As a favorite sport in so many countries around the world—including the United States—the format of how soccer is played can vary widely, depending on where it’s being played. The rules of soccer are pretty similar all over the world; however, some of the rules for betting on a particular game may differ from what you might be used to if you normally bet on European soccer leagues. Here are a few key differences you should keep in mind.

MLS interest Continues to grow with the betting Industry

The number of Americans who have expressed interest in soccer has increased each year since Major League Soccer was created in 1994. Teams are added each season, and cities are now on a waiting list to join the league.

The interest in Major League Soccer, as well as interest in soccer betting itself, is increasing rapidly. MLS has become one of the higher-scoring leagues around the world and could be a contributing factor to the growing popularity of MLS.

As the primary European Leagues finish in May, the regular Major League Soccer season has begun and is still in October.

MLS Regular Season bets to look out for

Now that the Major League Soccer season is underway, bettors may be wondering how the league differs from top European leagues such as the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga. Here’s some background on how MLS functions as well as some tips on how you can apply what you’ve learned from betting on European soccer to American soccer.

Like most American sports leagues, MLS is made up of teams from the United States and Canada. This differs from other leagues around the world, as each country has its own unique league in terms of teams and traditions. A betting experience similar to that in the U.S. also applies to sports betting in Canada, where it is now possible to make single-game wagers.

Points to consider for MLS Betting: Travel and Conferences

Like other American sports leagues, MLS comprises two conferences, Eastern and Western. The split is meant to lessen long travel distances between teams in different time zones.

In the league format, teams will play more games against teams in their own conference than they will against teams in the rest of the league. All teams play every other team twice in different leagues: once at home and once on the road.

mls betting picks to win

New players in Major League Soccer often arrive unprepared for the travel and changing climates that transpire during the season. For example, a team could be playing at home in sunny California for one week but then be asked to travel across the continent to a colder climate team like Toronto. Some soccer fields are indoors, but outdoor fields in places like Dallas and Houston may require game stoppages for hydration during periods of extreme heat conditions. Then we have the Colorado Rapids, whose home ground in Commerce City is played at a 5,164-feet elevation, which brings a whole different problem.

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The field at Yankee Stadium is smaller than the standard size, so New York City F.C. plays home matches on a different surface than they do on the road, making for interesting home games.

MLS handicappers make use of field surfaces, travel, and weather to form their predictions.

MLS and Futures Betting

MLS does not offer many futures bets to its bettors. Although the popularity of MLS grows, it is dwarfed by other sports leagues in the amount of futures betting options.

Bookmakers usually have a market on whether the MLS Cup winner will be determined in the regular season or in the playoffs. Since MLS teams are subject to a salary cap and so many teams make the playoffs, it is vital to keep up with future odds and watch for trends as teams seek playoff positioning.

A salary cap is in place, which encourages parity. However, teams have various ways in which they can acquire additional resources. Each team may be able to sign up to three Designated Players, who do not count against the salary cap, and each team receives General Allocation Money (GAM) and Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to improve their roster.

The European soccer leagues’ seasons typically end in May and June, leaving a brief offseason before the summer transfer window. During the summer transfer window, big-name soccer players tend to join MLS with significant fanfare.

MLS Cup Finals and Playoffs

However, in Major League Soccer, the team with the most points at the end of the regular season is not necessarily considered the winner. Instead, like other American sports leagues, such as the NBA and NHL, the top overall team for the season is decided through a playoff format.

At the end of the regular season, the MLS team with the most points is awarded the Supporters’ Shield (a trophy named after the “supporters” in soccer). But you can’t bet on whether your favorite team will win it. Instead, you can bet on which team will eventually win the MLS Cup after the Playoffs.

The MLS Cup Playoffs determine the league champion of Major League Soccer. In most years, seven teams from each conference qualify for the playoffs. The top seed in each conference holds home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and they also get to skip the first round of fixtures.

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A single-elimination playoff format hosted by higher seeds occurs until one team from each conference remains. The highest overall seed remaining after the regular season between the winner of the East and West will be the ones to host the MLS Cup Final.

We regularly publish tips and picks in the MLS here

NO Relegation, NO promotion

In other countries worldwide, promotion and relegation are used as mechanisms to determine a sporting league’s champion, but this system has not been adopted in MLS.

In MLS, the last-place team does not face relegation, unlike in other countries where the last teams at the end of the normal season are relegated, and the top teams from that lower league are brought up.

Consequently, teams that fall far behind in the playoff race may not have the same will to compete as they did earlier in the season. Before placing any bets on these teams, make sure you follow their progress closely and look at their line-up for upcoming games.

Soccer betting in the United States is not much different from other American sports, so you will not notice a difference here if you are a beginner to soccer betting. Instead, Major League Soccer (MLS) is still growing, and more teams are joining every season.

Action Packed North American Tournaments

In addition to the MLS regular season, teams in the league also compete in the CONCACAF Champions League (CCL). The tournament comprises the top teams from North & Central America, and the Caribbean. It begins in the middle of February and runs until early May.

If you are betting on CONCACAF Champions League futures, note that Mexican teams from Liga MX have historically dominated MLS sides. In addition to the fact that Liga MX is a more mature league, Mexican teams are already well into midseason form as their regular season has already commenced. When the tournament kicks off in February, MLS teams have only recently begun preseason. MLS teams may still be getting their preparations for the new season going.

Before investing heavily in your favorite MLS team, consider that Mexican teams have won the CONCACAF Champions League every year since 2019.

Teams qualify for the tournament due to their performance in their league the season before. Qualification can be achieved through winning the MLS Cup, winning the Supporters’ Shield (awarded to the team with the highest points total at the end of each regular season), finishing first in your conference, winning the U.S. Open Cup (open to all teams below MLS), or by winning the Canadian Championship (open to all Canadian teams).

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The MLS’s other competitions are run throughout the regular season, much as European competitions such as the Champions League and Europa League are conducted during their respective seasons.

Lower-division teams compete in the U.S. Open Cup alongside those from Major League Soccer. Check your sportsbook for odds on lower-division teams.

Were you looking to bet on your local team?

Major League Soccer is a safer bet if you don’t want to wake up early on Saturday morning to bet on the English Premier League. Most soccer games are played in America and Canada, so your betting schedule won’t be affected by international competitions. Plus, we’ve got tips to help you start betting today.

Now that you are familiar with the differences between MLS and European soccer leagues, you can learn more about how to bet on sports in our Bet on Sports guide.

What else is there to know about Sports Betting?

Betting is exciting as it is technical and if you are well rounded in your knowledge you can place educated bets in multiple markets. If you would like to get to grips with more concepts and theories in sports betting you should read our betting guide here

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If you found that article informative and valuable, please be sure to check out more of our betting guide here.