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Bettors, prepare to restart your engines

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

July 19, 2020 09:59 PM

Legal regular season betting on major U.S. team sports is now just a few days away. Let’s begin the new week with a reset of the restarts amid the challenge of the corona virus pandemic. 

MLS: Though not a major betting sport in the U.S., soccer was the canary in the coal mine domestically. The “MLS is Back” tournament is safely into the final matchups of group play without any setbacks of late. There were early hiccups, with Dallas and Nashville forced to withdraw because of positive tests outside the Florida quarantine bubble (home bases in Orlando, games in Kissimmee). Since play began, no issues with illnesses or outbreaks. Given roster size, strong evidence so far that both the NBA and WNBA can stay safe as well with player vigilance regarding mitigation guidelines.  

Major League Baseball: Exhibition games began Saturday night. First pitch of the regular season is Thursday as “America’s Pastime” gets the honor of restarting major team sports. Franchises have “self-quarantined” successfully since camps began. While several stars have either tested positive pre-camp or opted out of the season, there have been no team outbreaks under aggressive testing campaigns. Fingers crossed.

NBA: Scrimmages begin Wednesday. Regular season begins eight days later Thursday, July 30. No positive tests in quarantine reported.

WNBA: As of this writing, there are no scrimmages scheduled. The regular season begins Saturday in Bradenton.

NHL: Pro hockey will be based in Canada from now through the Stanley Cup Finals. Training camps are still in their early stages in hubs Toronto (Eastern Conference teams) and Edmonton (Western Conference). Each team will play one exhibition game. Those begin Tuesday, July 28. The qualifying rounds begin Saturday, Aug. 1. Seeding round robins for the top four teams in each conference begin Sunday, Aug. 2. 

That takes us though the next couple of weeks. What about football in the fall? 

NFL: Pro football has already eliminated the Hall of Fame game and two weeks of preseason action (openers and closers). The NFLPA is hoping to get all exhibitions canceled. Several league stars made headlines Sunday expressing their disappointment with management’s inability to get formal protocols in place quickly. That will either blow up into a big issue that threatens the whole season, or will be resolved by the end of the month. While there’s still plenty of time to get everyone on the same page, trying to play a full football season under reasonable protocols during a national pandemic will be a tall order. 

NCAA: College football may have significant problems starting and finishing in one semester given nationwide saturation. Rosters are huge. And, there’s just no way to build dozens of geographic bubbles that offer full safety. Smaller conferences have already moved to the spring semester of 2021, hoping conditions will be more favorable then. The Big Ten and Pac-12 have eliminated non-conference games. The rest of this story will be written over the next six weeks.


An interesting final day in Group A. Pre-tourney group favorite NYCFC can’t even qualify for the knockouts unless it beats Miami in a morning matchup. Longshot Orlando has already locked up a berth, and could win the group with a small upset Monday night vs. Philadelphia. 

Group A Standings

Orlando: 6 points (2-0-0)

Philadelphia: 6 points (2-0-0)

Miami: 0 points (0-0-2)

NYCFC: 0 points (0-0-2)

As simple as it gets here. Orlando and Philadelphia are already in. Monday’s result determines seedings. If there’s a tie, Orlando would win the group based on goal differential (plus three to plus two). The early winner of Miami/NYCFC will have a chance to sneak into the brackets as a third-place finisher. Four of six third-place finishers will qualify. If Miami and NYCFC tie before brunch, neither would have a chance with only one point each. 

NYCFC vs. Miami (9 a.m. ET, ESPN)

Three-way: NYCFC plus 109, Miami plus 215, draw plus 267

Goal Line: NYCFC -0.25 goals (-119), Miami plus 0.25 goals (-103)

Over/Under: 2.75 goals (Over -106, Under -115) 

Philadelphia vs. Orlando (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Three-way: Philadelphia plus 139, Orlando plus 185, draw plus 257

Goal Line: Philadelphia -0.25 goals (plus 105), Orlando plus 0.25 goals (-128)

Over/Under: 2.75 goals (Over plus 100, Under -122) 

VSiN’s market estimate for our goal supremacy scale shows NYCFC 2.1, Philadelphia 2.0, Orlando 1.9, Miami 1.8. Those are based on prices throughout the event. If the market has been giving Orlando any “home field” credit for hosting the bubble, that’s factored into the number. 

Smart handicappers are always thinking ahead to the knockouts. The Group A winner will face a third-place team from Group C, D, or E. The Group A runner-up will play the Group C runner-up (Toronto, New England, or D.C. United).


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