Betting Basics

Betting On MLS: A Guide

August 22, 2023

As part of its bid to serve as the host nation for the World Cup in 1994, the United States made a big promise: to launch a national soccer league on par with its other long-standing professional sports organizations, like the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL. Only two years later, the US made good on that promise, and the MLS was born.

Since then, the MLS has grown in tandem with the worldwide popularity of the sport. From just 10 teams in 1996, the league now boasts 30 franchises, representing a globally significant organization that draws an estimated viewership of up to 469,000 Americans.

But MLS isn’t just popular as a spectator sport. According to a 2019 survey, 21 percent of American sports fans are interested in betting on major league soccer—a number that’s expected to grow as more and more people discover the excitement of betting on MLS.


The Structure of Major League Soccer

The MLS is unique among most professional sports organizations in the US for its single-entity structure. Unlike the NFL, for example, which features 32 independently owned teams that each have representation within the governing executive committee, the 30 teams of the MLS are all owned by the league itself.

The single-entity structure has significant ramifications for the teams, players, and the investors who manage them. Among the most prominent of these ramifications has to do with the process of team building. The process works like this:

  • Players sign a contract with the league.
  • The league assigns players to teams according to a set of predetermined guidelines.
  • The players are compensated according to the MLS’s spending regulations.

As in other pro leagues, the teams of the MLS are free to trade players to other teams, although certain exceptions do apply. Although the league has faced criticism for its policies, its player assignment protocol is meant to prevent inflated player salaries, ostensibly to the great good of the league.

This single-entity structure distinguishes the MLS in a number of other ways as well. For example, it assumes responsibility for several other operating costs, including:

  • Player acquisition costs, salaries, and benefits
  • Compensation for referees and other personnel
  • Travel expenses
  • Insurance

Additionally, the MLS imposes a number of rules on teams and players. These rules cover a range of issues, from the number of players a team can have, how the team distributes players across its rosters, conference rankings, player cooling and drink breaks, and more.

Betting on MLS: Available Betting Types

Like many sports, betting on MLS features several different betting types, some of which come with their own tweaks that are unique to MLS. The betting types available for MLS include:

  • Moneyline – In MLS betting, moneyline bets may be a two-way wager or a three-way wager. Two-way wagers mean you bet according to each team’s odds of winning. If the team’s tie, a push is declared. Three-way wagers include the odds for both teams plus a third bet in the event of a draw.
  • Spread – As in other sports, MLS spread bets involve wagering on the handicap. Depending on the teams, the spread may be between 0.5 and two goals.
  • Props – Short for “proposition betting,” these are wagers that are placed on specific aspects of the performance of a team (like total corner kicks, half-time or full-time results, or double results) or individual players (such as first or last scorers, assists, and goals).
  • Futures – Futures bets are placed on long-term outcomes that generally resolve at the end of the season. When you’re betting on MLS, that could mean individual player stats or the winners of certain awards.
  • Totals – Also known as betting the goal line, totals betting refers to placing a wager that is either above or below the anticipated point totals for a game.
  • Parlays – With parlay betting, you place one bet but make two different wagers, which can result in increased winnings if you wager correctly. On the other hand, coming out on top in a parlay can be difficult because it means that both of the wagers you place must win.
  • Round-robin – When you bet round-robin, you actually place several bets that are chosen from a provided list. Unlike standard parlays, you don’t have to go all-or-nothing; any combination of bets can win a round-robin, which makes them less risky than standard parlays. However, with up to six bets, they’re also more expensive.
  • Live betting – Live bets feature odds that are in flux throughout a given game. Wagers can be placed on the final outcome, team or player props, or over/under figures. The odds shift based on the score, remaining play time, and the perception of the market.

Currently, the top teams in the MLS include:

  • Philadelphia Union
  • Los Angeles Football Club
  • FC Cincinnati
  • Seattle Sounders

Thanks to their consistent improvement year-over-year, there’s a good chance that Philadelphia ends up snagging this year’s Supporters Shield or MLS Cup, or both.

As far as players go, recent standouts in the league include:

  • Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC
  • Lorenzo Insigne, Toronto FC
  • Daniel Gazdag, Philadelphia Union
  • Luciano Acosta, FC Cincinnati
  • Mateusz Klich, D.C. United

Get in the Game with Tipico

Whether you were among the first wave of betters to get in on the craze or you’re brand new to betting on MLS, Tipico can help you get in the game. Our mobile and digital sports betting options give you front-row seats for betting on one of America’s youngest and most exciting professional leagues, plus your all-time favorites, like the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, college sports, and many more.

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Tipico staff contributions