MLS Matchups

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Introduction to MLS Matchups

Major League Soccer (MLS) is the top division in American soccer; there are 34 games in each regular season, and the top seven finishers in each conference, East and West, advance to a single-elimination postseason bracket, which ultimately crowns one champion. The regular-season champions in each conference earn a one-round bye.

The American soccer calendar differs from many of the European ones but, similarly, unfolds mostly on weekends. Games last the usual 90 minutes and end with no extra time or penalties.

The league has been growing in profile in recent years, making MLS odds a more interesting prospect than ever before for bettors. 

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Understanding MLS matchups

MLS matchups come fast and furious and can be within or across conferences. As is the case in any sports, determining the best MLS picks often comes from understanding the styles and circumstances at hand.

For example, pretend that D.C. United is doing much worse than their upcoming opponent, the Columbus Crew, but their five-defender system makes them defensively resolute. If Columbus is a traditionally low-scoring team, they will be set up for failure against a team that thrives against similarly toothless squads.

Looking at it a level deeper, D.C. will probably defend with a low block, which will encourage Columbus to pass the ball around in front of their defense without actually penetrating it— if they were to turn the ball over, they would be thin at the back, giving D.C. a more open path to goal in transition. This is assuming a lot of factors, but purely as a hypothetical, it shows the advantages of understanding an impending matchup and not just relying on plain numbers and league position.

Key players and tendencies also tend to prove especially important when analyzing upcoming matches, both for their potential impact and also historical precedent.

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