MLS Picks: It's Playoff Time!

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MLS Picks: It's Playoff Time!
© USA Today

The regular season is finished and the MLS Cup Playoffs is upon us this weekend after a thrilling and record-breaking 34 gameweeks. Los Angeles FC and Philadelphia Union, as the respective Western Conference and Eastern Conference winners, have made it into the semifinals already and can sit by and watch these six games without any involvement.

It's been an almighty turnaround in the race for the top seven this year, as half of the 14 teams in this season's MLS Cup Playoffs missed out last year. 

We’ve put together our MLS betting advice for the opening games in the playoffs.

Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls 

After finishing bottom of the Eastern Conference for three years in a row and registering the worst-ever start as an MLS franchise, Cincinnati has finally turned a corner and finished in fifth and three points above eighth-placed Columbus Crew. 

This didn't come without constant fear that all its hard work would eventually equal nothing, as Cincinnati needed to win against D.C. United on the final day of the regular season last weekend. A sensational 5-2 victory would come in Washington, as Brenner netted a hat-trick to catapult his team into the playoffs.

New York Red Bulls has had playoff status secured for a little longer, and it finished the regular season one place above Cincinnati and with the second-best defensive record in the division with 41 goals conceded. 

The Red Bulls scored 14 goals fewer (50) than Cincinnati, but with their 15 wins compared to its 12, they are the favorites to win this one. We're anticipating a low-scoring win for the Red Bulls, but on home soil, they should win this game.

New York Red Bulls to win 2-0 is +950 with FanDuel.

Nashville at L.A. Galaxy

In what is easily the toughest game in the playoffs to call, L.A. Galaxy and Nashville will meet in California on Saturday as both finished the regular season with 50 points.

For the Galaxy, they had an incredibly topsy-turvy regular season as they found themselves outside of the playoff spots for a chunk of the campaign. Unbeaten runs throughout July, August and September saw them climb into the playoffs, but we still don't know what to expect from the Galaxy. Throughout the season, they would beat the likes of Austin 4-1 and Montreal 4-0, only to lose to teams like San Jose Earthquakes at home just days later. Their mixed bag of results was echoed in their statistics from the season, as they let in 51 goals from 34 games - this was the most of any side from the Western Conference top seven.

As for Nashville, ​​it managed to register a sensational 1-0 victory against the Western Conference winners, LAFC. Fans of Nashville should be confident heading into any game in the playoffs after that result, but more so because it has the MLS top scorer leading the line, Hany Mukhtar. The German outscored everyone in the MLS this season with 23 goals.

We think he’ll shine and we’re predicting Nashville to advance.

Hany Mukhtar to score first is +550 with FanDuel.

Real Salt Lake at Austin

By the skin of its teeth, Real Salt Lake crept into the playoff positions on the final day of the regular season after beating Portland Timbers 3-1, forcing the Timbers out of the playoffs at the same time.

Salt Lake has struggled for consistency all season long and it only managed to win three games in a row once during its 34 regular season games. Ironically, that three-game winning run back in May involved beating Austin 2-1, as Maikel Chang and Andrew Brody scored a goal each to cancel out Alexander Ring's opening goal for Austin.

On the other hand, these two met just a month ago when Austin ran riot in a comfortable 3-0 win thanks to a sensational hat-trick from Moussa Djitte. In fact, many are predicting Austin to go all the way in the MLS Cup despite not winning any of its last three games. Regardless, only Philadelphia Union and LAFC scored more goals than Austin in the regular season, and we think it should defeat Salt Lake once again here.

Austin to win 3-0 is +1900 with DraftKings.

Orlando City at Montreal 

After leading the Eastern Conference table for many weeks, Montreal finished 10 points ahead of MLS Cup champions New York City and two points behind the Eastern Conference leaders, Philadelphia. It was an excellent regular season for Montreal, as it lost only nine times, while only LAFC won more games than it after 20 victories in the regular season for Montreal.

Orlando has had a strange few months, however, as it edged itself into the playoffs with a 2-1 victory over Columbus on the final day of the regular season. On the other hand, it won only one its five games prior to that and conceded 12 goals and scored seven of its own after beating Toronto 4-0 this time last month.

The struggle for consistency with the Lions doesn’t bode well for them against Montreal, and we think a win for L'Impact is on the cards here.

Montreal to win and over 2.5 goals in the game is +165 with DraftKings.

Inter Miami at New York City 

Out of the six playoff games this weekend, New York City has the lowest odds to win its game at -185 to beat Inter Miami. We completely agree with this, as not just are the Pigeons the defending MLS Cup champions, but they have always turned up when it matters most in the past year.

With Philadelphia and Montreal running away with the top two spots in the Eastern Conference, there was never a time where it felt as if New York would finish first. On the other hand, by defeating Atlas in the Campeones Cup final, it ended a previous five-game winless run. Further wins in the MLS over the likes of New York Red Bulls, Orlando, and Atlanta United to end the regular season saw New York finish the season as strong as any side from the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Miami was sensational in its final two months of the season, and Phil Neville deserves a lot of credit for the turnaround he forced. 

A 3-1 loss to Montreal on the final day of the season barely gives them hope here, however, and we think a win for New York is coming.

New York to win 2-0 is +750 with FanDuel.

Minnesota at Dallas

After a victory over Vancouver Whitecaps on the final day of the regular season, Minnesota United remained in the playoff spots, just as Dallas defeated Sporting Kansas City to claim third in the Western Conference.

Dallas has been excellent this regular season, as it finished behind only Austin and LAFC in the Western Conference. It also has the best defensive record in the division with just 37 goals conceded from 34 games, which is 14 fewer than the record of Minnesota. The Loons did score the same amount as Dallas (48) across the season, however, and it makes for an enticing encounter.

These two did meet just over a month ago in what was an easy win for Dallas. In fact, it scored three goals in three minutes in the second half at Minnesota, as Alan Velasco and Jesus Ferreira scored a goal each alongside an own goal from Michael Boxall.

The Loons could surprise us here, but Dallas’ defensive resilience combined with the goalscoring excellence of Ferreira gives them the edge in this one.

Jesus Ferreira to score first is +370 with FanDuel.

Throw Ins

These are some other bets worth a look on this week’s schedule:

  • Montreal to be winning after 30 minutes against Orlando is +200 at BetMGM.
  • Sebastian Driussi to score anytime against Salt Lake is +130 at PointsBet.
  • FC Dallas to win and 1 or 2 total goals in the match is +430 at FanDuel.
  • The Red Bulls to be winning at half time and full time and over 2.5 goals is +390 at DraftKings.
  • A draw at halftime and Nashville to win at full time is +750 at Caesars.

Power Rankings

  1. LAFC ↔
  2. Philadelphia Union ↔
  3. Montreal ↔
  4. New York City FC ↔
  5. Austin ↔

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


  • Cincinnati (+250) at New York Red Bulls (-110), 12 p.m
  • Nashville (+280) at LA Galaxy (-120), 3 p.m.


  • Real Salt Lake (+260) at Austin (-120), 3 p.m.
  • Orlando City (+310) at Montreal (-135), 8 p.m.


  • Inter Miami (+400) at New York City (-180), 7 p.m.
  • Minnesota (+230) at Dallas (-105), 9:30 p.m.
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