Nashville SC — Could Team Be A Potential MLS Cup Sleeper Pick?

The second-year MLS franchise is tracking to return to the playoffs but has a daunting road schedule ahead
Nashville SC Mukhtar MLS Cup
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Little has been normal about Nashville SC’s short tenure in Major League Soccer.

Its inaugural 2020 season was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which included the Boys in Gold being unable to participate in the MLS Is Back tournament due to an outbreak of the virus among team players. Nashville SC did regroup to reach the playoffs and is looking for bigger things in its second season, but is it enough to consider a wager on winning the MLS Cup?

The short answer: maybe.

Some sportsbooks are still offering the opportunity to wager on the Eastern Conference winner and Golden Boot for the league’s top scorer in addition to the MLS Cup winner, so some options are available and there is some potential value to be had for a bold selection or two.

On solid footing to reach the postseason

The MLS season is practically at its midpoint, and rosters across the league will be made whole again following the United States defeating Mexico 1-0 after extra time in the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup on Sunday night.

While there are no “yes/no” playoff offerings available at any sportsbooks, Nashville SC is solidly in the playoff chase. It enters Wednesday’s high-profile match at East-leading New England third in the conference with 27 points and has a chance to sweep the season series from the Revolution after recording a 2-0 home victory May 8.

The Boys in Gold are also six points clear of eighth-place D.C. United, one of only two teams along with the New York Red Bulls outside the top seven (all spots that provide postseason entry) that appear capable of making a playoff charge.

Gay Smith’s team has proven resilient, being able to secure points from a trailing position seven times this year, including Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Toronto FC that extended its current unbeaten run to eight matches. Nashville SC has an MLS-low one loss through 16 contests and a league high-tying nine draws while allowing a conference-low 15 goals.

Despite all the positives, oddsmakers are not all that convinced this early success will continue. Nashville SC is listed anywhere from +1600 at Caesars and WynnBet to +2500 at DraftKings to win the MLS Cup. In-state sportsbook Action 24/7 (+1750), Unibet (+1800) and BetMGM (+2000) are all between those bookend offerings, but the second-year team ranks no higher than ninth among overall championship options and is 13th on DraftKings’ list.

There are some reasons to be skeptical. Nashville SC has played a home-heavy schedule to this point — 11 of its 16 matches have been at Nissan Stadium, where it is unbeaten at 6-0-5. While the Boys in Gold escaped Toronto with a point, they are winless outside of Tennessee in five tries (0-1-4) and play five of their final seven contests on the road.

Mukhtar musings

Attacking midfielder Hany Mukhtar has emerged as the focal point of Nashville SC’s offense, factoring in 11 of the team’s 25 goals via goal or assist. He leads the team with seven goals, which is tied for ninth in MLS and four back of Golden Boot frontrunner Raul Ruidiaz of the Seattle Sounders.

Mukhtar is considered a longshot to win top goal-scorer honors. DraftKings is most bullish on him at +1600, which is tied for the 10th-best offering, while Unibet is offering +2000. Caesars lists the one-time Brondby IF playmaker at +2500.

Photo: Kevin Sousa/USA Today

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