Orlando City SC midfielder Nani

Orlando City SC

Sports are slowly starting to return to the United States.

The NWSL's return to action tournament and The Basketball Tournament have been whetting the appetite of sports fans, and on Wednesday the MLS got in on the action. The MLS is Back Tournament kicked off from the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando. The "World Cup style" tournament hasn't been without issues though, as FC Dallas and Nashville SC have both been removed from the tournament because of a high number of players testing positive for COVID-19.

Originally there was going to be six groups in the tournament, with Group A containing six teams. Because of the removal of FC Dallas and Nashville SC, Chicago Fire FC has been shifted to Group B and now each of the six groups features four teams. The knockout round is slated to begin on July 25 and the final is set for August 11.

Group A

MLS Is Back Tournament: Group AMLS



Orlando City SC

After a disappointing first year in Orlando, head coach Oscar Pareja is looking for some better results this year. The first two matches of the year didn't show much improvement from last year, as the Lions had to settle for a draw with Real Salt Lake before falling 2-1 at Colorado. Those results might not be indicative of what Orlando City SC will offer the rest of the year, as Nani and Dom Dwyer weren't available for the contest.

It looked to be more of the same for the Lions in the tournament opener, as they fell behind Inter Miami 1-0, but Pareja's squad didn't quit. Chris Mueller opened up the scoring for Orlando City in the 70th minute before Nani lived up to his designated player status by burying the game-winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time in the second half.

Dwyer and Nani are going to have to carry Orlando City if the "home team" wants to make a deep run in the tournament. The Lions will likely make it out of the group stage, but it's hard to see them winning a game in the knockout round unless they get some big efforts from a number of other players beside Dwyer and Nani.

Philadelphia Union

Earning points against the Philadelphia Union hasn't been easy in recent years. Last year Philadelphia registered 58 points and defeated New York Red Bulls in extra time before falling to Atlanta United in the conference semifinals. It was the third time in the last four years that Jim Curtain's squad has made it to the MLS playoffs.

Philadelphia didn't get any favors in the draw, as they were matched up with New York City FC, who finished first in the Eastern Conference last year. The U weren't scared though, as they picked up a 1-0 win thanks to Alejandro Bedoya's goal in the 63rd minute, along with some huge saves from goalkeeper Andre Blake. Not only is Philadelphia solid all the way around the pitch, but they are made even stronger by having Blake between the sticks. It wouldn't be a surprise to see The U make some noise in the knockout round.

New York City FC

The first place team from the Eastern Conference last season has had a nightmare start to the season. NYCFC opened up this year's campaign by seeing defender Maxine Chanot sent off in the third minute of a 1-0 loss to Columbus. Things haven't gotten much better for the Blues since, losing their other two matches by the same scoreline. The latest of those setbacks came in their first group stage game on Thursday morning against Philadelphia.

Last year NYCFC saw Heber, Alexandru Mitrita, and Valentin Castellanos all score at least 10 goals, which makes their scoreless start to the season even more puzzling. Now NYCFC has to get their act together quickly if they want to avoid getting bounced from the tournament in the group stage.

Inter Miami CF

It has felt like decades since the MLS announced that a team in Miami would be returning to the league. Actually it was 2014 when an investment group led by David Beckham was awarded a team, but it took until 2020 for the team to take the field because of issues with stadium proposal.

The Herons are still looking for their first MLS win, but they are getting closer. In a March 7 loss to D.C. United, Rodolfo Pizzaro scored a goal in the second minute to give Inter Miami a 1-0 lead. Diego Alonso's squad would fail to win the match, but they did hold the lead for over 50 minutes.

Wednesday night's match against Orlando City SC again saw the Herons take a 1-0 lead, only to fail to earn the victory. While the setback stung, an even bigger loss for Inter Miami was when Andres Reyes was stretchered off in the 51st minute following a clash with Orlando City's Dom Dwyer.

Group B


MLS Is Back Tournament: Group BMLS


Seattle Sounders FC

One of the favorites coming into this tournament was the Seattle Sounders, but Brian Schmetzer's squad haven't quite lived up to expectations. The Sounders were held scoreless in a draw with San Jose on Friday night, and followed that performance up with an even bigger dud, falling 2-1 to a Chicago Fire team that they had beaten in their season opener.

After missing the 2018 due to a knee injury, Jordan Morris returned to action for the Sounders, Morris returned to score 13 goals last year. Most of the damage Morris did came later in the year, scoring eight of those goals after July. Morris got his season off to a strong start, scoring two goals in the opener against Chicago.

Morris won't have to do it all himself, since Seattle also has proven scorers Raul Ruidiaz, Christian Roldan, and Nicolas Lodeiro on the roster. Seattle is going to need their offensive pieces to shine when they take on Vancouver in their final game of the group stage, or they could be headed home a lot earlier than they had expected.

San Jose Earthquakes

San Jose looked primed for a playoff spot heading into the final couple months of the 2019 season, but a 2-9-1 record in their final 12 matches left the Earthquakes on the outside looking in. Chris Wondolowski scored 15 goals to lead San Jose, but there wasn't much of note on the squad aside from the aging striker. Wondolowski is back for his 17th MLS season but he'll need some help if the Earthquakes want to make some noise.

San Jose showed some scoring punch in the first two matches of the season, scoring four goals, but they were only able to earn one point from those matches. The style of head coach Matias Almeyda might not translate well in the heat and humidity that'll be seen in Orlando, as his man-marking style forces his players to use a lot of energy.

The Earthquakes were able to pass their first test, drawing Seattle on Friday night to earn a point. San Jose had a little luck on their side even before the tournament began, as FC Dallas was removed from the tournament. Instead, the Earthquakes will play a Chicago team that has a lot of new pieces instead. Add that to a matchup with Vancouver, who is one of the worst teams in MLS, and even though Almeyda's tatics sometimes leave a lot to be desired, it likely won't keep San Jose from the knockout stage.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

One of the biggest longshots in this tournament is Vancouver, who finished last in the Western Conference last year. The Whitecaps have missed the playoffs in three of the last four seasons, and it's hard to see them making it back anytime soon. Vancouver did set a club-record transfer fee to bring in forward Lucas Cavallini in from Puebla of Liga MX, but he'll still need someone to set him up and put him in position to score.

The Whitecaps did surprise some people with a 1-0 win over LA Galaxy in their second match of the year, but it's hard to buy into what they are doing until results like that are seen on a more consistent basis. If Vancouver is going to make it to the knockout round, it's likely they'll need to get through as one of the third-place teams in the group stage with a higher point total.

Chicago Fire FC

Chicago has to be a little salty before they've even played a match in the tournament. The Fire went from playing two expansion teams to having to play the defending champs for the second time in 2020, as well as a couple other scrappy teams from the Western Conference. The Fire dropped their first meeting with the Sounders 2-1 in Seattle in their season opener, and followed that result up with a 1-1 draw against New England.

Gone are Nemanja Nikolic and Nicolas Gaitan, who each scored 12 goals last year, but C.J. Sapong is still with the squad. Chicago bolstered their midfield by adding Alvaro Medran from Valencia, as well as Luka Stojanovic and Gaston Gimenez, which should help Raphael Wicky's team a good shot at making it to the knockout round.

Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

Tom Pennington, Getty Images

In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Bam Adebayo's 31-point and 10-rebound double-double led the Miami Heat to a 109-103 victory over the Celtics on the road. That was followed by a dominant second-half performance by Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins who led the Warriors to a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals.

Tonight, we'll get the first of these two matchups. Boston will look to come back in their second home game against a Heat team that is clearly not at 100% healthy. Tyler Herro has been ruled out for Game 4 while Kyle Lowry remains questionable. Here are some of the best bets for tonight's and tomorrow's big Game 4s.

Please note that all odds and lines are from FanDuel Sportsbook and were accurate at 3:30 PM EST. Be sure to check for line movement or odd changes.

ECF Game 4: Miami Heat at Boston Celtics -7 (MIA Leads 2-1)

In Game 4, the Celtics rallied back from double-digits to make things interesting in the fourth quarter. However, Boston conceded Game 3 to the Miami Heat 109-103. On Sunday, Bam Adebayo was getting everything he wanted down low. He finished with 31 points, 10 boards, six assists, four steals, and one block. Ime Udoka will need to boost the presence of his big men down low, perhaps by extending Daniel Theis’ minutes or having him share the floor more with Al Horford. The major reason for which the Heat are considered the seven-point underdogs for tonight’s game is injuries. Tyler Herro has already been ruled out for Game 4, and the Heat have four or five other players in their lineup currently listed as questionable. This includes Max Struss, Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler, and P.J. Tucker. Butler is dealing with knee inflammation which sidelined him for the second half of Game 3.

Even if all of the players in the Heat’s rotation are good to go tonight (outside of Herro), Boston has not lost back-to-back home games since late October. Plus, Jaylen Brown is shooting much better than he did earlier in the postseason. In fact, he’s elevated his shooting to 50% from the field through the 2021-22 playoffs through 14 games played. Expect Boston to bounce back big in Game 4, with multiple players on the Miami Heat not at full strength.

The Pick: Boston Celtics -7 (-110)

WCF Game 4: Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks -1 (GSW Leads 3-0)

Well, it’s looking like the Golden State Warriors are returning to the NBA Finals. With the emergence of Jordan Poole late this season and into the postseason, Andrew Wiggins’ First-Team All-Star season, and Klay Thompson’s return to basketball, Golden State has been simply phenomenal. Golden State is simply that good this year, with anyone on the team capable of stepping up. Stephen Curry erupted in Game 3, while it was Andrew Wiggins that caught fire in the second half of Game 4. Any given night, the Warriors have one or two guys who they can count on for scoring approximately 25+ points. Considering the Mavericks' struggles this round, particularly behind the three-point line, bettors should go with the Warriors as the slight underdog. Teams get swept sometimes. Just ask the Brooklyn Nets. The Warriors will bring out the brooms and sweep the Mavericks as they punch their ticket to the NBA Finals Tuesday night.

The Pick: Golden State Warriors ML -104

NBA Player Props

Golden State Warriors at Dallas Mavericks -1 (GSW Leads 3-0)

Prop #1: Stephen Curry, Over 27.5 Points

Stephen Curry has scored 31 points and 32 points over the last two games. He’s done so by converting at least 50% from the field in each contest. It makes sense that he would score at least 28 points in a series-clinching victory tomorrow night. Curry is averaging 27.1 PPG on 45.9% this postseason but has certainly put up more points and done so more efficiently over the last few games.

Prop #2: Luka Doncic, Over 3.5 Threes

Luka has drained nine three-pointers over the last two games. He’s knocked down at least four threes in three of his last four contests. Facing elimination and hoping to not let down the home crowd in back-to-back home playoff games, Doncic will convert at least four baskets from downtown in Game 4.

Tyler Herro (Left), Bam Adebayo (Right), Miami Heat

Getty Images

Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and the Miami Heat held their own against the Celtics in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Likewise, Andrew Wiggins and Stephen Curry led the Warriors to a 112-87 blowout over Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Tonight, the Celtics play their second game on the road against the Heat. On Friday night, the Mavericks will look to bounce back after shooting horrifically in Game 1.

Let’s take a look at the best bets for the two NBA Conference Final Game 2 matchups set for 8:30 PM EST. tonight and 9:00 PM EST. tomorrow night.

Please note that all odds and lines are from FanDuel Sportsbook and were accurate at 4:30 PM EST. Be sure to check for line movement or odd changes.

Best Bets of the Night

Game: Boston Celtics at Miami Heat -2 (MIA Leads 1-0)

After a nail-biting series with the Milwaukee Bucks that the Celtics won in grandiose fashion, Boston conceded Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat. Tonight, they play Game 2 of the series at the FTX Arena and hope to bounce back from Tuesday’s 11-point loss. One of the principal reasons for their defeat in Game 1 was the absence of Marcus Smart (foot sprain) and Al Horford (health & safety protocols). It remained a relatively close game until the third quarter in which the Celtics were outscored 14-3 to begin the second half. Derrick White filled in for Marcus Smart and was terribly inefficient from the field. He scored three points (1-4 FG) and had four assists in 29 minutes filling in for the Defensive Player of the Year. In contrast, Max Struss and Gabe Vincent did a terrific job of filling in for Kyle Lowry, combining for 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting. In addition, Tyler Herro had a good night with a pivotal 18 points (7-15 FG) off the bench. Fortunately for the Celtics, both Smart and Horford are expected to return tonight.

Head Coach Ime Udoka indicated to reporters today that Smart was probable to play this evening. Horford was cleared of health and safety protocols today making him available for tonight’s contest. For those of you who have watched the Celtics this postseason, Horford and Smart have upped their play and have been absolutely integral to the team’s success. Tonight, let’s take the Boston Celtics to take a game on the road in the same fashion that they took two road games from the Bucks in the last series.

The Pick: Boston Celtics ML +108

Tonight's Best NBA Player Props

Game: Boston Celtics at Miami Heat -2 (MIA Leads 1-0)

Prop#1: Gabe Vincent Over 9.5 Points
In Game 1 without Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent scored 17 points in 34 minutes on 50% shooting from the field. As Kyle Lowry is out again for Game 2 tonight, expect Vincent to score at least 10 points. Vincent has performed admirably while filling in for the veteran. Even when Lowry returns, it's quite possible that Erik Spoelstra will give some of Lowry's minutes to Vincent.
Prop#2: Al Horford Over 9.5 Points
After five straight double-digit scoring performances, Al Horford scored eight points or fewer in the last three games of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Bucks. He missed Game 1 of the Celtics' series against the Miami Heat after entering Health & Safety protocols. Since he was only out for one game, he shouldn't face any minute restrictions tonight. Horford should score at least 10 points in 30+ minutes on the floor.

Tomorrow Night's Best NBA Bet

Game: Dallas Mavericks at Golden State -6 (GSW Leads 1-0)

Dallas was annihilated by Golden State in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. This comes after the Mavs blew out the Phoenix Suns on the road in impressive fashion, punching their ticket to the next round of the playoffs for a series against the Warriors. Golden State shot an impressive 56.1% from the field in the opening game and finished with 112 points. Just as important as the offensive production, Golden State clamped down on defense. The Warriors contained Luka Doncic, who converted just six of his 18 field goals on his way to 20 points. Andrew Wiggins did an excellent job guarding the young playmaker. Luka's teammates didn't help out much either as the Mavericks shot 36% from the field in Game 1, and 22.9% from downtown (11-48 3PT FG) for just 87 points on the night.

While I think the Warriors will win again on Friday night, expect the Mavericks to keep things more interesting after such an abysmal night shooting from the field. Dallas will make the adjustments needed to make this a competitive Game 2 in the Bay area.

The Pick: Dallas Mavericks +6 (-110)

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Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Klay Thompson is coming off one of his signature Game 6 performances. Thompson dropped his second-highest point total of the postseason, punching Golden State's ticket to the Western Conference Finals after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies in six games. In the elimination game, Thompson led the team with 30 points (11-22 from the field and 8-14 from beyond the arc), eight boards, two assists, and three blocks. Considering the multitude of injuries he has fought back from and the adversity he has faced, it's quite amazing that the five-time All-Star has converted at least 50% of his three-point shots in three of his last four outings. He seems to be in great form entering this pivotal series with the Mavericks.

Dallas stunned the top-seeded Phoenix Suns and reigning Western Conference champs on the road in Game 7, 123-90, and earned a trip to the Western Conference Finals. Let's see if Thompson can remain scorching hot as Stephen Curry and the Dubs host Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals tonight. Now, let's take a look at some of the best bets and player props to consider for tonight’s big matchup!

Please note that all odds and lines are from FanDuel Sportsbook and were accurate at 3:30 PM EST. Be sure to check for line movement or odd changes.

Best Bets of the Night

Bet #1: Golden State Warriors -5 (-110)

Following a tough loss in Game 5 to the Grizzlies despite Ja Morant’s absence from the lineup, the Warriors bounced back and closed the series at home in Game 6. They take on the Dallas Mavericks, who’ve been absolutely unbelievable on defense. Changes made to the Mavs’ rotation by Jason Kidd worked flawlessly against Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and the Suns in the previous round. One surprise for Dallas this postseason has been former New York Knicks lottery pick, Frank Ntilikina. He's a player who has stepped up immensely this postseason, especially on defense. Throughout the series, Ntilikina held Chris Paul and Devin Booker to a combined 3-of-40 shooting from the field when he guarded them.

It will be interesting to see if Jason Kidd keeps his minutes up, or perhaps increases them after what was truly an astonishing defensive performance against the Suns. Unfortunately for the Mavericks, the Golden State Warriors have four efficient scorers who will need to be contained. The Warriors will cover the spread tonight and win by more than five points on their home floor.

Bet #2: Over 214.5 Total Points (-110)

Dallas scored an impressive 123 points in Game 7, and they did so on the road. I expect them to reach at least 110 points in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors shot on and off throughout their series against the Memphis Grizzlies. Nonetheless, they averaged 111 PPG in their series against Memphis (666 total points scored by the Warriors over six games). Both teams play a style of basketball that stresses ball movement to find an open man beyond the arc. When Dallas or Golden State shoot 40%-45% from the field, they can score in the hundreds because of the high volume of shots they take. Dallas started taking more shots and playing at a faster pace in the second half of their series against Phoenix. By the half in Game 7, Dallas was up 57-27. In the game, the Mavericks went 19-of-39 from downtown (48.9%). Even more impressive was Dallas’ 56.8% shooting from the field. Although the Warriors are one of the best defensive teams in the league, a 214.5-point Over / Under for tonight’s game is quite low. Smash the Over.

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NBA Player Props of the Night

Prop #1: Jordan Poole Over 1.5 Threes (-174)

Jordan Poole has finally cooled down after a stretch of three 20-point games against the Grizzlies. Over the last three contests, Poole has only hit two or more three-pointers in one contest. Over those last three games, he shot a combined 3-of-17 from downtown. While Poole has been highly inefficient over the last few games, he’ll hit at least two three-pointers in Game 1 tonight. The odds of this prop reflect how likely it is to happen. Although Poole isn't seeing as high a usage rate as when Curry and Thompson were injured during the regular season, Poole should still see plenty of open looks in the 25+ minutes he should log tonight. Given that Dallas will most likely try to stop Curry and Thompson from beating them, Poole should see a few wide-open looks. He will knock down at least two from deep range tonight.

Prop #2: Klay Thompson Over 20.5 Points (-112)

Klay Thompson has averaged just about 20.5 points since he came back this regular season. Throughout the postseason, he’s played strong and for the most part, been efficient from the field. Through 11 games in this postseason, Thompson is averaging 20.4 PPG on 45% shooting from the field. I like him to hit the over here in his first Western Conference Final matchup in three years. After getting his swagger back and dropping 30 points to eliminate the Grizzlies last round, Thompson should have all. the confidence in the world heading into Game 1 in the bay.

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