MLS is Back Tournament: Championship Predictions & Odds
- Tournament favorites LAFC will have to play without league MVP Carlos Vela.
- 2019 MLS Cup winners Seattle Sounders will likely be a threat in the knockout stage.
- No lack of dark horses in an entirely new competition format for MLS clubs.
|What||MLS Is Back tournament|
|Where||ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (Bay Lake, Florida)|
|When||July 8th – August 11th, 2020|
|How to watch||ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN Deportes, TUDN, FOX, FS1, Twitter|
Following a stoppage of the 2020 MLS season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams will now be returning to play this month in a one-off “MLS Is Back” tournament in Florida.
Kicking off with a group stage (whose matches will count for regular season standings), the tournament will then transition into a 16-team knockout round that culminates with a championship game on August 11th. The winners of the tournament will not only get $1.1 million in prize money, but also a place in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
All that said, a sense of uncertainty has lingered above the competition that has already had to reschedule a match due to players testing positive for COVID-19. Others have had to delay their arrival to Florida due to COVID-19-related reasons as well. How this impacts results for teams, or the tournament in general, remains to be seen.
Update: As of July 6th, FC Dallas have withdrawn from the competition due to COVID-19-related reasons.
MLS is Back Tournament Odds
|New York Red Bulls||+1400|
|New York City FC||+1600|
|San Jose Earthquakes||+1800|
|Sporting Kansas City||+1800|
|Columbus Crew SC||+2000|
|New England Revolution||+3300|
|Real Salt Lake||+4000|
Odds taken from BetMGM.
It’s LAFC and then the rest. After breaking the single-season record for points last year with a total of 72, several experts and journalists have touted the southern California team as being the easy pick for the MLS is Back tournament. Nonetheless, things might become surprisingly complicated for them without their best player…
2019 MVP Carlos Vela Will Be Missing The Tournament
Due to personal reasons, MLS’ top player from 2019 will not be taking part in this month’s competition.
What does this mean for LAFC? They’ll not only miss out on last season’s league-leading goalscorer, but also on a playmaker. Vela does much more than just find the back of the net. While topping the scoring charts in 2019, the Mexican winger was also tied for third in assists.
Without their star player, the gap between LAFC and the rest of MLS’ top teams will unquestionably become more narrow.
Seattle Sounders Set For Another Championship?
They have depth, a fully fit Nicolas Lodeiro, a manageable group in the upcoming tournament — and most importantly — a superb track record of success in the knockout round of recent MLS years.
In the last four seasons, the Sounders have regularly showcased deep playoff runs through three MLS Cup final appearances and two championships. During last year’s championship run, they also stunned the American soccer world after earning an eye-catching 3-1 away win over LAFC in the Western Conference Final.
Simply put: As long as they qualify for the knockout round, Seattle will easily be one of the title contenders.
A Glance At The Dark Horses
Looking past other powerhouses and favorites like Atlanta United and Toronto FC, a handful of other teams stand out as intriguing dark horses in the competition.
Although results in early 2020 were worrisome for New York City FC, their roster is relatively the same one that had MLS’ second-best regular season record last year. Philadelphia Union, who are in the same group as New York City FC, look like a team that’s ready to finally make the next step up after qualifying for the 2019 Eastern Conference semis.
Looking elsewhere, Sporting Kansas City could surprise many with their revived attack that features Mexican star striker Alan Pulido. Columbus Crew SC, who are still adapting to the addition of new key players, could also eventually surge through the competition with a potentially lethal midfield that features the likes of Lucas Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe.
With no Vela taking part in the tournament for LAFC, a strong boost will now be given to other top contenders. Seattle Sounders (+800) are the best pick from the rest of the pack.
More MLS Predictions & Odds
Freelance writer Cesar Hernandez is a specialist in all things American and Mexican soccer. He has written for ESPN FC, The Athletic, The Guardian, FourFourTwo, VICE Sports and several other publications. Along with writing and previous radio appearances on the BBC, talkSPORT and SiriusXM FC, Cesar is also a member of the Mexican Soccer Show podcast.