MLS is MIA in Sin City

GARETH WHEELER

, Last Updated: 8:06 AM ET

The gambling capital of the world doesn't have a love for soccer.

So here was the plan. I'm down in Las Vegas for a bachelor party and was thinking: "It would be fun to throw down $90 on 90 minutes of soccer."

Why not lay a couple on Toronto FC, with it in an essentially must-win game?

There had to be some value in TFC. Toronto had been woeful on the road, so the odds would be favourable.

And just as important as making money (after all, that's why people go to Vegas), a play-by-play, blow-by-blow account of my bet would make for a good column. You know, assessing the stupidity of my wagering in a public forum, setting myself up for further ridicule.

So the mission was on. I'm in the Bellagio Sports Book checking the boards to see what sweet odds they'll give me for a big TFC win.

I scan the board. There's obviously a ton of college football and Major League Baseball. And most other sports are prominently featured. I keep looking. But no soccer.

Was I missing something? I went to the counter to inquire. I asked if I could place a bet on TFC and the person looked at me like I was from another planet.

Not only could I not bet on TFC, I couldn't bet on any Major League Soccer game -- period. No lines, no bets could be made on MLS.

Could this be? Could MLS be irrelevant to the gambling public in Vegas?

In Sin City, North America's top soccer league doesn't register.

I was told by the woman running the operation that there is no interest in MLS wagering, aside from a brief window when the sports scene dies down after the end of the basketball season.

I was shocked.

In a room in which I could bet on virtually any sport and prop going on, MLS was MIA.

This speaks to the complete lack of interest towards MLS in major pockets of the U.S.

Now, I could bet on a select number of World Cup qualifiers. And there's substantial evidence soccer is as popular as ever.

But not the North American brand.

It's the casual fan, the gambling public, who haven't embraced it. And until MLS captures the wagering sports fan, it will continue to miss out on a major demographic.

Like it or not, sports fans and their interest in a sport show up in gambling. Whether it be fantasy sports or straight-up wagering, it's vital.

It requires no explanation what it means to the NFL. Globally, soccer is gambled on more than any other sport. With greater profile, the casual interest in the league will grow.

So instead of watching soccer, I was left watching Cirque du Soleil's Beatles tribute, Love. On the bright side, I'm glad I didn't lose my $90 betting on TFC.

Score one

Some nice work by Kristian Jack of The Score for revealing Julian de Guzman's prolonged, yet seemingly inevitable, move to TFC.

To meet de Guzman's terms, director of soccer Mo Johnston will be busy doing what he does best -- working the salary cap.

Few minds understand the ins and outs of the cap better than Johnston. To accommodate de Guzman's substantial pay cheque, Johnston must shed personnel and salary.

And make no mistake -- it's worth it. Getting de Guzman is a coup. He's what TFC is supposed to be all about -- providing Canada's best the opportunity to play at home professionally.

In terms of quality and influence, few will fit in and make the team better than the crafty midfielder.

Close shave

Good stuff from the Red Patch Boys Supporters Club with its third annual Terry Fox Head Shave Day before the return match against Colorado on Saturday. Participating members solicit sponsorship to raise money and have raised over $25,000 in the fundraiser's first two years.

This year's event goes down at the Red Patch Boys tailgate party at 1:45 p.m., ahead of the 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

GARETH.WHEELER@SUNTV.CANOE.CA


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