Do you ever try to figure out if European soccer leagues being so easy to watch in the United States is good or bad for MLS? There are two different arguments to be made. One is that having leagues like the Premier League and Serie A so easy to watch in the States increases the interest in soccer, and therefore, increases the interest in MLS. The other argument -- and the one I find myself leaning toward -- is that watching European leagues makes watching MLS even more difficult.
Don't get me wrong, the quality of play in MLS is improving, but there's such a drastic difference in the level of play that's hard to ignore. Nor do I think it helps that MLS has expanded to 27 teams with more coming and no promotion or relegation system. The league is already short of world-class talent, and watering it down with more teams doesn't help the product at all.
I'm actively trying to become more interested in the league, but the more I watch leagues from the other side of the Atlantic, the more difficult it becomes.
All odds for this week's picks are via Caesars Sportsbook.
Lazio vs. Roma, Sun. 12 p.m, CBS Sports Network/Paramount+
The Derby della Capitale is one of the most heated rivalries in Serie A. It's the Roman equivalent of the Cubs, and White Sox in that two teams share the same city, and you grow up rooting for one or the other. That's it. What makes it more spectacular is that the teams share a stadium, and there's been plenty of history (both good and bad) between the sides and their fans. It's a fantastic spectacle every time they meet, and Sunday's match won't be any different.
Jose Mourinho's start at Roma has been near perfect, as the club sits fourth in Serie A, while the beginning of Maurizio Sarri's time at Lazio hasn't been as smooth. Lazio sit in seventh, but they've been somewhat stop-and-go thus far. I'm a huge Sarri fan -- his time at Napoli has endeared him to me forever -- but I'm backing Roma in this spot. Lazio's two wins came by a combined 9-2 score over Empoli and Spezia, both of whom will struggle to survive relegation. Since that 2-0 start in the league, Lazio have drawn twice and lost to AC Milan 2-0. In expected goals (xG), they've been outscored 6.0-3.3, and Lazio needed a late equalizer to avoid a loss to Torino earlier this week. Meanwhile, Roma had one slip-up against Verona but have looked dominant the rest of the time. The Pick: Roma (+160)
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Leeds United vs. West Ham United, Sat. 10 a.m, Peacock
Betting on Leeds United matches is my drug. No matter what you bet on in a match involving Leeds, it's going to be a non-stop thrill ride to the finish. Win or lose; you're going to need a nap afterward. The problem for Leeds is that they're experiencing the same kind of sophomore slump we've seen other clubs have after being promoted. In 2019-20 we saw Sheffield United come to the Premier League and finish ninth after getting somewhat lucky defensively (they allowed 39 goals on an xG allowed of 47.9). The following season Sheffield finished last in the league and were relegated.
Last season, Leeds finished ninth but were somewhat lucky to be there. They allowed 54 goals on an xG allowed of 62.9. Only West Brom -- who were relegated -- had a higher xG allowed. Now Leeds seem to be paying the price for its leaky defense, and their attack hasn't been strong enough to bail them out. Through five matches, Leeds rank 18th in the league with an xG allowed of 10.3, and I see them struggling to contain a solid West Ham team that has been a little unlucky to start the season despite solid results. The Pick: West Ham (+122)
Inter Milan vs. Atalanta, Sat. 12 p.m, Paramount+
Goals, goals, goals. I'm expecting lots of goals in this matchup. No team in Serie A has scored more goals than Inter's 18 this season, as the team hasn't had many problems replacing players like Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi. Of course, Inter have been relatively lucky with their finishing as those 18 goals have come on an xG of only 9.8, but they have such high-quality finishers that it's only natural they'll overperform their xG most of the time, even if not by quite this much. Also, Inter's defending has left something to be desired at times, allowing at least one goal in each of their last four matches.
That's excellent news for Atalanta, who could use a bounce or two. The darlings of Italy are off to a sluggish start. This team has scored an average of 2.47 goals per match over the last two seasons but has managed only six goals in five matches so far this season. Their xG of 7.5 hasn't been much better, but Atalanta's track record and style of play suggest a breakthrough is coming soon. I think it will be on Saturday in a match I can see finishing 3-2. The Pick: Over 2.5 (-140)
This week's parlay pays +141.
- Everton (-165)
- PSG (-510)
- Napoli (-390)