earthquakes
- 2002: Los Angeles Galaxy
- 2003: San Jose Earthquakes
- 2004: D.C. United
- 2005: Los Angeles Galaxy
- 2006: Houston Dynamo
- 2007: Houston Dynamo
- 2008: Columbus Crew
- 2009: Real Salt Lake
- 2010: Colorado Rapids
- 2011: Los Angeles Galaxy
- 2012: Los Angeles Galaxy
- 2013: Sporting Kansas City
- 2014: Los Angeles Galaxy
- 2015: Portland Timbers
- 2016: Seattle Sounders FC
- 2017: Toronto FC
- 2018: Atlanta United FC
- 2019: Seattle Sounders FC
- 2020: Columbus Crew SC
- 2022: Los Angeles FC
Note: The league did not hold an MLS Cup in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The New England Revolution, however, won the 2021 Supporters' Shield, awarded to the team with the best regular season record. New England's 73 points easily outpacing second place Colorado's 61.
MLS Cup Odds: Where to Find the Latest Lines and Updates
Dimers offers a comprehensive suite of tools for Major League Soccer bettors who want to stay informed about the latest odds and updates related to the MLS playoffs. Our platform provides a range of resources tailored specifically to MLS betting, including daily MLS picks and predictions for nearly every game, a daily guide of MLS best bets, and a comprehensive database of current MLS odds available via different sportsbooks.
In addition, our team of MLS experts consistently publishes valuable news and analysis to keep you updated on all aspects of the MLS playoffs. You can find these insightful articles on our dedicated MLS news page. We understand the importance of staying ahead of the game and providing you with the latest information to inform your betting decisions.
To further enhance your MLS betting experience, our MLS best bets and MLS best odds pages are regularly updated to offer valuable insights into the current odds landscape. Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge and tools necessary to make informed wagers and increase your chances of success when betting on MLS matches.
Whether you're looking for expert predictions, comprehensive data, or the latest news and analysis, Dimers is your go-to resource for all things MLS betting. We strive to provide a user-friendly and informative platform that helps you stay ahead of the curve and make the most of your MLS betting experience.