The MLS is one of the World’s fastest growing and most unique soccer leagues. What makes the MLS different to European soccer leagues? Why is home field advantage so strong? What other factors make the MLS different? Read on to inform your MLS betting.
The MLS operates a conference system culminating in playoffs at the end of the season. The league is split into a Western and Eastern conference with the top six teams from each entering a knockout tournament to decide the overall MLS Cup winner. In contrast to European leagues there is no promotion and relegation system.
Home field advantage in the MLS
The statistics suggest that home field advantage is stronger in the MLS than the major European leagues.
MLS teams win an average of 0.88 more points per game (PPG) playing at home than they do travelling to matches. In the Premier League this differential is only 0.5 points per game suggesting home advantage has a bigger effect in Major League Soccer than the major European leagues.
MLS Home vs Away PPG
In fact the proportion of MLS home wins to away wins is greater than that found in the Champions League, so an MLS regular season fixture is more comparable to a Champions League tie than a Premier League match.
Which MLS team has the biggest home field advantage?
Greatest home field advantage in the MLS
FC Dallas have the largest home-away point differential. They benefit from extremly high temperatures during the Texas summer, which may partially explain why they perform so much better in Dallas than on the road.
New York City FC have been the best team away from home according to their PPG, but are relatively less successful at Yankee Stadium. This may be caused by the unique nature of their home pitch (a converted baseball field) which could make home wins less likely.
NYCFC have been one of the strongest teams in the MLS since they joined the league in 2015, so the smaller pitch at the Yankee stadium may actually work as an equaliser, making it easier for inferior sides to secure points.
Extreme conditions in the MLS
MLS vs Premier League
*no official record
The MLS is certainly a very diverse competition with more variable conditions than the big Western European leagues. Teams need to prepare for extreme temperatures, altitudes and travel distances as well as playing across different time zones.
There are also restrictions on charter flights so star players can travel vast distances in economy class, an issue that does not occur in the richer and more geographically condensed European leagues.
Travel distance seems to have a negligible impact on home advantage however, so it is just one of many factors that must be considered when assessing how the venue will impact an MLS fixture.
Does the salary cap have an effect on the league?
Another factor that makes the MLS unique is it’s franchise system which is structured in a similar way to other North American sports leagues. There is no promotion and relegation whilst a wage cap is implemented in an attempt to secure parity between the sides.
This does not mean all MLS clubs can field sides of equivalent value, but it does limit disparity. According to Transfemrkt, the difference between the 2017 season’s most valuable (LA Galaxy, £31.95 million) and least valuable (Houston Dynamo, £9.5 million) MLS squads was £22.45 million.
There is only a slight correlation of 0.11 between team value and MLS regular season points total, which suggests the salary cap is working effectively to even the competition.
In contrast, the difference in value between the squads of Manchester City (£797.5 million) and Huddersfield (£81.85 million) is much larger. In the Premier League the value of a team’s squad correlates much more strongly with total points. This is another factor that may amplify the strength of home field advantage in the MLS.
In a game of fine margins home advantage is more likely to alter results. The MLS contains teams with similar levels of quality and thus the factors that influence home advantage (such as the home crowd and familiar surroundings) will have a greater effect on the outcome of matches.
For example, when Manchester City play Huddersfield there is such a mismatch in quality between the teams that the venue is less likely to alter the final result. In a standard MLS game the teams are more evenly matched, so home advantage becomes more important.
Betting on the MLS: What bettors should consider?
Bettors should be aware of the unique nature of the league when assessing MLS bets. The impact of home advantage and exceptional conditions should be considered in greater detail than the major European leagues.
- Read: How to bet on soccer
It is also important to note the motivation of a team ahead of the game. It is common for the worst MLS teams to have nothing to play for towards the end of the season which could affect results, whilst teams who have already secured their place in the playoffs may opt to rest players for more important matches.
All of this makes the MLS an interesting league to bet on, especially with the addition of brand new teams and the occasional midseason signing of a superstar from a European league.
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