MLS preview and tips: Philadelphia strong as ever, St Louis enjoy winning start
MLS is back with a bang! Philadelphia are still a force to be reckoned with at home, Klich is scoring goals (from 30 yards!), St Louis announced their arrival in style, and we saw 36 goals across 13 games. If you're new to MLS, or Major League Soccer (just go with it), then welcome to a weird and wonderful world where rivalries are sometimes manufactured by the league, bizarre mid-season trophies are on the line, and you spend six months travelling all over the US to win the league - only to be given the ill-conceived Supporters' Shield, and then lose in the play-offs to someone who finished mid-table during the regular season. While that might sound like quite a farce, it is in fact brilliant. We tend to see at least one brand new team on a yearly basis, someone different usually wins the league each season, and the strict financial caps mean absolute parity and a league where anyone can beat anyone. You'll see entertaining games, attacking football, wild endings, and a league full of exuberant youth that's destined for Europe. Plus there's money to be made if you're a savvy bettor, so give it a go. So, what can we expect in week two?
Back the home teams
It's no secret that being the home team in an MLS game is advantageous. That disparity has reduced in recent seasons, but we did see nine home wins in week one. Home advantage is often exaggerated very early in the season, because of the fanfare surrounding each team's home opener. Ten more teams will play their home opener this weekend and they are LAFC, New York RB, New England, Orlando, Columbus, Chicago, FC Dallas, Colorado, San Jose and newcomers St Louis. All of them are the bookmaker's favourites, but the odds range from 8/13 to 8/5 at the time of writing, and the St Louis game could easily swing with some backing for the visitors. There's solid logic to backing the home favourites priced 9/10 and greater. Ordinarily, backing the home favourites blindly would feel a bit like wandering down mug alley, but this is MLS.
Can the new boys make it two from two?
St Louis City's 97th-minute winner at Austin in week one was the most notable result of opening day, and perhaps the most impressive win we've ever seen from a new team. Seven of the last 10 expansion teams have finished in the bottom half, so expect St Louis to have their struggles. You have to go back to 2019 to find the last time an expansion (new) side won their first home game, and that was also the last time one scored. Oddly, we've even seen an opening day 0-0 between two expansion teams. Luckily for St Louis, they're welcoming the second newest side in MLS, Charlotte FC. Winners of just three of 17 away games last season, it would seem a favourable fixture, but they'll need to manage the emotion and hullabaloo that'll come with the first-ever MLS fixture at Citypark. So will they make it back-to-back wins? Well, all of this waffling to say, who knows? But one thing that was notable in pre-season is the style of play being conducive to high-scoring games. St Louis scored seven and conceded 11 in five warm-up games, and that trend continued with their 3-2 win in Austin last weekend. Charlotte allowed at least two goals in 13 of their away fixtures last season, but they weren't shut out very often, so perhaps a safer bet is goals in this fixture. Consider Over 2.5.
Can Austin bounce back?
Austin FC haven't lost back-to-back home games for over 18 months and they have made a habit of responding well. They've lost five games in that period and responded by picking up at least a point and averaging 2.5 goals per game.
Montreal CF are an attacking side that religiously scores two or three goals a game on their travels, often picking up all three points along the way. Given that the combined 2022 record shows 18 games with at least four goals when these sides are involved, don't be shocked if we see something wild on Saturday night. Over 3.5 is a very big and enticing price.
Back some home wins… but avoid St Louis.
Austin vs Montreal - Over 3.5
St Louis vs Charlotte - Over 2.5
Tips provided by George Dempsey who runs the MLS Betting UK 2023 football service on Tipstrr
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