This morning, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook released its preseason odds to win MLS Cup. For those who aren't aware, this is the world's largest sports bookmaker -- i.e., an organization or a person that takes bets on sporting and other events at agreed upon odds.
As you can see, the LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders are considered the favorites; then New England and DC United. Real Salt Lake is in at 12-1, and New York City are in a four-team group at 15-1. Orlando City, for whatever it's worth, is all the way at 25-1, along with the Portland Timbers.
What does this all mean?
OK, here's how odds work. The first number is the payoff you will get if you bet the second number: i.e., at 4-5, you need to bet $5 to win $4 -- plus, you get your bet back. So at 4-5, you win $0.80 for every dollar you bet. If you bet $2 and win at those odds, you get back your $2, plus $0.80 for each dollar, or $1.60. So on a winning $2 bet at 4-5 odds, you'd get $3.60.
At 7-2, you have to bet $2 to win $7, which means the odds are $3.50 to $1. At 7-2, if you bet $2, you win $7, plus you get your $2 back. So you get $9 if you cash a $2 ticket at 7-2.
It's really easy: the first number is the number of dollars you would win if you bet the second number of dollars. Divide the first number by the second number to get the odds per dollar. And if you win, you always get the sum you bet back.
OK, I get that -- but what does this all mean? Do people think New York City rocks and Orlando sucks?
Oh, that. Well, consider this:
Shocking: here are 20 random numbers placed next to MLS team names. You'll never believe what your favorite team got! pic.twitter.com/Tr9nM0HotM— Dan Dickinson (@GothamistDan) February 16, 2015
To answer that question: not so much. The numbers in that tweet above are just as relevant as the odds released by the book. New York City is getting better odds not because the book considers them a better team than most, but because they're in New York, and they'll have two star players in David Villa and (later on) Frank Lampard, plus whomever they choose to add as a third designated player.
Let's dive a little deeper into this, though. We know that Seattle, LA, DC and New England are the good teams, right? And then everyone shuffles in after that.
Or do we? We'll obviously be exploring this in the league previews, but keep in mind: MLS, more than any other American league, is driven by parity and unpredictability. I'm not even considering foreign soccer leagues in that comparison. MLS' unpredictability is notorious.
Take DC, for instance. Three seasons ago, they made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Two seasons ago, they only won three games -- and the U.S. Open Cup. Last season, they were the top seed in the East, but lost to the Red Bulls in the playoffs.
That's insane. It would be like if the Knicks made it to the NBA Eastern Conference finals last season, lost every game left this season, and then won 60 games next season.
Now, obviously, DC United overhauled their squad last year, which had a lot to do with their performance, but still: that kind of season-over-season performance is unheard of. It makes predicting and setting odds a fools' errand, really.
It's not like DC's an outlier, either. LA spent a huge portion of last season meandering about in a soccer sabbatical, pondering the meaning of sporting life. They won the Cup over New England. The Revs were easily the softest team in the league, lost in the tall weeds. Then Don Garber drew an envelope, and Jermaine Jones was chilling in Back Bay as opposed to the Magnificent Mile. It could've just as easily been Chicago playing LA last December.
Everyone thought Real Salt Lake was done for; instead, they made the playoffs. Toronto FC was in third place deep into the summer. The Red Bulls were flailing around; instead, they come thisclose to their second MLS Cup.
Don't get caught up in the odds. New York City could make the playoffs, or they could miss them. But it's way too early to know thus far.