LAFC Odds-On Favorites to Top MLS is Back Tournament Group F

Carlos Vela fending off defender

With reigning league MVP likely to sit out the MLS Is Back tournament, do LAFC deserve to be Group F favorites? Photo by @LAFC (Twitter).
  • MLS restarts with the MLS Is Back tournament on July 8
  • Split into groups, the two Los Angeles teams are favored to progress from Group F ahead of the Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers
  • Get the odds, betting discussion and picks for MLS Group F below

Major League Soccer restarts their season on July 8 with a tournament in Orlando. The season was barely underway when COVID-19 halted sport in north America, but there’s reason to be cautious about the league’s plans in Florida, too.

A match, between FC Dallas and Vancouver Whitecaps, has already been postponed following eight positive Coronavirus tests. Assuming the other fixtures go ahead this coming week, we will see the start of the group stage of the MLS Is Back tournament.

MLS Is Back Group F Odds

Team Odds To Qualify Odds To Win Group
LAFC -2000 -110
LA Galaxy -400 +250
Houston Dynamo +100 +500
Portland Timbers +135 +650

Odds taken Jul. 5.

Format

There are five groups of four teams and one group (Group A) containing five teams. The top two will qualify from Groups B through F with the top three progressing from Group A. To get the numbers up, the three best third-placed (or fourth-placed from Group A) will also progress to the next round.

The event will run until August 11 with (if the tournament is completed) 54 matches taking place across 26 matchdays. The finalists will play seven matches in total, making the format comparable to a World Cup, an intense schedule of fixtures to find a champion.

Notable Absentees

On the first of the month, it was reported by ESPN that reigning league MVP Carlos Vela is expected to opt out of the tournament. Vela has been prolific in his spell with LAFC and his performances led the team to the Supporters’ Shield last season – his absence would be significant, but there’s enough talent on the LAFC roster to compensate to a degree.

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LAFC’s city rivals, the Galaxy, are without a key man too. Jonathan dos Santos will undergo hernia surgery, ruling him out of the bubble entirely.

Early Form

Teams managed to fit in two matches before the league was halted back in March. Houston Dynamo picked up a solitary point, drawing with Galaxy and suffering a heavy defeat to Sporting Kansas City. The disappointing draw with Houston was followed by a defeat to Vancouver for the Galaxy.

LAFC got off to a stronger start, seeing off new franchise Inter Miami in the opening match and playing out a six-goal draw with Philadelphia Union. It was a win and a defeat for Portland in their two after a disappointing first-round exit in the 2019 playoffs.

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Random Element

One upset in a three-match group stage can turn the thing on its head. Despite the odds leaning towards the two LA teams considerably, Houston and Portland obviously have a more than solid chance of getting into the last 16.

The stronger teams should still prevail through a group phase, but the period to settle into a season, develop chemistry and build up good form does not exist. While LAFC were historically good in the 2019 regular season, their defense showed vulnerability in the playoffs and the loss of Walker Zimmerman could expose that further. It isn’t impossible to imagine a scenario where they miss out together, particularly without Vela, who has proven himself as MLS’ best player.

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Portland invested significantly, adding potentially important players all over the pitch. Last season ended with a whimper, and they’re a bit of a wildcard this year without a clearly defined style, but there’s upside on this team.

They were predicted by many to finish around the four or five mark in the Western Conference if there was a full season. They have what it takes to upset one of the LA teams and qualify for the last 16.

Anything Possible For Galaxy

Despite losing dos Santos for the tournament, and waving farewell to the Zlatan Ibrahimovic circus, the LA Galaxy are one of the most interesting franchises in MLS right now. Javier Hernandez steps into the star striker berth and Cristian Pavon is as exciting as anyone to watch in the league, taking people on and creating chances at will.

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Veteran Emiliano Insua was signed to play behind Pavon on the left. The Galaxy will hope he provides some solidity to a back line that leaked goals in 2019 – they conceded the most regular season goals of any playoff team.

Being without dos Santos impacts the team’s floor perhaps more than their ceiling. This attack could still blow teams away, and if they hit the ground running, could quickly become tournament favorites.

Picks: Portland Timbers to qualify (+135), LA Galaxy to win Group F (+250)

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