The MLS standings work a little differently than those of soccer leagues around the world and also operate differently than the standings of other professional leagues in the United States. Most other soccer leagues don’t have a playoff at the end of the season and the tem atop the standings wins the title. The MLS, however, does have a playoff, the MLS Cup Playoffs.
The standings also change with expansion. With a 28 team league, there are 14 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference. The top seven teams in each conference make the MLS Cup Playoffs with the top team getting a bye in the first round.
The team with the overall most points at the end of the season wins the Supporters’ Shield and automatically qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League. The exception to this are if a Canadian team is first overall, they can’t qualify for the CCL.
Importance of MLS Standings for bettors
Bettors looking for MLS picks can use the standings to gain an advantage for how to bet on soccer. The teams higher up in the standings can have their odds impacted, especially against lower standings teams. As with most sports, a team toward the bottom of the standings beating a team at the top of the standings is considered an upset and will have plus odds, resulting in value for betting.
The cross conference games are unique to other soccer leagues as well as most leagues have 18-20 teams, not 28-30. This leaves an unbalanced schedule for the MLS odds and the standings can be a little misleading.
Bettors can use the standings to see what teams are playing well and conversely which teams are struggling. The standings will list goals for, goals against and goal differential so bettors can look at the standings and get a sense for style of play.
This is where it is important to look and see what teams MLS teams have played and what their records are both home and away. Don’t just look at the standings but also at who teams have played and what style they play.
How MLS season works.
The MLS season typically runs from late February/early March until October. Then the playoffs begin and run into December. There can occasionally be a break for international games, especially the FIFA World Cup or other major competitions.
This leaves the MLS different from most of the major soccer leagues across the world. The top leagues in Europe start in August and end in May, giving MLS prime soccer real estate for bettors in the summer months.
Each team plays 34 games, 17 at home and 17 on the road. In a normal year with an even amount of teams, each team plays their own conference opponents twice and cross conference opponents once. When the league is unbalanced with an odd amount of teams, the schedule is unbalanced as well.
MLS Standings Frequently Asked Questions
In step with the rest of the soccer leagues in the world, the MLS uses the point system. A win is worth three points and a draw is worth one point. There is no overtime in regular season games so games can end in a draw without a shootout.
The league has a tiebreaker system to use if two or more teams are tied on the same number of points at the end of the season. The first tiebreaker is most wins, followed by goal differential. If the teams are still tied it goes to total goals, then fewer disciplinary points. Away goal differential and away goals scored follows that and home goal differential and home goals are the 7th and 8th tiebreakers. If teams are still tied it goes to a simple coin toss.
The team with the most points wins the Supporters’ Shield. Along with this they qualify for the Champions League and get home-field advantage in the playoffs. This team also gets a first round bye in the playoffs and the inside track to hosting the MLS Cup Final. The top team in the other conference will have a bye as well and home-field advantage in their conference playoffs.
The top seven teams in both conferences make the playoffs with 2 v. 7, 3 v. 6 and 4 v. 5 in the first round single-elimination games. The higher-seed is the home team.
Unlike most leagues in the world, MLS does not use promotion/relegation so the last palace teams don’t get kicked out of the league. In fact, they get a better draft pick spot the following year.