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Moment of truth for restarts may be imminent

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

July 6, 2020 12:01 AM

This could be the week that sports fans have been months waiting for . . . or it could be the week when restart plans for multiple leagues unravel. 

Let’s think optimistically. Major League Soccer is scheduled to restart with its “MLS is Back” tournament Wednesday night, though the schedule is still in limbo because more players keep testing positive for the coronavirus. 

Nashville SC, one of four teams scheduled for opening-night action, reported Sunday that five players had tested positive. FC Dallas already had its Thursday game postponed because nine players tested positive. 

The tournament is in a “World Cup-style” format. Group play will launch contenders to knockout brackets that will ultimately determine a champion. Circa Sports in Las Vegas has odds posted to win the tournament. The 10 teams casual fans and recreational gamblers should keep an eye on…

Select "MLS is Back" Futures (Circa Sports)

LAFC + 425 (a $100 bet would earn a profit of $425)

Toronto + 1250

Atlanta + 1250

NY Red Bulls + 1500

All at + 1800: FC Dallas, NYCFC, Philadelphia, San Jose, Sporting KC, Seattle

Clearly, LAFC is currently the perceived league superpower. But as betting experts have been discussing on VSiN for weeks, anything can happen over a short sample size in a volatile neutral field (or court) event. 

Circa’s complete futures odds allows us to paint a picture of group play. Let’s run through each group using those returns (leaving out “+ ” because every team is + odds). Note that there are six teams in Group A, four apiece in the rest. 

*Group A: NYCFC (1800), Philadelphia (1800), Miami (2400), Orlando (2800), Chicago (4000), Nashville (8000). 

Arguably a “group of death” because there are two top 10 contenders along with two teams based in the host state. Though, Nashville is such a longshot that it’s not a true power group. Note that three teams from Group A earn auto-bids to the knockouts because it’s larger than the other groups. 

*Group B: Seattle (1800), FC Dallas (1800), San Jose (1800), Vancouver (8000). 

Obviously the health of FC Dallas will play a huge role in determining who advances. This winner will enter the knockouts as a live dark horse. 

*Group C: Toronto (1250), New England (4000), Montreal (5500), DC United (5500).

Looks like an easy draw for Toronto. At least one longshot will join the 16-team knockouts from this hunk.


*Group D: Sporting KC (1800), Minnesota (2200), Real Salt Lake (4200), Colorado (4200).

Let’s see if either of the top two look sharper than early futures odds suggest. 

*Group E: Atlanta (1250), NY Red Bulls (1500), Columbus (2400), Cincinnati (8000). 

This is the only group with two teams at + 1500 or better in Circa’s numbers. Atlanta will have had an easier trip than others. Oh, you can bet that broadcast networks will build up all the rivalry showdowns. Columbus/Cincinnati could be a good show even if the latter isn’t bracket ready. 

*Group F: LAFC (425), LA Galaxy (2400), Portland (2800), Houston (5500)

You’d think LAFC will at least be tested in “El Traffico” against the rival Galaxy. 

Should the tournament go on as scheduled in Orlando, we’ll provide updates from a market perspective throughout. Early game odds are spotty, and offered at relatively low limits because of sportsbook exposure to covid news Opening day odds as of Sunday evening (goal odds from, three-way from Circa Sports)…

*Miami vs. Orlando

Miami -0.25 goals (-106), Orlando + 0.25 goals (-119)

Orlando + 210, draw + 240, Miami + 130

When betting with a quarter goal, half of your bet goes down at pick-em, the other half at half-a-goal. So, Miami bettors risk half of their stake at pick, half at -0.5 goals. Orlando bettors risk half at pick, and half at + 0.5 goals.

*Chicago vs. Nashville

Chicago -0.75 goals (-104), Nashville + 0.75 goals (-122)

Chicago -120, draw + 275, Nashville + 320

If you don’t like betting with quarter and three-quarter goals, at least use those odds to build team power ratings throughout the event. We’ll take a crack at that ourselves on these pages, schedule permitting. 

Other restarts coming up soon…

*MLB teams can play up to three exhibition games in advance of regular-season action scheduled July 23-24. 

*NBA team vs. team scrimmages begin July 22, in advance of regular-season action scheduled for July 30-31.

*The WNBA has yet to announce opening dates for a planned restart in Bradenton, Fla. 

*The NHL has yet to announce opening dates for planned restarts in Toronto and Edmonton hubs.


We started optimistically. Now the bad news.

While many states saw lower counts because of reduced testing and reporting around July 4, Florida stuck around 10K per day. 

According to

Thursday: 10,109 new cases reported

Friday: 9,488 new cases reported

Saturday: 11,458 new cases reported

Sunday: 10,059 new cases reported

When you see relatively consistent numbers like that, it’s tempting to assume things have stabilized. Important to remember that those totals represent more than 40,000 new cases in the past four days. 

Orlando is an important city given the hopes for the MLS and NBA. It’s located in Orange County. Counts those four days: 584, 620, 1184, 770.

We’re also paying close attention to Manatee County, where the WNBA hopes to play in Bradenton. Erratic counts through the four days showed 160, 86, 293, and 162. Maybe Saturday’s 293 was a catch up from slowly reported Friday numbers. However you slice it, danger for a  county much-less populated than Florida’s pro-sport sites. 

More Stories of Interest

*Milwaukee Bucks shut down practices (Woj-ESPN)

*WNBA assistant coach Bridget Pettis resigns (Chicago Sun Times)

*MLB Players uncertain about season (NY Post)

*Past may foreshadow Cubs future (Marquee Sports Network)

*Japanese baseball fans embrace remote viewing (Mainichi)


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