MLS Picks: Can the Defending Champs Make it Out of the Quarterfinals?

Date IconLast Updated: Sep 29th, 2023
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MLS Picks: Can the Defending Champs Make it Out of the Quarterfinals?
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The Conference semifinals are upon us this week as Cincinnati, Philadelphia Union, Los Angeles FC and LA Galaxy all battle it out for a place in the final. 

We’ve analyzed each game and put together our Major League Soccer betting tips and predictions for the four playoff games coming up.

Cincinnati at Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union is set to play in its first MLS playoff game after finishing first in the Eastern Conference. That moved them into the semifinals. Philadelphia meets Cincinnati, the fifth place in the Eastern Conference that was 18 points behind the Union.

Cincinnati edged past the New York Red Bulls in its playoff opener, as Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez each scored a goal in a comeback win at the Red Bull Arena. Cincinnati has lost just one game in its past 15 games which is a record no other side in the playoffs can match. 

These two teams met in August and Cincinnati won 3-1 on goals from Alvaro Barreal, Brenner and Vazquez. 

Paxten Aaronson scored for Philadelphia that day, and came two months after a 1-1 tie between the two, where Vazquez scored once more for Cincinnati, and Alejandro Bedoya netted for the Union.

Despite Cincinnati’s excellent record against Philadelphia this season, we don’t think it wins here. Philadelphia lost only five times in the regular season, scoring a stunning 72 goals and letting in just 26 - all three of these stats were the best across the MLS.

Philadelphia Union to beat Cincinnati 2-0 is +1000 with FanDuel.

New York City FC at Montreal

Is this the end of the road for the defending MLS Cup champions? The sportsbooks seem to think so.

Ten points separated Montreal in second and New York City in third, as the Pigeons slowed down quite considerably toward the end of the regular season. They finished with 11 losses in the Eastern Conference, winning four games less (16) than Montreal (20). On the bright side, only Philadelphia let in fewer goals than New York's 41.

Montreal, however, finished only two points behind the Eastern Conference winners, Philadelphia, having won the most games in the division with a magnificent record of 63 goals scored. It is also on a seven-game unbeaten run, having only tied with Columbus Crew in its past seven matches, winning the other six.

The last time these two met was in July, and they tied 0-0. Before this, you have to go back to almost the start of the season to see another clash between these two giants of the MLS, when New York won 4-1 at Yankee Stadium.

It's such a tough game to call, and we're heading for a tie in 90 minutes which will force extra time and perhaps penalties too. 

A tie between Montreal and New York is +290 with FanDuel.

LA Galaxy at Los Angeles

What a game we have in store in California. We don’t always get to see two huge rivals meet in the playoffs, so sit back and enjoy this historic El Trafico. 

The goals between LAFC and LA Galaxy have been shared almost equally in this fixture down the years, as the former has scored 34 times, and the Galaxy has netted 36 in the 16 games between the two. The Galaxy has won seven compared to LAFC's four, but it was LAFC who got the win in the last meeting 3-2 between the two in July. The two did meet twice before this in 2022, however, where LA Galaxy won both games.

LAFC finished first and 17 points ahead of its rivals in the standings this year, having won the most games in the MLS with 21 in 34 games. LA Galaxy won 14 of its 34 regular season games, losing 12 and letting in 51 goals in the process.

It is one of those games that could be won by one player. Gareth Bale, Carlos Vela and Cristian Arango are all names who could win it for LAFC, as attention turns to Javier Hernandez for the Galaxy. Vela is the leading scorer in El Trafico history with 10 goals, and Hernandez has scored three goals in his two seasons playing in this fixture.

We can’t, however, see anything but an LAFC win here.

Carlos Vela and Chicarito to score a goal each is +600 with DraftKings. 

Dallas at Austin 

From one state derby in California to an all-Texas battle at the Q2 Stadium between Dallas and Austin.

It's just the second season in the MLS for Austin and no side in history has ever turned things around so impressively. Last season, it finished 12th in the Eastern Conference and just one point above last place with 31. In 2022, however, Josh Wolff has led it to 16 wins, with a total of 56 points. What's more, it scored just one goal less than the Western Conference's top scorers, LAFC, having netted 65 goals throughout the regular season.

Still, Austin was fortunate to get through the last round in the playoffs against Real Salt Lake. It trailed 2-0 in the first 15 minutes and only forced extra time because of a goal with seconds left on the clock from star striker, Sebastian Driussi. It was also helped by a red card from RSL, and if Austin performs like it did that day here against Dallas, it will not win.

Dallas also had to come through the last round on penalties too, beating Minnesota in a tense shootout. It did, however, finish only three points behind Austin in the regular season and conceded 12 goals fewer with 37 let in across its 34 games.

This game is even tougher to predict based on the fact they tied 2-2 and 1-1 in the regular season meetings. We are, however, predicting a narrow Austin win.

Austin to win 2-1 is +600 with DraftKings.

Throw Ins

Here are some prop bets to consider on the playoff games.

SportsbookOddsProp Bet
PointsBet125Sebastian Driussi to score anytime
DraftKings-125Julian Carranza to have 2+ shots on target
BetMGM550NYCFC to win 1-0, 2-0 or 3-0
DraftKings330Daniel Gazdag to score first in the game between Philadelphia and Cincinnati
Caesars290Three goals in the game between LA Galaxy and LAFC


This Week’s Schedule with Moneylines (All Times Eastern)


  • Cincinnati (+290) Philadelphia Union (-120), 8 p.m.
  • LA Galaxy (+300) at Los Angeles FC (-145), 10 p.m.


  • New York City FC (+240) at Montreal (-105), 1 p.m.
  • Dallas (+240) at Austin (-115), 8 p.m.