Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong. -Ted Lasso
The kid from Pennsylvania seems up for the challenge. And as television’s soccer coach Ted Lasso notes, challenges are never easy.
In the soccer world, Christian Pulisic, the Hershey native who is now with Chelsea in England’s Premier League, has taken on a doozy.
He’s only 22 years old and is playing in what is arguably professional soccer’s most talented league. Only a handful of Americans call the English Premier League (EPL) home. And none will feature as prominently as the midfielder Pulisic, who is expected to play a major role for Chelsea in the upcoming season.
Can Hershey native Pulisic carry Chelsea to the title?
Pulisic signed with Chelsea in 2019 and recorded nine goals and four assists in his first year with the team. Last season, he earned his first Premier League start in early October and scored his first goal of the year a few weeks later. He ended the year with four goals and an assist, as Chelsea finished fourth in the Premier League standings.
However, following the EPL season, Pulisic had a goal and an assist in the the UEFA Champions League tournament (which features Europe’s best soccer clubs) and Chelsea won the whole thing, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the finals.
Now, Pulisic and his teammates are looking to build on that momentum when the English Premier League begins its season on Friday.
In this special edition of Penn Sportsbooks‘ Pick Play, we’re showcasing another one of our regular features, “Crossing the Mainstream,” in which we highlight the best bets in niche sports. This week, the English Premier League takes the stage.
The English Premier League season begins Friday
The 20-team English Premier League kicks off its season with a matchup between Brentford and Arsenal Friday at 3 p.m.
DraftKings Sportsbook has moneyline odds and a number of props for all the games, including the Chelsea opener, which is part of a full slate this weekend.
Chelsea is -380 in its game with Crystal Palace (+1100) at 10 a.m. Saturday.
Pulisic is +450 to be the first or last scorer and +160 to score at any point. He scored last weekend in a 6-1 preseason victory over Peterborough United.
“It’s great to be back and see the guys again and be getting ready for a new season,” Pulisic told ESPN. “It’s been really good so far. I think it’s been a good start, I’m starting to feel fit again and ready to go and I think the team’s looking good.”
Manchester City is the EPL favorite
DraftKings Sportsbook has Pulisic and Chelsea second in EPL futures at +500. Defending champion Manchester City is first at -165. Pricing is also available on a number of other finishing positions (2, 4, 6, 10) as well. The complete list of DraftKings’ futures pricing is as follows:
- Manchester City: -165
- Chelsea: +500
- Liverpool: +550
- Manchester United: +750
- Tottenham: +5000
- Arsenal: +5000
- Leicester: +5000
- Everton: +10000
- Leeds: +10000
- West Ham: +15000
- Wolves: +20000
- Brighton: +25000
- Southampton: +40000
- Newcastle: +50000
- Burnley: +60000
- Crystal Palace: +60000
- Brentford: +80000
- Norwich: +100000
- Watford: +100000
In addition to the futures bets, PA sportsbooks have a wealth of offerings for each individual EPL game, including wagers on spreads, halves, corners, game parlays and team, player, and game props.
Burnley leads BetMGM’s relegation wagers
One of the unique features of the Premier League is the system of promotion and relegation that exists between the EPL and the English Football League (EFL).
After a 38-game EPL regular season (each team plays the others twice), the three lowest-placed teams in the EPL are relegated to the EFL. Concurrently, the two top teams from the EFL are promoted to the EPL (a third team is promoted following a playoff among the teams that finish between 3-6).
Most Pennsylvania sportsbooks have wagers available on which EPL teams will be relegated. Here’s a quick rundown of BetMGM’s relegation numbers, which were posted in a tweet by analyst John Ewing.
Highest Ticket %
- Burnley: 22.9%
- Crystal Palace: 20.0%
- Brentford: 14.3%
Highest Handle %
- Brentford: 35.4%
- Norwich City: 21.2%
- Crystal Palace: 18.4%
- Crystal Palace
Kane is favored to be the EPL’s top goal scorer
Pennsylvania’s sportsbooks also have betting lines available on the EPL’s top goal scorer. Tottenham’s Harry Kane (+300) is the favorite at DraftKings, followed by Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah (+400). Pulisic (+6500) is far down the list, beyond the top 25.
BetMGM’s John Ewing released some numbers on these wagers as well. Here are a few of the highlights:
Major Line Moves
- Kane from +350 to +300
- Salah from +450 to +300
Highest Ticket %
- Harry Kane: 23%
- Mohamed Salah: 18%
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 16%
Highest Handle %
- Aubameyang: 44%
- Kane: 21%
- Salah: 13%
The DraftKings Kickoff Special will pay out $20K to first place
Daily fantasy contests will also be available throughout the EPL season, which runs from August-May. On Saturday, DraftKings is hosting an EPL Kickoff Special contest that features a $100,000 prize pool with an entry fee of $16 and a top prize of $20,000.
Over at FanDuel, the EPL Wonder Strike has a top prize of $2,000 for an entry fee of $4.
If you’re looking for some extra action before football season begins, the EPL can provide it. Games typically kick off on Saturday and Sunday morning, with England roughly five hours ahead of America’s Eastern time zone. And NBC will broadcast all the EPL matches among its family of networks and its streaming service Peacock.
In addition to Pulisic, another Pennsylvania native, Zack Steffen (Coatesville), plays in the Premier League as a goalkeeper for Manchester City. American forward Josh Sargent should also get playing time for Norwich.
The challenge begins Aug. 13
Another soccer season begins on Friday and one of Pennsylvania’s own should feature prominently for Chelsea, one of the best EPL teams.
He’s come a long way from Hershey, Pennsylvania and the challenges will only get bigger in the months ahead.
They won’t be comfortable or easy.
But it sure seems like he’s ready for them.
Lead image credit: Peter Cziiborra/Pool via AP